Improve your skills at Red Rocker Inn cooking classes

Barbara Hootman

Want to learn to cook or just pick up some tips to make meals more interesting and appetizing? The Red Rocker Inn cooking classes may be your way to culinary  success.

“The Red Rocker Inn’s cooking classes are fun, educational and tasty,” Chef Kaylea Lamson said.

The classes are for all ages and  levels of cooking expertise.  Some people want to learn to cook, while others want to pick up preparation tips and techniques. The two-hour classes, offered to 8-10 people, are held on Saturdays. The next one is Saturday, June 25.

That class will be about preparing seared sesame tuna steak with orange ginger sauce, lemon-scented jasmine rice and sautéed kale. Lamson created many of the recipes, but inn favorites such as Red Rocker Black Berry Cobbler, a recipe from co-owner Jenny Bowman’s mother’s recipe collection, are included (that particular one will be featured in the August class).

Shannon Dickenson, left, and Phyllis Parker,  students in a cooking class at the Red Rocker Inn, work to perfect their potato ricing technique.

“The classes are a fun time where we come together to cook with friends,” Lamson said.  “Red Rocker Inn’s cooking classes are an outreach to the local people of Black Mountain and to the summer people who love to cook.  I decide on the cooking class menus after I had talked to coworkers and Jenny.  It is very much a collaborative effort.  I put together the final menu for the classes with much input.”

Lamson is one of Jenny and Doug Bowman’s five children, all of whom have worked at the inn in some capacity.

“It is very much a family affair," Jenny Bowman said. "It is a lot of fun to have Kaylea working at the inn. She is smart, creative and always happy to try new things."

Bowman taught her daughter to cook as she was growing up.

“I learned by watching and doing,” Lamson said.  “Then I went to culinary arts school at A-B Tech and graduated from the two-year program in 2013.  The program gave me a foundation of knowledge. I love working with my family, and the guests are great.  I have definitely started my recipe and cookbook collection. I love creating my own recipes.”

The cooking classes are for people of all ages who love to cook or think they would like to learn how.

Red Rocker Inn cooking classes teach various cooking techniques, such as ricing potatoes.

“We had one 12-year-old male student who came with his grandmother, and he was great,” Bowman said.  “We were making pasta, and he was fascinated with the pasta-making machine.  He also got something yummy to eat.  I think kids exposed to cooking love to cook when they are adults.”

Surprising to many people is that Bowman and Lamson go home and cook dinner for their husbands.

“I put a family dinner on the table even when it is just for me and Doug,” Bowman said.  “I think a family dining experience every night is important.”

Lamson does the same for her husband who has his own landscape business.  They also have a large garden for fresh vegetables.

“In the cooking classes, I put a lot of focus on local produce, from the way to buy it to how to prepare it,” Lamson said. “It is important to me. I love to teach people how to process foods.  I emphasize techniques and how to apply what I teach to other dishes they prepare at home. The May cooking class was about picnic foods, and we had a picnic on the front lawn at the end of class. (The participants) learned about gourmet picnic foods and the American picnic, which is a celebration of human spirit, culinary diversity and adventure.  It’s the spirit and not just the food that makes a picnic special.”

For the May picnic foods cooking class, participants learned to make Tangy Tomato Jam, Bacon Wrapped Asparagus, Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders (recipes below) and other tasty treats.

Visit Red Rocker Inn's web site for a list of monthly cooking classes through November. Each two-hour class begins at noon and costs $30. Classes conclude with a meal students prepared.

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus

1 bunch asparagus, washed and trimmed

6 slices bacon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Separate the  asparagus bunch into 5 equal piles of about 5-8 spears each. Holding the  spears together, wrap each small bunch in a slice of bacon so that it holds the spears together. Lay each bunch on on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Roast  the asparagus and bacon for 20-30 minutes until the bacon is completely crispy. Turn the bunches often so they cook on all sides. Lay on a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with fresh herbs.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into ½ inch strips

½ cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup vegetable oil

In a non-reactive container (stainless steel or plastic), combine the chicken, buttermilk, granulated garlic, salt and pepper.  Mix until all the salt has dissolved into the buttermilk. Marinate the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours (preferably overnight).

Put flour in a wide, flat dish. Coat the chicken thoroughly, pressing as much flour onto the strips as will stick.

Heat the  vegetable oil to 315 degrees in a wide pot with tall sides. Shallow-fry the chicken, turning occasionally until just cooked through. Drain on paper towel.