Those looking to spice up their holiday menus this season found some inspiration courtesy of Savory Spice Shop and Chez Catherine's Chef de Cuisine CJ Reycraft Monday evening.
Reycraft spent his night off sharing three festive courses that offered home-cooks some interesting alternatives to the more traditional holiday fare.
The chef started off his 'Holiday Bites' class by stirring things up—literally. Reycraft began with a mushroom risotto and explained that the dish—often perceived as laborious due to the constant stirring required—can be simplified by par-boiling the rice ahead of time. The chef noted that while he uses fresh mushrooms at the award-winning North Avenue restaurant, he used dried mushrooms, available at Savory, for the demonstration.
Next, the chef infused the East Broad Street shop with the mouth-watering aroma of Asian Spice Rubbed Duck Breast with Snow Peas. Throughout his presentation, Reycraft shared his tips and tricks for creating a successful holiday dinner. For example, he said he adds a Himalayan pink salt to the duck dish, which he loves and is available at Savory Spice Shop.
He also fielded questions from the sold-out crowd, including an inquiry regarding substituting steak for duck. Reycraft said that was definitely an option. "That's what's fun about cooking, you can do it your own way. You could use lamb or turkey, too," he noted.
Following each demonstration, guests were given a tasting portion of the dish to sample. Reycraft's final course—Bangin' Chocolate Mousse with Lemon-Mexican Vanilla Bean Sabayon—was a favorite among attendees.
"Being able to collaborate with other local businesses like Chez Catherine and CJ Reycraft makes what we do here in the shop even more fun for us and our customers," said the store's co-owner Jackie Mittlehammer. "We're always looking to do something new with our classes, and CJ never disappoints with his creative palette!"
Reycraft said he enjoys sharing his recipes and techniques with home-cooks. "People have brought their own wine and really made a night out of the event," he said.
Reycraft will do it all over again at 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 17 as he and Savory Spice Shop host a second ‘Holiday Bites’ class. Spaces are still available. The cost is $15 per person. To register, call 908-264-8947 or email firstname.lastname@example.org