Learning to cook alongside the incredible Chef Cindy Hutson is a truly memorable experience. She has a dynamic personality and laid back attitude that is infectious and her interactive cooking class was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. As I walked into the restaurant, I headed straight for the bar to grab a glass of Primaterra Prosecco and meet the others participating in the class. So many of the people I met were regulars and have been visiting Ortanique (and Chef Cindy) for years. As the afternoon progressed, it wasn’t hard to see why.
As a renowned chef that values nutrition while still keeping dishes flavorful, she taught us the benefits of using ingredients that are beneficial for your health and your taste buds. I was so intrigued by the “Indian Cuisine – Made Easy” menu since I’ve always been intimidated by the powerful flavors commonly found in Indian recipes. Chef Cindy explained that even though Indian food can be very “flavor forward” it can easily be palatable by balancing the spices. She mentioned that Indian cuisine will soon be a trend in the culinary world so I’ve already started training my taste buds. We were provided recipes for everything and some things were prepped beforehand. Onions were chopped and chicken was trimmed, making the class seamless and fun. It was really nice to see how a restaurant quality meal can be made at home without all the fancy kitchen equipment. She simply used a NutriBullet and a single burner to demonstrate cooking this meal every step of the way.
The class was split up into three groups of eight with a sous chef at each table – Ashley, Cindy’s daughter and GM of the restaurant, Shelby her mentee, and Monica, the Pastry Chef. Cindy is so proud to work alongside these three talented women and it showed.
The wine in this class is free flowing, with a pairing for each course. Wine rep. Rafael from Domaine Select Wine & Spirits was there to answer all of our questions so it felt as if we were not just taking a cooking class, but a wine class as well (as long as you ask the right questions!). A dry and citrus-y Fantinel Pinot Grigio was paired with the Lamb & Potato Samosas. La Maialina Chianti paired wonderfully with the Indian Butter Chicken and the Mango Bread Pudding was complimented by a bubbly Fantinel Rose Prosecco.
A mango lassi is basically a yogurt based mango smoothie. It was actually supposed to be served with dessert but we had it as an appetizer so that we wouldn’t be starving by the time our meal was ready. *A cooking class that starts with dessert = heaven!* Chef Cindy is incredibly close with some of her patrons and one of them actually provides Ortanique with mangoes from an endangered and rare species of mango tree. Delicious!! Mango Lassies are typical Indian cuisine so, of course, there’s an added twist of sprinkled cardamom that gave the smoothie a very interesting flavor (in a good way).
Lamb & Potato Samosa with Spicy Tomato Chutney
She demonstrated the cooking and filling of the lamb samosas (our first course) and then we all rolled up our sleeves and filled our own. Samosas are essentially the same as empanadas but are shaped like triangles. The dough we used was made at Ortanique ahead of time and had a flaky texture much like a croissant. You can make samosas with any kind of filling. You can also buy pre-made empanada dough or Pillsbury dough since making homemade dough takes a lot of time and requires lots of patience (none of which I have much of). We had to be careful not to over stuff the samosas so they would all look pretty but we tried our best! These samosas are easily frozen so making them in bulk would be a great party snack to prepare ahead of time.
Indian Butter Chicken with Sun Dried Tomato Rice
The Indian Butter Chicken was marinated overnight in a yogurt base with a variety of spices and was incredibly fragrant and flavorful. The yogurt coats the chicken and helps the flavor from the seasoning develop. I love when chicken is juicy and not dry so it was helpful for me to learn this cooking method.
Cardamom Mango Bread Pudding
Chef Cindy called our dessert for the day a “foolproof bread pudding”.
I think what I loved most about this cooking class was Chef Cindy’s incredible sense of humor. Working in a kitchen is like cooking with family and we definitely got that feel.
This recipe that we made is large enough to fill a 9×13 pan so it’s perfect for entertaining. I made the bread pudding for our table and definitely got my work out for the day! The egg mixture has to be beaten very quickly with the cream slowly drizzled in while you whisk so that the eggs don’t cook.
I learned that eggs must be tempered whenever making any kind of brulé mixture, if not you’ll have gross scrambled eggs in your dessert. Chef Cindy gave us so many ideas to make different kinds of bread pudding like making it savory by adding bacon, tomatoes, cheddar, thyme, salt and pepper! Bread pudding is extremely versatile in that you can make it sweet or savory as long as you have a great base. Go nuts and be a chef yourself by making a bread pudding your very own. Seriously – you can do whatever you want with it. Make a bread pudding with coco powder or add chunks of cream cheese and guava to it – now we’re talking!
One thing that’s evident is Chef Cindy’s passion for cooking and what she does. Her cooking classes are more than just learning to cook a great meal, it’s about the atmosphere and the experience. It was a great opportunity to meet people with similar interests and learn something new at the same time. I learned that cooking Indian cuisine isn’t as scary as I thought it would be. We got so many helpful hints and chef secrets throughout the class – like making sure meat is fully cooked before putting it into any kind of pastry shell and substitution ideas to make meals healthier.
These classes are offered once a month so be on the lookout for the next class! Whether you’re looking for a great date night , bonding experience with your family, or company team building exercise I highly recommend this interactive cooking experience. Even if cooking isn’t your thing, be sure to visit Ortanique for lunch or dinner! The restaurant has been named “Best New Ethnic Restaurant” by Bon Appetite, “Best Mojito in Miami” by Zagat, and has received an “Award of Excellence” by Wine Spectator, just to name a few. You can also get the perfect taste of their menu (which changes daily) during Miami Spice, which runs August 1 – September 31. Check it out and be sure to tell Chef Cindy The Leisureist says hello!