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Sonoma Cooking School, With Recipes

Expert chefs cook a four-course meal in the heart of wine country

Written and produced by Stephen Exel
  • Michal Venera

    Healdsburg, California, in the heart of the Sonoma wine region, is home to the Relish Culinary Center, founded by Donna del Rey.

    Instructors are local authors and chefs. Here, Chef Christopher Greenwald shares the secret of pan-roasting locally raised poussin (young chicken) with students Kelli and Frank Toledo.

    Recipe for Pan-Roasted Poussin here.

    Other recipes begin here.

    Photography: Michal Venera

  • Michal Venera

    Turning the pousin so that it browns on all sides ensures a golden finish.

    Recipe for Pan-Roasted Poussin here.

    Other recipes begin here.

  • Michal Venera

    Relish owner Donna del Rey. In her cooking school, there is particular emphasis on regional ingredients. "Classes combine chef, food, and location," she says. "Everyone experiences this convergence."

    Recipes begin here.

  • Michal Venera

    Chef Greenwald guides Bill Garwin and the hors d'oeuvres team in preparing sourdough croutons for the Smoked Salmon Rillettes.

    Recipe for Smoke Salmon Rillettes with Sourdough Croutons here.

    Other recipes begin here.

  • Michal Venera

    Kim Krueger proudly presents the Smoked Salmon Rillettes she topped with a dab of crème fraîche and a sprinkle of parsley.

    Recipe for Smoke Salmon Rillettes with
    Sourdough Croutons here.

    Other recipes begin here.

  • Michal Venera
  • Michal Venera

    Jim Morris and Jan Garwin check the Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta mixture with Chef Greenwald.

    Recipe for Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta here.

    Other recipes begin here.

  • Michal Venera

    Sonoma: Wine spoken here

    Sonoma County's expansive geography allows diverse grape varietals to thrive. The region produces fine chardonnays, world-class pinot noir, warm-weather valley zinfandels, and high-altitude hilltop cabernets. Donna del Rey's favorites include:

    • J Wine Sparkling Wines These creamy sparklers show subtle notes of citrus and almond (
    • La Crema Pinot Noir Black cherries, floral notes, and nuances of clove and licorice typify these cool-climate pinots (
    • Quivira Grenache These biodynamically grown wines are light and versatile with a lovely nose of spice, earth, and fruit (
    • Hanna Sauvignon Blanc Crisp, acidic, grassy flavors with a zingy finish (
    • Longboard Late Harvest Semillon This luscious dessert wine has complex layers of fig, kiwi, peaches, and plum (

    Recipes begin here.

  • Michal Venera

    Relish Culinary Adventures is located at 14 Matheson Street, Healdsburg, California 95448 (707/431-9999).

    For a complete listing of classes and costs, visit To join Traditional Home for an exclusive series of events in Healdsburg, including a class at the Relish Culinary Center, see the next slide.

    Recipes begin here.


    Sign up now!

    Click here to register!

    Register today
    Class size is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Cost is $450 and includes Winemaker's Dinner, cooking class, lunch, and winery program. To register, call Relish at 877/759-1004 or e-mail

    Traditional Home has reserved a limited number of rooms at two hotels. The Hotel Healdsburg (; 800/889-7188) defines modern luxury. The Vintner's Inn (; 800/421-2584) is a four-diamond hotel in nearby Santa Rosa. Rates vary; mention Traditional Home when you reserve. For other accommodations, contact the Healdsburg Lodging Coalition (

    Dine in Healdsburg and discover what California dreamin’ is all about. Cyrus (707/433-3311), where Chef Douglas Keane was recently nominated for the James Beard award as Best Chef/Pacific, coddles with elegant surroundings and refined food and service. Barndiva (707/431-0100) uses only sustainable sources for their heartier fare. Locals love the martinis and eclectic menu at Bistro Ralph (707/433-1380) and the homey Italian cooking at Scopa (707/433-5282). Don’t miss the ethereal fruit galettes at Downtown Bakery and Creamery (707/431-2719).

    Vineyards and wineries
    Healdsburg features local vineyard tasting rooms including Kendall-Jackson (337 Healdsburg Avenue) and La Crema (235 Healdsburg Avenue). Go to for a complete listing of area wineries. For a broader scope, visit the Wine Road Northern Sonoma County site (, which represents 140 wineries and 50 lodgings in Russian River, Alexander Valley, and Dry Creek Valley.

    Recipes begin here. 

  • Michal Venera

    Smoked Salmon Rillettes with Sourdough Croutons

    Hot-smoked salmon is thoroughly cooked by smoking it for 6 to 8 hours in an enclosure heated by fire. It can be used in most of the same preparations as cold-smoked salmon.

    1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh shallot
    1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme
    1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
    1 pound hot-smoked salmon, flaked with skin and bones removed
    24 (1/2-inch-thick) slices sourdough baguette
    1/4 cup olive oil
    Sea salt to taste

    In medium bowl use two forks to mix together butter, shallot, thyme, and nutmeg. Gently stir in salmon. Season to taste with salt. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425°F. Brush both sides of baguette slices with olive oil and bake 10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Sprinkle with salt while hot. When cool, spread croutons with salmon mixture. Makes 24 appetizers. (This recipe halves easily.)

