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Teaching some old dogs new tricks

Trio of 'hard-core foodies' shares cooking suggestions
by: Lynne Maginnis, 
Cooking class graduates, from left, Todd Engstrom, David Ernst, Clay Creps and Jerome Duletzke look triumphant after their session in the kitchen.

The saying goes 'You can't teach an old dog new tricks.' Well, I beg to differ.

Recently two of my dearest girlfriends, Lynne Maginnis and Eleanor Suman and I set out to teach a few old dogs some new tricks in the kitchen. They weren't really dogs, or that old. They were four men looking for adventure and a great meal, and we were going to teach them a few tricks in the kitchen.

We three all make our livings in the food industry: Lynne is a restaurateur, Eleanor is a caterer and I teach culinary classes. We are hard-core foodies and love preparing a fine meal as much as we love to eat one.

We have for the past several years donated to our church auction a food event. Some years it has been a themed dinner, other years it's been a cooking class. Our most recent offering was a Gentlemen's Cooking Class.

Our intention was to take four men into the kitchen and coach them through the preparation of hors d'oeuvres, dinner and dessert. The gentlemen's wives would join them for dinner when it was done.

The lucky bidder was Lake Oswego's David Ernst. He invited his buddies Todd Engstrom, Clay Creps and Jerome Duletzke to join him in the adventure. Their objective was to become more adept in the kitchen and to cause their wives to become 'doe eyed,' as they called it.

Lynne, Eleanor and I created a menu with just the right degree of difficulty to make things interesting but not keep the guys from attempting the dishes in their own kitchen.

The ladies nibbled Stuffed Mushrooms and Proscuitto Pinwheels that the men had prepared and sipped wine while visiting in the living room.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen things were rockin'. Ernst had made a 'Men's Cooking CD' of tunes guaranteed to keep the pace up in the kitchen and the guys were cookin'! Whisks were whirling, knife blades were flying through vegetables and pork roasts were tenderly butterflied, then stuffed, rolled and tied perfectly, ready for roasting. Duletzke expertly divided knobs of bread dough, and then formed perfect breadsticks. And the reductions - ah, me! Never have you seen reductions so carefully tended!

For two hours we had them chopping vegetables, stuffing mushrooms, whisking salad dressing, kneading dough for breadsticks and mixing, rolling and baking lavender scented shortbread cookies. And they made the most wonderful Chocolate Pot de Crème.

Finally, it was ready. Beaming with satisfaction the men brought their wives to the table for their feast so lovingly prepared.

This was the menu the gentlemen prepared:

n Stuffed Mushrooms and Proscuitto Pinwheels, both simple classic appetizers that meet rave reviews every time.

n Fresh Green Salad with homemade Manly Vinaigrette

n Rosemary Breadsticks

n Oven Roasted Root Vegetables and Roasted Asparagus

n Roast Pork Stuffed with Apricots and Pecans

n And for dessert Chocolate Pot de Crème and Lavender Shortbread cookies followed by an assortment of cheeses.

How did they do? They passed the class with flying colors! The wives, Kathryn Ernst, Maggie Creps, Lisa Engstrom and Mary Sullivan were impressed and indeed, 'doe eyed.'

Some of the comments we overheard were:

'Isn't it great to be out here, while they are in there? We're just sitting!' (While enjoying their appetizers)

'You made this?'

'How did you do that?'

And of course, there is no better compliment than total, appreciative silence, which we heard when dessert was served.

'It was so good I could have bathed in it,' Kathryn Ernst said.

Did we make a huge impact on the guys' culinary skills? We may never know, but if we inspired them to venture into the kitchen a little more often, we did our job.

All we know for sure is that we helped four gentlemen create a fine dining experience to share with their wives. Nothing could be better than that.

Lynne suggested at this year's auction we create a Tribute to Julia Child Cooking Class. We are toying with recreating one of her TV episodes. If you want to get in on the bidding action, plan to attend the Christ Church Episcopal Parish Auction on April 26. Call the church office for information at 503-636-5618 or better yet - buy tickets on Sunday after a service!

Bon Appetit! Eat something new!

Stuffed Mushrooms

No precise measuring is needed in this recipe. The ingredients work well together in just about any combination, which is what we in the food business refer as 'a very forgiving dish.' This style of cooking is one men are very comfortable using.

Select medium to small mushrooms (bite sized)

Frozen or fresh spinach

Italian sausage

2 cloves garlic

Red onion, diced

Parmesan cheese

De-stem and wipe mushrooms clean with paper towel damp with a little olive oil. Reserve the stems. Put the mushroom caps on cookie sheet that has either been sprayed with cooking spray or use parchment or a silpat.

Finely chop the stems with onion and garlic. Brown the sausage in a frying pan; pour off the grease. Add the onion, garlic, mushroom stems and spinach and cook down.

Top each mushroom cap with a generous amount of mixture and then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Put into a 350 F degree oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until brown.

Lynne Maginnis

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 503-635-8811.