YORK, Maine — Stonewall Kitchen is synonymous with jams and jellies. Sauces and spreads.
But sizzling rib-eye steak with roasted vegetables and horseradish? Or tender salmon and fennel, bell peppers and olives?
These gustatory gems were created in the company’s test kitchen last week at their headquarters off Route 1.
Over a Viking range, chef Christine Rudalevige introduced the wonder of one-pan suppers to 38 women and a few scattered men who all motored up from Massachusetts. Seven days a week, this popular cooking school teaches home chefs how to sidestep kitchen disasters, braise boneless beef or bust out a lemon pound cake with strawberry coulis and vanilla bean cream.
Adjacent to Stonewall Kitchen’s production floor, where jars whizz by on conveyor belts, the trained Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts chef demonstrated the proper way to broil salmon — skin side up for 3 minutes — while weaving tales of the range. There was the time, at the end of a dinner party, when her mango souffle fell. Instead of panicking, she whipped up a quick coconut custard and called it sunken mango cake. “We were already 10 bottles in,” she told the crowd. “Oh, they loved it.”
Under bright lights, Rudalevige, a Stonewall regular, dressed in chef whites with a team of sous chefs around her, grills, sautees and slices as TV monitors broadcast her techniques for all to see. As intoxicating smells filled the room, the group scribbled notes, devoured her entrees and peppered her with questions.
Why mince your own garlic, someone asked, when you can buy it at the store? Without mincing words, the jaunty chef from Brunswick shot back: “It’s an inferior product, throw it out.”
As she alternated from zesting an orange to pouring rich chocolate frosting over a sheet cake, sighs and gasps, “oohs” and “ahhs” filled the clean white room.
It’s easy to see why these classes sell out regularly.
“This is Food Network-ish, but not on TV,” said Scott Jones, the school’s executive chef who books the chef-run classes.
Entering its sixth year in May, the Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School is no secret. Kitchen luminaries from around the country regularly command the kitchen. Suvir Saran, a celebrated Indian cook and Bravo TV star cooked here earlier this month and Top Chef contestant Stephanie Cmar comes the first week in June.
Rising Maine restaurateurs such as Shannon Bard of Zapoteca in Portland taught tequila and tamales and Skye Bonney of The Black Birch in Kittery demoed winter comfort food recently.
Classes range in price from $45 to $75 and run the gamut from brunch to party appetizers to gourmet lobster dinners. Want to up your Easter game? Ham and gruyere hand pies and asparagus bundles by chef Vanessa Seder on April 19 should get tongues wagging.
Could such a star lineup thrive without the Stonewall name?
“The Stonewall Kitchen brand is held in high regard for both its quality and its curb appeal,” said Rudalevige, who moved to Maine two years ago with her family and looked for ways to infiltrate the food scene. “The cooking school is just an extension of that brand and I work hard to uphold that standard, and am very grateful when I benefit from being associated with it.”
Being able to rub spatulas with visiting chefs such as Saran can boost instructor’s careers and elevate their skills. “It gets me both continuing education credits and networking opportunities galore,” she said. “I learn something about food or cooking every shift.”
Rudalevige learned how to elegantly present flavored butter with a biscuit from Virginia Willis, Martha Stewart’s kitchen director at the cooking school.
As culinary tourism grows — Stonewall Kitchen’s mothership attracts half a million people a year — the York emporium could one day rival L.L.Bean as a destination hotspot.
For the Friends of South Shore Hospital, who booked Rudalevige’s class, the outing ranks right up there with “Miss Saigon” or a day trip to New York City.
“This is all about the food,” said Cathy Moore, who organized the excursion that started with sausages and finished with double chocolate Texas sheet cake. “You won’t get food like this at a restaurant for this price.”
Or personal attention from cooking gurus.
“I am having a party in my mouth,” said Katherine Raulinaitis from Bridgwater. “I enjoy learning new things. I will go home and try it all out.”
One-Pan Mediterranean Salmon with Bell Peppers, Fennel and Olives
1 large orange, zested and cut into 8 wedges
1 large bulb fennel, cored and thinly sliced
1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 skinless salmon fillets (5 ounces each)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and ground finely
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup pitted black olives, quartered
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Heat broiler and position oven rack about 6 inches from the broiler. On a 17- by 10-inch rimmed baking sheet (sometimes called a jelly-roll pan), toss together orange zest and wedges, fennel, bell pepper, garlic slices and oil. Spread them out so that they are an even, single layer. Add salmon and sprinkle the top of everything with the crushed fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Put the pan in the oven and broil until the vegetables are browned in spots and salmon is opaque throughout, 8-10 minutes. Sprinkle with olives and chopped parsley to serve.
By Christine Rudalevige, adapted from a recipe first published in Martha Stewart Everyday Cooking in 2012.