Calling Radek Subrt’s Cooking School in Prague a “cooking school” does it an injustice. It’s like saying Prague is a just a city instead of one of the grand capitals of the world. Chef Subrt offers a grand world-class cooking experience not to be missed when visiting this iconic city.
MEET THE CHEF
This talented chef worked in notable restaurants in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. His culinary journey also took him to the New York kitchen of Michelin award-winner, Daniel Boulud. In Prague he has established himself as a restaurant owner, a caterer, a cooking instructor, a television personality, and an ambassador for the high-end Miele appliances. In fact, he holds his cooking school at the Miele Experience Center in Prague.
ON ARRIVAL: CAN’T BEGIN EATING SNACKS AND DRINKING WINE TOO SOON
While our husbands were attending an aviation conference held at Prague Castle, my friend Marcia and I, unable to get a cab, scurried on foot, dashing between raindrops to arrive at Chef Subrt’s class exactly at the starting time of 11 a.m. One other student, Jennifer, was already there. The chef enthusiastically greeted us, gave us black aprons with the Miele logo to don, and then, in a flash!, we had glasses of white wine in our hand, and trays of hearty nibbles in front of us. Obviously, this course on cooking traditional Czech foods was going to be strenuous, and we would need sustenance to cook. (It’s a good idea to leave guilt at home and bring rationalization to a cooking experience like this.) We couldn’t resist these beauties below:
- steak tartare–artfully seasoned, the best I have ever had.
- stuffed baby potatoes–it’s all about the cheese.
- chicken salad on crostini–with herbs sprinkled prettily on top.
THE APPETIZER: SMOKED TROUT FILLET WITH HORSERADISH DIP AND COCKTAIL TROUT SERVED WITH A MIXED-GREEN AND HERB SALAD DRESSED WITH LEMON VINIAGRETTE
The tray of appetizers before the “real”appetizer.
While snacking and drinking wine on the fly, we were immediately put to work. Our efforts were clumsy, but watching Chef Subrt was watching a culinary artist at work. Preparing the salad for the smoked trout appetizer, he minced dill in a flash,
and then stripped tiny, tender thyme leaves off their hard stalks.
He had pre-prepared the trout filets,which he smoked with an innovative technique that doesn’t require a BBQ grill. Here are the steps:
- Line an oven-proof skillet with aluminum foil.
- Add a couple of cups of sawdust: oak, hickory, or any of the fruit woods would work.
- Heat the skillet on the stove top until the sawdust starts smoking.
- Place a rack into the skillet.
- Place fillets seasoned with coarse salt and pepper and brushed with olive oil on top of the rack.
- Cover tightly with aluminum foil.
- Put the pan into a pre-heated 350 degree oven.
- Bake fillets in the oven for 5-6 minutes.
- Take the fillets out of the pan and remove the bottom skin.
- Trim the fillets with a knife to make rectangles. Reserve the trimmings.
- Plate, garnish, and serve.
The chef places the fish fillets on a rack above the smoking sawdust while Marcia looks on.
Chef Subrt surveys the perfectly cooked fish.
Now that the fillets are cooked, the chef easily removes the skin from the fish.
The end result is poetry on a plate. This dish is so much more than just smoked fish. Here’s how he finished it off:
- Salad of red chard, beet leaves, frisse, watercress, and dill.
- A salad dressing of olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper.
- A dip of creamed horseradish, sour cream, and salt.
- A quenelle made from the chopped fish trimmings, cream cheese, sour cream, shallots, chives, dill, salt and pepper.
THE MAIN COURSE: FALLOW DEER WITH CRANBERRY-PORT WINE SAUCE, BREAD DUMPLINGS, AND ROASTED VEGETABLES
Using two spoons, I rolled the fish-cheese mixture to make the oval-shaped quenelle.
The entrée was a worthy successor to the appetizer. First, the chef showed us how to use muscle to whip egg whites by hand for the bread dumplings.
Next, he assembled a misen en place to make the dumplings–a marriage of toasted bread cubes, whipped egg whites, melted butter, eggs, milk, and parsley. He then steamed the dumplings in Miele’s sophisticated Multi-Steam Oven for 15 minutes. When it was time to serve, he browned the dumplings in butter in a skillet on the stove.
The simplest dish, but a most colorful, delectable one, was the roasted beets, carrots, and celery root tossed with oil, cumin, cayenne, and sugar and then placed on a baking sheet. The vegetable concoction roasted in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. Chef Subrt reminded us not to discard the beet leaves, which are delicious sautéed or in a salad.
