Time Well Spent: Cooking Class with Courtnay Arpano

When it comes to purposeful time with friends, I am a big fan of long walks. It’s the perfect way to get exercise while also catching up. I’m also a big fan of a large glass of red wine on a cool fall night. But sometimes it’s nice to do something that isn’t just cocktails or working out. I love finding fun things to do with other adults – whether it’s 9 holes of golf, a concert, or a class. This past spring I was invited to attend one of Courtnay Arpano’s cooking classes and it was by far one of the best few hours I have spent with friends in recent months. We laughed (not all of us are professional chefs!), we learned, we cooked, we ate, and we shared.

We arrived to find our cooking stations set up, healthy snacks and home brewed iced tea on the counter to keep us nourished while we cooked, and the fresh food cleaned and ready for us to chop, prep, and cook. And afterwards we sat down at Courtnay’s beautifully set table to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Cooking class is a great idea for special occasions too. Why not gift your friend with a class where she is joined by all her closest friends for a big birthday? Below are a few of the best tips I learned from Courtnay (I last spoke to her on the blog here), and a bit more information about how you too can enjoy her cooking classes in the future!

My big takeaways were:

Know your oils! It’s best to cook with oils that have a high smoke point (grapeseed oil has the highest!) because you can get them hot enough to really cook your food without burning the oil and making a smokey mess of the kitchen.

Choke up on the knife!! Putting your index finger and thumb out over the top of the blade gives you more stability and strength when chopping food up.

Flavors were meant to be mixed. I used to use separate pans for each element I was cooking. Courtnay has me convinced that cooking your protein, veggies, and carbs in the same cast iron skillet only enhances the flavor of each item more than cooking them alone. And the bonus is it’s less dishes to wash after you cook!

When do you offer classes?

I typically offer a series or four to six classes per season. The fall series has a comfort food/entertaining focus. Winter has a health and wellness focus. And Spring/Summer focuses on seasonal cooking. All classes are technique-based. The goal is for students to leave with a skill rather than simply a packet of recipes.

For this fall, I am teaching 4 classes: 

Oct. 11 – Fall Soups & Stews

Oct. 25 – Iron Skillet Suppers

Nov. 2 – Cocktail Parties 101 plus Special Wine Guest Greg Rubin with Holiday Wine Pairing

Nov. 8 – Your Best Thanksgiving Ever

What’s the ideal number of people?

Eight is ideal, but I can teach larger demo-style classes.

Your place or mine?

Mine!  It’s much better for everyone.  I know my way around my kitchen and can teach more effectively plus students get to cook, eat, drink, have fun and leave – we clean up the mess!

What are your 3 “most important” things for each chef to keep in the kitchen?

A good set of very sharp knives, a high quality, large wooden chopping board, one great skillet – iron , copper or stainless but not non-stick.

How many pots and pans do you need to dirty to pull off a great dinner?

One 15” iron skillet! (Side note – you can make a mean chocolate cake in a cast iron skillet pan!)

I fully intend to make it to another cooking class soon. Whose with me?



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