Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cooking Classes - Grady's Way

Grilled Ribeye, Double Cut Pork Chop,
Chicken Fried Steak, Gravy, Mexican Corn
I received last minute notice for a cooking class that was happening at Grady's Line Camp in Tolar this week. I had not been out there for awhile and I always enjoy these classes so I signed up and headed out. It's quite a haul out there from my side of town. An hour and a half with no traffic but on a week day you can't count on that. Still, once past all the freeway construction around here it's a nice drive in the country.

Pulling up to the Line Camp is like arriving in the Hill Country. It looks like an old cabin tucked away in the live oaks and pecan trees. The aroma of pecan wood smouldering in the smoker fills the air. You are already starting to relax and leave your city troubles behind. It's cowboy, but not fake cowboy. This place could easily be a bunk house or main house on working ranch. Pictures and awards dot the walls along with a few works by famous western artists. It's comfortable and it works.  

If you know Grady at all you know he pretty much does his own thing. These classes are no different.  They are not so much a formal class as they are just a sharing of knowledge and food. There are recipes that he gives out but from the start you learn that the recipes are merely a guide as is the menu. We started with appetizers of bacon wrapped stuffed jalapenos and chips & queso and both were very good. How many classes can you recall that started off like this?  There wasn't really any instruction on making these just a casual conversation among the "students" and Grady about cleaning the peppers, various preparation techniques, etc. Even as hot as it was out there those jalapenos were hitting the spot. While feasting on the peppers, queso and chips a herd of white tail deer was inching closer and closer to the porch. It would be really difficult to find that at a restaurant in the city.

As the appetizers came out Grady started up a demo on making albondigas in red chile sauce.  Questions were hurled at him from all sides about how do you do this or why are you doing this. He would explain it in simple terms that everyone could understand and follow. He would mix in a few humorous stories here and there, just like any cowboy would do. Tall tales are truly Texan as you know.   As he is mixing the ingredients for the albondigas he is also explaining how the Big Green Egg works and showing how to use it. While I not a fan of the Egg it was interesting to watch.  During the Egg instruction the subject of cooking steaks came up so the course was now subverted to a demo of how they prepare the beef tenderloins at the restaurant. I find that its always interesting to know how the restaurant does things so you can recreate at home the things you really like. That fits in with the tenderloin that Grady brought out and cooked for us. It was seasoned with a rub then lightly smoked over pecan wood. Then he coated it with brown sugar and seared it over high heat on the Egg. During this time was more discussion on cooking steaks, smokers, grills...none of which was on the agenda.  We sampled the steak and of course it was excellent. Melt in your mouth tender. You could taste the rub, the caramelized sugars, the smoke..perfect. We were also served chicken fried steak sliders while this was going on. These were on the agenda and no instruction given but with how good they were and also the steak grilling demo it wasn't missed by anyone.

So after the side session on grilling he got back to the albondigas. Mixing the ingredients a little more, adding things here and there rolling and forming them. By this time the whole schedule was out the door and food was coming out for us to eat.  As our eyes gazed upon the double cut pork chops and the ribeyes, Mexican style roasted corn and the massive chicken fried steaks, none of us really cared that not a whole lot of cooking had been done in the class. I would say more useful knowledge was shared in the couple of hours we were there than at any formal class you would attend. Oh, and we finally got to try the albondigas...well worth the wait. Firm, moist meatballs packed with flavor and roasted in a rustic red chile sauce. I forget how many I had but surely way more than my share.  We ate to our content while Grady sat there with us and spun more tales and continued to answer questions.

So what am I saying here?  If you get a chance to attend a cooking class at the Line Camp, take it. It's worth the price, worth the drive and well worth the time. And if not a cooking class at least go for the food and atmosphere. You won't find many places like this out there.

Grady's Line Camp Steakhouse
4610 Shaw Road
Tolar, TX 76476

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