Usually, I compare cooking to painting because you have to mix all ingredients in the same way a painter mixes and arranges paints on his palette. However, when I came to the workshop in the Cook’s Atelier of Thomas Hüttl, I thought I had arrived at a concert of a symphony orchestra. Only that instead of scores, there were different cookbooks on the shelf and dark blue aprons and dish towels hanging on the hooks instead of black dress tails…
Instead of music instruments, there were mixers, knives, cooking spoons, ladles, frying pans, pots, sets of bowls, big and small plates, cups and mugs. And instead of a tuner, there were boxes with various spices, small bottles with sauces and other flavourings, different kinds of oil and vinegar to put the final touches to a prepared dish.
In the center of all this, there was Thomas Hüttl, a cook, but spinning around, gesticulating, setting our working tempo and coordinating our small ensemble like a conductor and the first violin in one person. We, a group of bloggers, were just the extras, carefully doing all our parts we got from the chef.
Thomas Hüttl is one of the first cooks in Vienna who started to organize cooking workshops, in 2006 he opened his own studio in the 5th district offering different types of cooking lessons – basic courses, courses for vegetarians, vegans or fish lovers. The studio is located near the well known Viennese market Naschmarkt – so some groups go collectively shopping at the beginning of the course. The courses are very popular with groups of friends or relatives and also as a form of team building.
During our workshop, we prepared the following three-course meal:
(1) Thai Shrimps on the Chioggia Root Carpaccio with the Lemongrass-Sesame-Vinaigrette
Cut the cooked root (you can use beetroot as well) in very thin, almost transparent slices.
For the vinaigrette, mix chopped lemongrass, grated ginger, lemon juice, sesame oil and light soy sauce.
The chef fried the shrimps on coconut oil and added seasoning to them by light soy sauce, fish sauce and curry paste.
Orchestras always tune to ‘A’ and they tune to the oboe. Our oboist was Edwin Schreibeis, a young wine grower from the winery Weingut Schreibeis who chose the wines which perfectly matched all dishes. We could acknowledge that at the starter already. The shrimps were pretty spicy, but after a glass of Riesling Strasser Gaisberg 2017, you got a very delicious taste in your mouth.
(2) Tournedos with Vegetables, Port Wine Sauce and Green Polenta
Tournedos are small round pieces of beef cut from the end portion of beef tenderloin. Heat a frying pan until hot, add the oil and some of the butter and seal the beef on each side for 1-1,5 minutes. Reduce the temperature and fry for 1-2 more minutes. It depends on how well done steaks you prefer. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
By the way, at the moment the hot oil started to smoke, it looked like we were watching a rock concert with spreading fog instead of a symphony… 🙂
Cut some root vegetables in cubes, add salt, cover with a lid and slowly stew without water. Keep covered for at least 15 minutes. It was fascinating to watch Thomas Hüttl tossing the vegetables, he didn’t need a stirring spoon at all. Just watch the video. You will also see how you should turn the tournedos correctly. I asked Thomas which spice is his favourite one. He answered he used mostly black pepper and various kinds of oil.
For sauce: cut the onion and stew it in melted butter, after 1 minute add 1 tsp tomato puree, 1/16 l red wine with a nice portion of Port wine and 1/8 l beef broth. Bring to boil, add the baked rest from the frying pan and flavour with 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp Anchovy paste, salt, pepper and a pinch of Worcestershire sauce. Refine with a piece of butter (which brought us to a lively discussion about what we should understand under a “piece”) and thicken with starch. Thomas put 1 tsp starch in a small coffee cup, added some cold water and mixed it with his finger. What a good idea! No glued lumps on the bottom of the cup! The chef also told us how to wash the used pans: clean it two times with hot water without any cleaning chemicals and wipe with a paper towel.
Green polenta: mix some culinary herbs (parsley, basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme…) with some olive oil and water. Prepare the polenta porridge and mix it with the green “smoothie” and some Crème fraîche. I found this combination great.
Thomas arranged the main course in small portions because – as he said – small portions were much more elegant. Edwin poured Weißburgunder 2017 in our glasses.
(3) Floating Islands with Tonka Beans
This was actually one of my favourite desserts as a child but Thomas’ variation reached a new level of luxury – thanks to the special ingredient: tonka beans. This black, flat wrinkled legume comes from South America. It has a very strong scent. When Thomas opened a small container full with the beans to sniff at it, it was like we put our noses into the Italian liqueur amaretto. In Vienna, you can buy it at the already mentioned Naschmarkt, it is not cheap but you need just 2-3 beans for 400 l milk. I had the honour to grate this precious ingredient – of course, I wanted to take a picture of that and of myself doing it, but the chef stopped me with his important notice that the grated beans lose their fantastic aroma very quickly – the same like nutmeg. So it’s recommended to use it immediately after grating.
Mix warmed milk with grated tonka beans and sweeten it with date syrup. Whisk 4 whites with 4 tbsp caster sugar until stiff. Using a serving spoon, shape big quenelles of the meringue and gently put them into hot (not boiling) milk. Reduce the temperature, cover and let the quenelles puff.
Edwin recommended Grüner Veltlinger Strasser Gaisberg 2018 to this dessert but a cup of coffee was also perfect…
You can find other recipes and the current offer of cooking workshops on Thomas Hüttl’s website (in German): http://www.kochkurs-wien.at/
Thomas Hüttl – DasKochatelier
Address of the winery:
Weingut Schreibeis – Keller am Gaisberg
Josef Schuh-Straße 344
http://www.weingut-schreibeis.at/en/ (in English)
A very important tip for wine lovers!!! Every Saturday at 14.00 from 5th May – 31st August, special wine tours are organized in Straß im Straßertale including a welcoming drink, cellar visit and wine tasting. More information: Gaisberg Uncorked
I’m hurrying to buy tonka beans! 🙂
Text: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri
Fotos: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri