Many families and friends who were unable to celebrate the holidays together last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic are looking forward to being able to gather again to share food and other traditions. To make the occasion even more special, local cooking schools are offering classes on how to make celebratory dishes and suggesting ways to deal with all the inevitable leftovers.
“People are just looking to do something different,” said Anthony Iannone, owner of the North American Culinary & Pizza Academy in Lisle. “I think a lot more people over the pandemic started cooking at home because we just weren’t going out as much. I think a lot of people got the passion for cooking … I think it opened up a lot of people’s eyes that there’s more things out there for (them) to do.”
Veronica Porter, owner of Ask Aunt V in Naperville, always focuses on cooking seasonally, so the fall and winter brings lessons on using the autumn harvest to prepare dishes traditionally served at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Several of her lessons specifically focus on Polish holiday foods, which she says provide a window into the culture and help her students build memories with their families.
An instructor shows the proper technique for handling dough at The North American Pizza and Culinary Academy. – Courtesy of The North American Pizza and Culinary Academy
“Our food memories are our strongest,” she said. “You remember some of the traditional meals as a child at your grandmother’s house with the special items that they might have made just for that time of year.”
Looking to learn some great holiday recipes to serve at home or bring to a gathering? Here are some local options. Reservations are booking up fast, so make your plans now.
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Ask Aunt V
222 S. Main St., Naperville, (630) 717-0716, askauntv.com/
The holiday desserts class from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20, will teach you how to make pie dough and use it for apple pie, apple crisps and pumpkin pasties. You can also get ready for cookie exchanges from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, with a Christmas Cookies class where you’ll learn to make pecan pixies, snowball cookies and sugar cookies perfect for decorating. A version offered from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18, teaches bakers how to make pecan pixies, shortbread and kolachy.
From 6-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9, and Saturday, Dec. 11, Ask Aunt V offers a Christmas in Poland class, which covers potato pierogies, stuffed cabbage and poppy seed rolled cake. If you’re hosting, a holiday party entertaining class from 6-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 16, and Saturday, Dec. 18, will provide lessons on how to make appetizers like cheese fondue and baked dates with blue cheese and prosciutto.
Classes are $75; reservations are required.
Participants listen as an instructor demonstrates a cooking technique during a class at The North American Pizza and Culinary Academy in Lisle. – Courtesy of The North American Pizza and Culinary Academy The North American Pizza and Culinary Academy
1970 University Lane, Lisle, (630) 395-9958, pizzaculinaryacademy.com/
Learn how to turn your Thanksgiving leftovers into egg rolls, turkey casserole and fried mashed potato balls with cranberry mustard dipping sauce at a holiday leftover makeover class offered from 6-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16, for $80. The make-ahead holiday brunch class from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20, also $80, will help you impress guests with less stress by cooking quiche Lorraine, brioche French toast, and hand pies stuffed with sausage, apple and smoked Gouda. Kids can learn how to decorate a gingerbread house from 9-11:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, The class, which includes hot cocoa and a visit from Santa, is $55 for one child and two adults. The school also hosts a holiday breads baking demonstration and a Q&A with Kristin Hoffman from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, that includes a signed copy of “Baker Bettie’s Better Baking Book” for $125. Reservations are required.
Sur La Table
55 S. Main St., Naperville, (630) 428-1110, surlatable.com/
Take a Thanksgiving essentials class at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14, to learn how to brine and roast a turkey and make your own gravy, buttermilk mashed potatoes and pumpkin mousse with bourbon whipped cream. If someone else is handling the bird, come at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16, 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20, or 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 23, for a Thanksgiving sides class that covers mashed potatoes, green beans almondine and roasted butternut squash salad with warm cider vinaigrette. Looking to change things up? The Simply Delicious Thanksgiving class at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21, teaches home cooks how to make chestnut-stuffed turkey breast with herb gravy, crisp potato puffs and cognac-flambeed pears.
Embrace Mexican holiday traditions at 10 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 28, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 21, and 1 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 23, when you’ll learn to make two varieties of tamales along with Mexican wedding cookies. Learn how to prepare beef Wellington with mushroom sauce and zucchini fritters with smoked salmon at a holiday entertaining class at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12, 10 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 16, and 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 21. You can also learn how to decorate festive holiday cookies with royal icing in classes offered at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18, Sunday, Dec. 19, and Tuesday, Dec. 21.
The classes mentioned are $79. Advance reservations are required. Classes are for ages 14 and older; a paying adult must accompany anyone 17 and younger.