Stews and Ragus with Don Genova

22 November 2010

In our opinion, there isn’t much better than devouring some of the tastiest braised dishes that the season has to offer on a chilly November night. Last Thursday, Cook Culture played host to “Stews and Ragus” with Don Genova, a demonstration class which offered plenty of opportunities for the class to participate. While it’s commonly thought that stews and ragus need several hours for the flavours to mingle, Don demonstrated how easy it can be to impart delicious, slow-cooked taste in a limited amount of time.

Don began the night with a deceivingly simple appetizer called Pinzimonio, which pairs fresh, seasonal vegetables (in this case, fennel, celery, carrots and scallion) with high quality extra virgin olive oil and Don’s own Tuscan-spiced sea salt. Guests were invited to mix their own dish of olive oil with the sea salt, then dip the vegetables in the mixture. This zippy, flavourful appetizer is easy to make and mollified hungry bellies while Don deboned ducks legs for the next course, Sugo di Anatra (duck ragu), which he had simmering when the class arrived.

While the duck ragu continued to cook and Don moved on to preparing the next dish, he asked for volunteers to roll and cut the fresh pappardelle (broad egg noodle) that would accompany the duck ragu. While he worked, Don answered questions, offered insider cooking tips and told anecdotes that kept everyone entertained.

Soon, the class feasted on the duck ragu. This dish was rich and meaty with notes of red wine, sage and pancetta. The thinly rolled pappardelle soaked up the ragu, which was balanced, hearty and perfect for a wintry night like Thursday.

Don’s third dish was a chicken and apricot tagine. A tagine is a North African stew which is braised at a low temperature for a long time until the meat is tender. This meal is traditionally cooked in a tagine pot (a cone-shaped clay dish), but one can use any large, heavy pot instead. Tagines often make use of less expensive cuts of meat paired with a variety of fruits, vegetable and spices. 

The chicken and apricot tagine was bright and aromatic with notes of preserved lemon that sang through the richness of the chicken thighs and duck broth, which was used as the braising liquid. The apricots melted into the sauce and provided a necessary element of sweetness. This is a great winter meal because it makes use of dried fruit, root vegetables and warming spices like cardamom and cinnamon sticks.

The next course, braised baby back pork ribs with cabbage, was an incredibly simple but flavourful dish. The natural sweetness of the cabbage complemented the savoury, tender ribs. This rustic dish needs minimal prep and is easy to throw together then forget about until it’s time to eat.

While dessert was neither a stew nor a ragu, Don’s chocolate risotto was a sweet way to end the night. An easy recipe on paper, Don reduced the amount of necessary effort by preparing the risotto in his favourite new kitchen tool, the Thermomix, which automatically stirs and heats but can also serve as a food processor and blender. The risotto was creamy and chocolatey, accentuated with dark rum and orange zest.

There is little doubt that this class had a fantastic evening and left full of new tips and recipes. To sign up for a Cook Culture cooking class, please click on "Cooking School".