  • Michal Venera

    Pan-Roasted Poussin with New Potatoes and Mâche

    2 (1- to 1-1/2-pound) poussin (very small chickens) or 4 small bone-in chicken breast halves (8 to 10 ounces each)
    2 tablespoons butter, softened
    1 tablespoon ground black pepper
    2 to 3 teaspoons sea salt, divided
    1/2 medium lemon
    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
    1 pound tiny new or fingerling potatoes, scrubbed
    4 ounces mâche or other tender, baby spring lettuce
    1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
    Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

    Rinse chicken body cavities or chicken breast halves. Pat dry with paper towels; set aside. In small bowl combine softened butter, 1 tablespoon black pepper, and 1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt. Rub butter mixture onto chickens or chicken breast halves and under chicken skin, if possible. Tie legs to tail. Twist wing tips under back. Squeeze lemon over chickens. Set chickens aside.

    Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add chickens to hot oil in roasting pan; cook on all sides until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove roasting pan from heat. Make sure chickens are on their backs (or bone-side down for chicken breast halves) in roasting pan.

    In medium bowl, toss potatoes with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and remaining 1 teaspoon sea salt. Add potatoes to roasting pan with chickens.

    Place roasting pan in oven. Roast, uncovered, about 30 minutes or until chickens are no longer pink (165°F).

    Meanwhile, toss together the mâche, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, and red wine vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Cut chickens in half and serve with potatoes and salad. Makes 4 servings.

  • Michal Venera

    Grilled Asparagus with Spring Garlic Aioli

    Chef Greenwald prefers fresh aioli, but for a quick substitute combine 3/4 cup mayonnaise; 1 bulb spring garlic, finely chopped; and 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

    1 pound fresh asparagus spears
    1 tablespoon good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
    1 teaspoon sea salt
    1 bulb spring garlic (white part only)*
    Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
    1 egg yolk**
    3/4 cup good-quality extra -virgin olive oil
    Sea salt to taste
    2 eggs, hard-cooked and shredded

    Wash asparagus; break off woody bases where spears snap easily. If desired, scrape off scales. Leave spears whole. Toss asparagus with 1 tablespoon oil and 1 teaspoon sea salt; set aside.

    Finely chop spring garlic; place in large bowl with lemon juice and pinch of salt. Add egg yolk. Whisk vigorously until mixture thickens and becomes pale in color. Add oil in a thin, steady stream until aioli forms (should look like mayonnaise). Season to taste.

    For charcoal grill, lay asparagus spears across grids directly over hot coals. Turn frequently to cook evenly. Grill 3 to 5 minutes or until tender. (For gas grill, preheat grill. Place asparagus spears across grid directly over heat. Cover; grill as above.) Serve with aioli. Garnish with egg shreds. Makes 4 servings.

    * If spring onions are unavailable, you may use 1 finely chopped small green onion and 3 cloves of garlic, minced instead.

    ** If pasteurized eggs are unavailable, you may use regular eggs, however some experts believe raw eggs may be harmful to some people because of possible salmonella contamination.

  • Michal Venera

    Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta with Local Strawberries

    Meyer lemons are a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. Introduced to the United States from China in 1908 by Frank Meyer, they are less acidic and sweeter than regular lemons. “Meyer lemon trees grow in just about everyone’s yard here,” Chef Greenwald says. “Their flavor is truly sublime.”

    2 Meyer lemons or 2 small lemons
    2-3/4 cups whipping cream
    1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise or 1 teaspoon vanilla
    1/2 cup sugar
    1 envelope unflavored gelatin
    2 cups fresh strawberries, halved
    2 tablespoon sugar

    Squeeze enough juice from lemons to equal 1/4 cup; reserve 1 lemon rind. In medium saucepan combine 2 cups cream, the vanilla bean pod, the reserved lemon rind, and the 1/2 cup sugar. Heat over medium-low heat until mixture comes to a simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes.

    Meanwhile, place remaining 3/4 cup cream in small bowl; sprinkle with gelatin. Let stand 5 minutes for gelatin to soften. Stir softened gelatin into saucepan; return to medium heat and cook until gelatin is dissolved. Stir in the 1/4 cup lemon juice. Strain to remove vanilla bean pod and lemon rind. Scrape the vanilla beans from pod. Stir vanilla beans into gelatin mixture. Divide among four 10-ounce or six 6-ounce custard cups. Cover; chill at least 4 hours or until set.

    In medium bowl combine strawberries and 2 tablespoons sugar; let stand at least 5 minutes, stirring twice.

    Serve in custard cups topped with strawberries or dip bottoms of custard cups into hot water for 10 seconds and loosen sides. Unmold onto dessert plates; serve with strawberries. Makes 4 to 6 servings.