On Thursday night, I attended my first, and definitely not my last, free cooking demo at the Williams-Sonoma store in the Copley Place Mall. I heard about the event from the very nice people at Warner Communications, and since it involved a Chopped winner and local executive chef, I made a point to attend.
Chef Corey Comeau is the Executive Chef of Stephanie’s on Newbury and Stephi’s on Tremont and was the winner of the Food Network show Chopped this past October. For his appearance at Williams-Sonoma, he cooked up one of Stephi’s menu items, seared sea scallops with butternut squash puree and cranberry port reduction, served with a little arugula salad and mustard vinaigrette.
Chef Comeau talked and answered questions throughout the demo, and I actually learned quite a bit, especially about cooking scallops. His were cooked to a nice, caramelized brown on each side, something I strive for but never seem to be able to accomplish. To cook the scallops, which were U10 sea scallops, he used a mixture of butter and olive oil and used fresh scallops, never ones that are frozen and water packed. He also recommended not crowding the pan with scallops. He only cooked six at a time to ensure that the scallops received even heat and did not cool the pan down.
He made a few interesting points about butternut squash and its naturally watery consistency. It should never be boiled because boiling just waters it down and makes it stringy. Instead, Chef Comeau cooked peeled squash in a pan with butter and onions and pureed it at the end, leaving a creamy, flavorful squash without any added sugar. Because he didn’t boil it, he didn’t need to add lots of extra flavorings. I could have eaten an entire pan of the squash alone.
The cranberry port reduction was simply dried cranberries and port reduced down through cooking on the stovetop.
The smells in the demo area of the Williams-Sonoma store definitely drew a crowd, and because scallops cook so quickly, we didn’t have to wait for a tasty sample of Chef Comeau’s cooking. Each member of the audience received a bed of arugula, butternut squash, and cranberry port reduction topped with a perfectly cooked, sweet sea scallop. This was actually a satisfying little appetizer all in itself. I loved how simple it was and how Chef Comeau walked us through the cooking process. This is definitely a dish I would feel confident making at home.
But that wasn’t it! Chef Comeau also brought some of his chocolate cupcakes topped with buttercream that contained Williams-Sonoma peppermint bark. I was eyeing the cupcakes up the second I arrived at the store, and they did not disappoint this lover of buttercream.
Served atop even more peppermint bark, the cupcakes were rich and chocolate-y with the perfect contrast from the cool, refreshing peppermint.
The cupcakes were picture-perfect and the perfect holiday treat .
There were so many great things about this demo, Chef Comeau’s informative, laid back style of cooking and teaching, the delicious food samples, and the questions from some of the people who wandered in from their holiday shopping. I am one of those people who never think of a question in the moment at events like these, and I appreciated the people who had questions and asked them. Chef Comeau answered each and every one, sometimes a few times to accommodate shoppers that arrived at different times, and it gave us all a nice glimpse into the type of chef he is, and for those who hadn’t eaten at Stephi’s or Stephanie’s, an idea of the menus and ambiances of the restaurants.
Now that I know the demos are so much fun, I will definitely keep an eye out for more of them. And ever since seeing Chef Comeau do the demo, I have been thinking about the lobster macaroni and cheese at Stephi’s. Tis the season for comfort food, and I love the way they do it at Stephi’s!
Have you ever been to a chef demo at a store or other place? When you think of comfort food, what is the first thing that pops into your head?