Monday, November 17, 2014

Ina Garten's Make It Ahead event at Williams Sonoma

Williams Sonoma helps me dream of the holidays. While some people can't wait to see what is featured in the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, I look forward to Williams Sonoma's photos of twice baked sweet potatoes and cranberry port chutney.

When I see gravy separators, turkey platters and Emile Henry bake ware, it makes me happy. Dan kids that my experience with any cooking store is more of a "Got it, got it, need it, got it" and can't imagine that there is anything in the catalog that we don't already have. 
So...when I had a chance to join 2 friends at an Ina Garten-themed cooking class at Williams Sonoma, I signed up immediately. The class was called "Make It Ahead" and though we weren't one of the stops on Ina's real "Make It Ahead" Williams Sonoma book tour, we were learning recipes from her new book and received an autographed copy of "Make It Ahead" for our personal library, along with a full Thanksgiving dinner that night.
A local chef had prepared part of each recipe ahead of time, as per the book, and finished each dish in front of us (see overhead mirror, above), highlighting tips and tricks that made each a success.  
We started with a cauliflower and celery root soup and homemade croutons. It was a pleasant soup, but certainly not one I would make on purpose. 
We had mashed potatoes enhanced with goat cheese, minted peas and pancetta, Williams Sonoma gravy and a WS turkey paste-rubbed turkey that was roasted and then carved, cooled and rewarmed for the class. Everything was delicious. My 4 classmates and I were relieved to know that mashed potatoes could indeed to be made, covered, refrigerated and then reheated a day or two later. Someone suggested adding cream cheese to the potatoes if goat cheese seemed to tangy, which would be my choice. The cream cheese would add a bit of a "moisture guarantee" without changing the classic flavors too much. 

The minted peas and pancetta relied on frozen peas, which means they are reliable and readily accessible. Win-win. The WS gravy was very good and is made with their base and then an equivalent jarful of cream, milk or wine in various proportions. It turned out well and was a delicious accompaniment to the turkey and potatoes.
It was a really fun night. We weren't rushed through the recipes and were encouraged to discuss and relate our Thanksgiving challenges and triumphs. Remember when my friends had me host a "Mock Thanksgiving?" 

Williams Sonoma is my home away from home. I am very comfortable there and will certainly be back for another relaxing cooking experience with my friends. Congratulations, Ina, I know that now many home cooks will consider their own recipes and realize just how many can be made ahead. Bravo.

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