Italian Seafood at Viking School

I went to my first cooking class last week at Viking Cooking School in East Memphis, and it reminded me a little of being on a cruise ship: A group of strangers (11 to be exact) tossed into an intimate setting and eating lots of food.

But before we could sit down for wine and dinner, we had to cook our meal in the school’s very fancy kitchen with help from chef Gail Churinetz, a teacher at the school with some serious cred: Churinetz won $25,000 last year on Food Network’s “Ultimate Recipe Showdown” with her crawfish and andouille pizza.

Our class was called “Italian Seafood Dinner,” a five-course spread that included an assorted seafood salad (shrimp, scallops, and squid), pasta with clam sauce, and crab and spinach-stuffed flounder with Prosecco-saffron butter sauce. The butter sauce was to die for and explains, yet again, why seafood in restaurants taste so good.

In addition to a great evening and a handout with detailed recipes, Churinetz tossed in so many cooking tips that it was hard to keep up. Here’s a few I remember:

If your minced garlic turns brown when it’s being sautéed, you’ve ruined it. Toss it out and start over. (Okay, I’ve been doing that wrong for decades.)

Never add oil to the water when making pasta. Just add salt. Oil in the water makes it hard for sauce to adhere to the noodles. (Strike two.)

Use a dinner fork, prongs down, to pull parsley leaves off the stems. (It’s definitely faster than using your fingers.)

Spend a little extra and buy good pasta. You can taste the difference. (I compared packaged pastas at home, and - sorry, locavores - but the imported varieties from Italy rock and the packaging is beautiful.

Viking Cooking School, 1215 Ridgeway, 763-4737

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