The Des Plaines Park District hosted the third of three Winter Cooking Classes with Chef Ron Wells on Thursday, March 20. Chef's menu included a pan seared salmon, served with a zucchini and tomato sauté over angel hair pasta, and a simple cream cheese pie garnished with crushed pineapple.
"Everyone knows that fish is good for you," Wells said. "The fats in fish, especially fatty fish like salmon, are thought to help prevent heart disease, and can even aid in preventing diseases like Alzheimer's and strokes. It seems, though, that many people are afraid to prepare fish at home."
But, Wells emphasizes, this is no reason to forgo cooking fish right in your own kitchen, so long as you keep a few tips in mind.
"The biggest mistake people make with fish is they overcook it. Fish is done when it's cooked on the outside and just opaque on the inside."
Wells also warns against over-manipulating your fish while you cook it.
"Leave it alone!" he said. "When you place the fish in the pan, let it cook undisturbed for two to four minutes before you touch it. The fish will develop a nice crust and will release perfectly when it's ready to turn," Wells said.
Using just a bit of olive oil and making sure to preheat the pan are two more tips for a perfectly sautéed piece of fish.
"Be sure not to crowd the fish," Wells said. "Cook it in batches for two to three minutes, over high heat, then turn it and cook for another minute or two. Remove the pan from the heat and let the residual heat cook the fish while you finish preparing the rest of the meal."
"Properly cooked salmon makes a delicious meal. It's quick and easy to cook, and can be marinated or just brushed with a little olive oil and seasoned," Wells said. "Salmon is definitely not just for Lent anymore."
Chef also advocates washing and chopping all of your vegetables for the pasta toss before cooking the noodles, especially when using angle hair pasta.
"Angel hair is a thin, quick cooking pasta," he said. "I like to chop up my vegetables first, prepare and season my pan, and then sauté the zucchini and tomatoes while the water for the pasta is boiling. I can keep the vegetables warm in a 160 to 200 degree oven while the pasta boils."
Upcoming spring cooking classes will take place in the kitchen at Prairie Lakes Community Center, 515 E. Thacker St., on Wednesday nights from 6:30-8:30 p.m., and are open to novice and more experienced cooks alike. Registration is now in progress.
The spring schedule is: April 16: Baked mostaccioli, tossed salad, garlic bread; April 30: Turkey burger, roasted potatoes, bread pudding; May 14: Baked chicken wings, pasta salad, apple tart; and May 28: Fried catfish, sautéed zucchini and tomatoes, peach cobbler.
Chef Wells' recipes are posted on the Des Plaines Park District website, dpparks.org/ProgramsandEvents/SpecialEvents/CookingClassChefRon.aspx the week before the class. Registration is required.
For additional information visit www.DPParks.org or call (847) 391-5700. To see more of Chef's recipes visit www.TasteofRons.com.