When St. Patrick’s Day falls on a weekday, Chicagoans will often celebrate along (hopefully not in) the emerald-dyed Chicago River, the Saturday before.
Perhaps inspired by the holiday, or the sunny 60-degree day, I joined in the festivities and reverted to my college-like ways, indulging in mimosa after mimosa. It seems my body can no longer handle this quantity of beverages and needless to say, I woke up that Sunday with a killer headache, a parched throat, and a hazy recollection of dance parties that took place on patios across Chicago.
A sure fire way to cure all that ailed me? A Bloody Mary brunch, compliments of the Chopping Block.
I’ve taken numerous classes at the Chopping Block, and some of the most memorable focused on: artisanal breads, blue cheese stuffed burgers, the perfect mole sauce, and – one of my very favorites – ‘For the Love of Lemons.’
The Bloody Mary brunch class was unlike any other class I had taken, and stood out for a couple reasons. Unlike hands-on classes I had attended in the past, this was demonstration based, which on this particular morning was much appreciated. This was also my first class at their Lincoln Square kitchen; which is further north, and more intimate than their Merchandise Mart location. Lastly, the class featured the Chopping Block’s finest at-home brunch recipes, including fried chicken and waffles. What more could a Bitch want?
When I saw the menu for this class, one person came to mind: my Dad…better known as Pauly D. His love and appreciation for good ol’ fashioned comfort food surpasses anyone else I know.
We arrived early, mainly because Pauly D. is as punctual as a train leaving Union Station. We snagged two front-row seats to the culinary action. Since this class was more intimate than others, capping off at 12 people, there really wasn’t a bad seat in the house. I’m a wannabe chef at heart, and love learning tips, techniques, and tricks via hands-on instruction. But some days, especially when a hangover is involved, I enjoy being able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the appetizing show.
Prior to our arrival, the chefs had assembled the made-from-scratch Blood Mary mix, which consisted of peppered flavored vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, lemon juice, and celery salt. At the center table stood a full Bloody Mary bar with all the fixings you could want. It was truly was a snack-in-a -glass. A Bloody Mary, paired with cup of coffee, was exactly what I needed. I must say, after guzzling down the first Bloody Mary, we were disappointed to find out there wasn’t a refill option.
To kick things off, an amuse-bouche was delicately plated at our seats. It was a beautifully colored mixture of mint and citrus soaked mangos, blueberries, and pineapples, topped with a dollop of crème fraîche. This held us over until the fried chicken, waffles, and spinach salad were ready.
We spent the next two hours or so learning how to fry and dredge chicken, prepare a waffle batter, and make a vinaigrette among other skills such as chopping, dicing, etc.
The time had come to enjoy the fruits of our labor, well, the labor of the Chopping Block chefs. The fried chicken was perfectly crisp, and had a nice kick. In the future, I might even take the heat to the next level by adding more spice to the buttermilk mixture. The waffles were crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The chicken and waffle combo was a match made in Southern comfort food heaven. The key to sealing this all together is a bottle of pure Vermont maple syrup—one that runs $10-$20 a bottle.
As a side, we made (I use the term we very loosely) a spinach salad with bacon, hard-boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes, and a bacon-fat vinaigrette. While this salad was full of flavor, I personally would have preferred a lighter and fresher version (sans bacon fat), to even out the heaviness of the chicken and waffles.
Last but not least, we tamed our sweet tooth with bananas foster served alongside Tahitian vanilla gelato. The bananas were perfectly caramelized without any mush. I’m not a huge fan of a la mode, but the gelato offered a crisp, cold, fresh complement. After one bite, I imagined recreating the bananas foster at home and pouring them over a big bowl of oatmeal. Who said you can’t have dessert for brunch?
By the time the class was wrapping up, we had eaten enough food and consumed enough calories to get us through the entire day. It was a great way to catch up with my Dad, refine my culinary skills, and indulge in a brunch that I’ll definitely recreate at home. Since the Chopping Block sends you home with all the recipes, in addition to selling most gadgets and spices in their adorable store, they make it easy for me to replicate at Easter Brunch at the Bowling’s.
The Bitches say: A – One of the best cooking classes in the city with a brunch menu that does not disappoint. The brunch was not only delicious, but I was able to add a few skills to my culinary tool box, given the interactive, open kitchen demo.
The Chopping Block
4747 N. Lincoln Avenue
(773) 472 – 6700
The Chopping Block hosts various brunch classes each month. Visit their calendar, for the latest schedule.