Delicious learning at the new Pelican Seafood School of Fish

New classes offer tips & tricks to make preparing fish a breeze!

I feel so lucky to have grown up eating lots of fish thanks to my Maritime heritage. My mom’s skill and my love of being in the kitchen meant I learned how to cook it properly starting from a very young age. The same is not true for everyone, including lots of people I’ve met thanks to my television and magazine work. I’ve been told often that they are frustrated by their lack of knowledge about how to prepare fish and seafood, which Health Canada says we should be eating it at least twice per week. Good news, people of the Ottawa area: The new Pelican Seafood School of Fish is here to help! I attended the trial run of their new cooking class series and if I had to sum it up in just three words, they would be fun, foolproof and fabulously delicious (ok, that’s four words).

Designed to help cooks of all skill levels become more comfortable and successful working with fish and seafood, the Fishy Fundamentals class teach basic seafood shopping know-how and preparation methods while offering up tried and true simple recipes, tips and tricks. I can say from experience that this class can turn even the most timid seafood novice into a confident cook.

Nathan Rogers, executive chef Ben Baird and wine expert Lauren Hayes were engaging and knowledgeable instructors at the School of Fish.

Classes are held in Pelican’s prep kitchen, located onsite at their bustling seafood market and restaurant. They are led by executive chef Ben Baird, two-time medallist at the prestigious Gold Medal Plates competition in Ottawa, supported by oyster and seafood expert Nathan Rogers with wine pairing expertise from Lauren Hayes. For just over an hour and half, our group enjoyed hands-on cooking time while tasting perfectly-paired wines as we socialized with each other and the Pelican team. Ben and Nathan are super knowledgeable and circulated throughout the kitchen constantly, making sure everyone stayed on track.

We were welcomed into the kitchen with glasses of bubbly and soda; seafood towers (including freshly-shucked oysters, tuna tartare, jumbo shrimp and more) were on hand to whet our appetites for the evening’s main event. Individual cooking stations complete with aprons, tools, pans and portable gas burners were set out on the stainless steel worktables, beckoning us to dive into the action.

We learned about selecting oysters then, after a shucking demonstration, we tried our hand at popping the shells open and slurping back the deliciousness inside. I’m a long-time oyster fan but have always left the shucking to my husband; with Ben’s explanation I felt like a pro by the time I opened my second one ever. A few extras were shucked around the table and placed on salt-filled platters, then Ben and Nathan applied a delicious topping to transform them into Oysters Rockefeller which we enjoyed after they had a quick trip into the oven.

Having all the ingredients prepped and measured made the class a joy for everyone as we could focus on the seafood and it kept things moving along at a perfect pace. Our second course was mussels; after learning how to select and clean them, we each cooked some up with our choice of sauces (Thai Curry or white wine and cream) and devoured them with crusty bread and an excellent wine selection.

Scallops and salmon fillets rounding out our cooking and dining experience, the latter two being pan-seared then added to pre-garnished plates. A dish of Pelican’s heavenly maple crème brulee was the perfect sweet finish. To learn so much and enjoy an impressive quantity of delicious food seems like a real win-win. Getting to saunter away without doing any dishes was the icing on the cake for me!

I would love to come back to the School of Fish with my book club or even a group of neighbourhood friends; it would also be perfect for a corporate teambuilding activity. The next three sessions are sold out but there are Fishy Fundamentals classes as well as other delightful offerings now scheduled for the first few months of 2020. Find out more and register on Pelican Seafood Market and Grill’s website.

Note: I was invited to be a guest at the Pelican School of Fish but my opinions, as always, are my own. 

Author: Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. If you enjoy this space be sure to check out my Rogers TV Ottawa cooking show, Paula Roy's Favourite Foods, available on local cable, streaming and a dedicated playlist on Rogers TV's YouTube channel.

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