From The North Shore Weekend newspaper
Ideas hit us in different ways, and in different places. For Marilee Fellinger, inspiration hit her right in her very kitchen: which would change it forever.
After spending hours upon hours watching the Food Network, Fellinger, a self-described foodie and former corporate marketing executive, thought of one of those killer ideas that we all wish we could act on: why not hire a professional chef to teach a class, at home, in this very kitchen. And if she were feeling this way, surely others would want that in-person instruction as well?
It turns out, she was right. The company Fellinger started, Cooking & Wine @ 909, has taken off, with a schedule that includes thematic classes such as “Latin Flair” and “Bears & Booze” nights, while also allowing customers to come up with their own custom classes on any cuisine or theme they like. To date, the “Fancy Shmancy Appetizers” class—available on Nov. 12—has been the most popular. And for good reason.
“Pre-holidays, people are trying to get ideas for entertaining,” says Fellinger. “And also, people are in need of a night out—it’s a fun girls night out.”
Arranged around the oversized island in Fellinger’s kitchen, classes are instructed by professional chefs. (In the past they’ve included guests chefs such as Greg Carter of Ten Mile House, and Fernando Coppola, executive chef of W Chicago – City Center.) “Fancy Shmancy Appetizers” is hosted by Blair Carothers, a certified personal chef, caterer, and cooking instructor, on staff, who brings with her years of experience and recipes.
For $65 per person, Carothers takes the attendees through five different appetizers, fielding questions and individually instructing each person as they sip wine and prepare the food in real time. For her Za’atar Chicken and Sumac Yogurt Lettuce Cups, Carothers’ advice pertains to freshness.
“Use fresh pomegranate seeds!” says Carothers. “The fruit is easy to seed and the fresh arils are much firmer and juicier than the packaged version.”
Pomegranate seeds! Never fear. Those seemingly difficult items we sometimes skip over in a recipe are a breeze with the proper instruction.
Says Fellinger, “The Chefs are fantastic when they come up with these great menus that are teaching people something they wouldn’t normally know how to make but it’s not above their skill level.” She adds, “You don’t need to go to culinary school to do these things.”
For more information or to sign up for a class, visit cookingandwineat909.com.
TOTAL TIME: 45 minutes
Cooking & Wine @ 909’s Za’atar Chicken and Sumac Yogurt Lettuce Cups
3 tablespoon olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons Za’atar (can be found at a Middle Eastern Grocery or good spice shop)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
6 baby gem lettuces (or 2 Boston Bibb lettuces)
¾ cup plain Greek yogurt or Labnah (Middle Eastern yogurt)
½ lemon, juiced
½ small red onion, finely sliced
Sumac (can be found at a Middle Eastern Grocery or good spice shop)
Pomegranate seeds (recommended fresh)
Cilantro, individual leaves, separated from the stems
- Preheat the oven to 375F. Rub the chicken thighs with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, za’atar, garlic and seasoning onto the chicken thighs and lay them flat in a glassbaking pan. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
- Make sure the thickest part of each chicken thigh is cooked. Remove from the oven and leave the chicken to cool in its juices for 10 minutes. Cut the root end of the baby gem or Bibb lettuces and pull apart the leaves. Wash leaves and dry thoroughly, if necessary.
- Mix the yogurt with the lemon juice, 1 T olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Splice each of the chicken thighs into 8 pieces. Put a spoonful of yogurt into each lettuce leaf. Add some chicken and red onion. To garnish, sprinkle sumac, pomegranate seeds and cilantro leaves before serving.
5. For entertaining, the chicken can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. The lettuce cups can be assembled a couple of hours before a party and refrigerated.