Santa Fe School of Cooking and Market
In December 1989 Susan Curtis opened the Santa Fe School of Cooking to showcase New Mexican agriculture and the distinct cuisine of the region. Today thirty different regularly scheduled classes cover ingredients and techniques for preparing traditional Northern New Mexican dishes and contemporary Southwest cuisine. The goal of both the market and the classroom is to serve as ambassadors for the regional cuisine, including local wines, foods, farmers, products and restaurants, and in so doing, provide an enjoyable experience for guests as well as chefs and staff. Some 70,000 students have passed through the doors since the school opened, of whom 85% are out-of-town visitors.
Chefs at the school represent a variety of training and culinary backgrounds. Among them have been executive chefs at great restaurants, cookbook authors, winners of James Beard awards, owners of local restaurants, and hosts of syndicated TV shows as well as syndicated newspaper columnists.
Our class in October 2007 was entitled Southwest Party Fare! and featured six different dishes. Lead chef Tim Buttersly, a relative new-comer to Santa Fe School’s staff of nine resident chefs, told our class he had prepared cuisine for well-known stars and performers such as the Rolling Stones in restaurants from San Francisco, to New Orleans and Chicago. Sous chef Noe Cano, longtime assistant at the school, contributed sage experience and added interest to the informative presentation.
The three-hour classes generally begin with a gourmet cup of coffee and an introduction to the chef and sous chef. Our chefs encouraged participants to ask questions and frequently engaged in dialogue with students. Large glass mirrors were positioned at an angle over the preparation table for seated students to observe the movements of the chefs who explained the origins of the ingredients, the traditions, and variations of the recipes. Occasionally our copies of the written recipes and instructions were adjusted by a chef’s comments allowing for variation of technique. For example, in preparing the pork for our shredded pork tacos, sous chef Cano said he used a pressure cooker to cut down the cooking time from 2 hours to just 45 minutes. However Chef Buttersly commented that you can’t cook pork shoulder long enough and that an alternative would be to set the oven at just 200 degrees, cook the meat throughout the night and take it out in the morning after your first cup of coffee!
A number of the school’s classes are hands-on, including classes called Tamales!, Chile Amor, Salsas!, and a Family Cookin’ class. These 3-hour sessions are generally limited to 16 people. Our demonstration class ($70 per person) allowed some 30 persons in the room, seated at 7 tables. Each demonstration style class includes written recipes, complete instruction and demonstration of the menu, followed by an opportunity to dine on the best meal in Santa Fe, cooked before your very eyes.
For our first course, we enjoyed Southwestern Gazpacho, made with Roma tomatoes, red pepper, cucumber, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro and other spices. After pureeing in a blender, our soup was chilled and served. Next came crab and corn fritters accompanied by red chile glaze. Preparation of the sweet glaze made with apple cider and chile began well before class started as the liquid had to be reduced by 75% prior to serving. The corn fritters were made with fresh crabmeat, although nearly any seafood product might be substituted. An excellent chile relleno made with goat cheese and mushrooms served as our main course, accompanied by the shredded pork tacos. Sous chef Cano demonstrated the technique of pressing mini corn tortillas made from masa and water. Cano, using a tortilla press, formed a little ball of kneaded dough and placed it between 2 sheets of plastic before pressing. Once a specialty item found only in Mexican stores, tortilla presses are now found in many big box stores. For dessert our class enjoyed Dixon Apple Pie Tamales accompanied with Crème Anglaise. This dish was actually a bread pudding made with cubed bread and apples soaked in a heavy cream sauce.
Santa Fe School of Cooking has published a number of cookbooks and has also produced an instructional video. Its retail store offers over 750 products, most of which are available on their web-shop. Their sixteen-page catalog offers tantalizing gift baskets, utensils, cookbooks, salsas, and an assortment of chiles and other ingredients unique to New Mexican cuisine.
The school is located at 116 W. San Francisco St., Santa Fe, NM 87501. Call their toll-free number at 1-800-982-4688 or locally at 505-983-4511. Visit their website at www.santafeschoolofcooking.com