Most people, I’d be willing to bet, wouldn’t say no to a fresh, homemade plate of pork- and shrimp-stuffed pot stickers. But most people, I’d also be willing to bet, wouldn’t volunteer to be the ones doing the hand-making – unless they had spent an afternoon in the kitchen with Chef Michael Salmon.
The chef/owner at Camden’s Hartstone Inn is known for his skill and creativity in Asian cuisine. He offers two-hour classes on Saturdays and Sundays on making a variety of cuisines: Spanish tapas, French specialties, Italian favorites, Caribbean cuisine and, always popular, dim sum. Classes are $45 per person and most include hands-on experience in the Hartstone Inn kitchen.
The inn also offers a “Chef for a Day” package that includes accommodations. Or you can stay all weekend in one of the Hartstone’s cozy rooms, which range from $115 to $304, depending on the season, and explore Camden.
My wife and I have now taken two classes with Salmon — the dim sum one, where we learned how to fill dumplings for pan-frying, deep-frying and steaming, and another on Asian cuisine, where we watched Salmon make shrimp toast, grilled Thai beef salad and create a healthier take on sweet-and-sour pork.
The best part: Students get to sample everything made during class, and both times we left with bellies full from the delicious small plates.
The second best part: The dishes are paired with wine, which is poured pretty generously for the 12 or so students during class.
Dim sum class was very hands-on, as Salmon requested help filling three types of dumplings. To show some variety – and make the recipes a little more realistic for amateur cooks – he had students using both store-bought dumpling wrappers with a plastic press and dough he prepped before class. The dumplings were accompanied by garlic-chili and ginger-sesame dipping sauces.
The shrimp toast, which was featured in both classes, made with white bread and shrimp paste created by putting raw shrimp and seasonings in a food processor, was rich and crispy when it emerged steaming hot from the deep fryer.
In the Asian cuisine class, we learned that the addition of fresh pineapple, grapes and strawberries could lighten up the typically heavy dish of sweet-and-sour pork.
Students leave with recipes and step-by-step instructions for everything that’s been made during class, but our copies from our first class sat on the kitchen baker’s rack and then were moved to the cookbook cupboard where they hid for nearly a year. Then we attended a second class, made lobster dumplings, more shrimp toast and that terrific pork, and were newly inspired.
After a long overdue trip to Veranda Asian Market, we invited friends over to dine on shrimp-and-pork pot stickers, both fried and pan-fried, while watching the Super Bowl. The game could have turned out better, but the food was delish.