Thursday, April 19, 2012

Las Cosas Cooking School - Santa Fe, NM

Chef Johnny Vee and Students
This was the clincher for taking our 20th Anniversary vacation in New Mexico. Rob came across a Groupon for a Culinary Vacation package at a very affordable price that included a Flavors of New Mexico Cooking Class and Gourmet Meal, lodging and a walking food tour of Santa Fe (which you'll read about soon). We found the place as soon as we arrived in Santa Fe, so that we would know just where to go at class time. I can't say I was disappointed, but maybe a little surprised that the cooking school is in the back corner of the cookware and gadget shop, Las Cosas, located in the DeVargas Mall. I was a little afraid that it would not be as great as my imagination had dreamed. I need not have worried!

We arrived for class not exactly knowing what to expect. Being the first ones there, we tried to figure which seats around the kitchen counter would be the best and chose the corner. As it turned out, seating wasn't important because after a short lecture by Chef Johnny Vee on New Mexico chilies and cuisine, and an overview of what we'd be cooking, all of the chairs were pushed back against the wall and the cooking commenced.

Chile con Queso and  Green Chili Enchiladas filling in the works
Chef Johnny Vee was our host. He, at one time, hosted a cooking show, and now gives classes on a variety of cuisines at the Las Cosas Cooking School. This class menu: Homemade Corn Tortillas, Chile Con Queso, Great Guacamole, Salsa Roja (red salsa), Tomatillo Salsa, Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas, Grilled Eggplant Adovado, Sopaipillas, and for dessert Chocolate Peanut Tacos. There were eleven of us taking the class, so we were split up into groups of two to three for each recipe. Each recipe had all of its ingredients premeasured on a tray. Each group picked up its tray and went to work on their respective recipes. Rob and I were teamed up with another woman, Diana, and we worked on Sopaipillas and the Chocolate Peanut Tacos.
Frying Sopaipillas

During the process of cooking, Chef Johnny Vee would periodically get everyone's attention to show us the important points of each group's recipe. He is a very good at what he does. He was able to keep up with what each group was doing and still make sure that everyone understood how to make each dish, even though we were working on different dishes. As we worked, we found that, in our group, we had to let the sopaipilla dough rest and ice cream for the tacos set up, so we had a little down time, which we spent helping other groups. I'm thinking we were in the best group because the other groups didn't have that kind of opportunity.

As the salsas, guacamole and queso were finished, we helped ourselves to a bowl of tortilla chips and dug in. So delicious! The queso was so much better than the old standby Velveeta/Rotel mixture that we're so accustomed to. The Chile Con Queso recipe required 16 ingredients, one of which was tequila. Only two tablespoons, but we learned that it helps keep the emulsion of ingredients from separating from the fats. The salsas were mild and flavorful with instructions as to what chilies to use to bump up the heat.
Grilled Eggplant Adovado

According to Chef Johnny, in traditional New Mexico cooking, enchiladas are stacked rather than rolled. Maybe that's why when we've had enchiladas here that were rolled, they were specified as such on the menu. We watched as Chef assemble the first enchilada then turned the process over to the enchilada group. The Grilled Adovado group's dish came out first and we got to sample that with some of the homemade tortillas. Wow! And I'm not fond of eggplant! I think, though, when I try this recipe at home I'll do it with pork. Chef said we'd just have to cook it longer.

By the time everyone had tried the adovado the enchiladas were ready. Oh my goodness! The chicken had been cooked before the class in chicken stock. Our teammate, Diana, shredded the bird during some of our down time and the shredded chicken was then reheated in the Green Chili Sauce. All of this is layered between the Homemade Corn Tortillas and cheese. Unbelievably good!
The Spread sans the Enchiladas and Dessert
Then it was time for dessert. Our team had filled store bought taco shells with vanilla ice cream,dragged the edges of the shells through melted chocolate, then dredged them in chopped roasted peanuts. Yeah, when those babies came out of the freezer everyone who said, "I don't think I can eat a whole one," somehow managed. Chef Johnny showed us how to decorate the plate with chocolate syrup and present the taco with flair.

This class was so much fun and I would do another, even at full price, which generally runs about $80 per person. A bargain for learning new skills, not to mention the confidence you gain from actually making the meal yourself with a master chef at your side. As I mentioned earlier, we did this class on a Groupon, but classes are ongoing and can be booked through Epitourean, Edible Destinations! (, For more information on Chef Johnny Vee, his cookbook (which we now own) and the cooking classes at Las Cosas Cooking School visit

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