We also made the luxurious sauce for the venison, a mélange of vegetables, wine, cranberries, venison bones, wine, tomato paste, and butter. The sauce was simmered, strained, and puréed, soon to be a silky burgundy bed for the venison.
As he did for the fish, Chef had an innovative technique to cook the venison tenderloin fillets. He added oil and thyme to a hot oven-proof skillet. He then seasoned the fillets with salt and pepper and browned them in the skillet. Here’s a new way to finish the cooking in the oven:
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Place the skillet with the fillets in the oven.
- Open and close the oven door until the temperature reduces to 195 degrees.
- Leave the oven door closed and cook for one hour.
- May leave the fillets in longer, and they will stay medium rare.
The advantage of this technique is you can start cooking the meat before you begin fixing the rest of the meal, so you don’t have to cook the meat at the last minute. Also, you can’t over cook the meat.
The meat is ready for the door to be opened and closed to lower the oven’s temperature.
Perfectly cooked venison is ready for plating.
DESSERT: BAKED APPLE PIE WITH VANILLA SAUCE
Happy Chef Subrt puts happiness on a plate.
The deliciousness is not over yet. Dessert is the grand finale, and as any person who has ever made pie knows, the phrase “easy as pie” is a misnomer. This recipe for apple pie is the exception. It really is easy, but we weren’t given the exact measurements:
- Peel, core, and slice apples (three slices per serving), but do not cook. Set aside.
- Thaw store-bought puff pastry, cut into squares, and place on parchment-lined baking sheets.
- Peel, core, chop, and sauté apples in a non-stick skillet on the stove until soft.
- Add sugar and cinnamon.
- Place a couple spoonfuls of the cooked apples in the middle of each puff pastry square, top with three apple slices, and fold the puff pastry edges to the middle.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
While the pie is easy, making the vanilla sauce, a classic crème anglaise, requires skill. You don’t want to end up with scrambled eggs in your sauce. The trick is to bring cream, sugar, and vanilla just to a boil, and then quickly whisk the yolks into one-half of the heated cream. Then whisk in the rest of the cream. Heat the mixture to 175 degrees, and it is done.
Yes, this is a hands-on cooking course. We helped with each course. Here, Marcia is assembling the apple pie.
After the dessert exits the oven toasty brown, Chef Subrt displays the perfectly baked pie slices.
THE GRAND MEAL
Cooking completed, the chef called us into the Miele Experience Center’s elegant, modern, dining room where the smoked fish appetizer and a Slovenian white wine awaited us.
With big smiles, we were ready to enjoy the fruits (and the fish, meat, vegetables, bread, and sweets) of our labor.
The chef’s beautiful wife was with us too, assisting in the kitchen and being the wine sommelier. She poured a full-bodied Slovenian red wine that reminded me of Pinot Noir.
The wine was the perfect complement to the wild game and its culinary accoutrements.
While we ate, Chef Subrt was busy in the kitchen plating the dessert: a spoonful of cooked apples and a slice of pie dusted with powdered sugar, both swimming in a pool of rich vanilla sauce.
My, oh, my, just in case we were still hungry, a tray of decadent treats un-expectantly showed up.
THE AFTER PARTY
A tray of berry creams, brownies, and fruit tarts is a surprise treat.
While the three of us were enjoying one of the best meals of our lives, the kitchen “magically” got cleaned up. While cooking with Chef Subrt was a joyful experience, cooking in a kitchen equipped with Miele’s latest, top-of-the-line appliances was a home cook’s dream. The stove was an induction one, and I am now sold on induction cooking. It offers the instant heat of a gas stove, the easy clean up of an electric stove, and the added benefit of speedy boiling.
I asked the chef about the round indentation on the stove top. He showed me that it held a wok. He then placed a hot pad into the indentation, put the wok with some water in it on top, and turned the heat on high. The water boiled almost immediately, and the hot pad did not catch on fire. Welcome to cooking in the 21st century!
We asked for a final photograph to remember this informative, fun-filled cooking experience, one worthy to be offered in one of the most exciting, beautiful cities in the world. My final suggestion: Travel to Prague, witness Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge, and all the other wonders of this historical city. Don’t leave, however, without a visit to Chef Rudek Subrt’s Cooking School at the Miele Experience Center.
Would you like to have this cooking experience? Have you had one like it? I would love to hear about your culinary adventures while traveling.