With Fairfield County’s active food scene, it’s no problem trying a new restaurant whenever you want. But, sometimes you might want more than a meal out. Maybe you want to take those restaurant-quality dishes home with you to make whenever you want. Again, there are certainly many cooking classes that you can try out here in the 203, but many are simple meals or involve basic skills.
So, we were very excited to learn about Karen Brownlow of Chop Shop Cooking. She loved cooking for friends and at parties so much that she decided to study cooking at The New York Restaurant School in Manhattan. Seeing her talent, they kept her on in their catering department and became one of their head chefs in charge of the many events that they cater. From there, she worked at Abigail Kirsch and even started her own catering company. As her life got busier and she wanted to spend more time with her family, she decided to stop catering, but…and here’s where Chop Shop came in…but, her friends convinced her to start cooking classes. And, so Chop Shop Cooking was born!
Karen started off the night with an amuse bouche of grilled shrimp set on some cool gazpacho. She gave us all recipes to follow as she cooked during the night…and we got to take them home, too. And, just like that, she got started, first with the Tomato Salsa that would be used in a few of her other recipes for the night. She would take us through the ingredients, cutting and cooking tips, then show us how to put everything together. Throughout the night, we learned how to make Fish Tacos with pickled red onions, Baja lime cream, and tomato sauce; black bean pancakes with grilled chicken, sour cream, and tomato salsa; Shrimp & Red Bean Snapper, Skirt Steak Quesadillas with corn salsa.
We all loved how fresh (she shops at local markets before her classes) and full of flavor everything was, too. And, don’t worry…you’ll leave there full, too, because you get nicely sized portions of each dish that she prepares! From start to finish, Karen’s cooking classes are fun because you feel like you’re in a Chef’s kitchen at a restaurant during service. You get inside tips and skills (deboning Tilapia for example) to take home with you so you can replicate or even build off her recipes.
Some of the other classes available are Summer Seafood (one of her most popular, $80), Fresh from the Garden ($80), Party Bites ($80), Spanish Tapas ($70), and even more depending on the season. In addition, Karen offers one-on-one hands-on lessons if you’d like to cook alongside her at $250 a couple. Also, she has “A la Carte” cooking parties, so you could gather up 5 other friend and come up with a central theme or ingredient and she can create an experience just for you.
Her classes have something for home cooks of all levels and are definitely something great to do by yourself, with friends, or is a perfect way to spend a date or a romantic night.