Discover more from Jillyanna's Woodfired Cooking School Newsletter
Welcome Back to Jillyanna's!
Wood-fired Workshops, Cooking Classes, Pizza Parties and Special Dinners
I am excited to announce that we will be opening for the 2022 season on Sunday, May 1st. It has been a long time since we’ve been together in person and I think we all deserve a medal for not giving up hope and for learning new skills (like making sourdough starter and mastering Zoom). One of the things that kept me going during this pandemic was my determination to persevere, my desire to constantly improve my services to you and my memories of how this passion project began.
Though it seems only yesterday, it was ten years ago that I convinced my partner, Valerie, to accompany me to Naples, Italy where I planned to study pizza making with one of the greatest pizzaiolos in all of Naples: a fourth generation craftsman named Enzo Coccia. Having graduated from Johnson & Wales University’s Culinary Arts Program, I possessed a certain amount of practical knowledge about different styles of cooking, but with the exception of that time I almost lit my chef on fire flambeing Bananas Foster during a final exam, I had no serious experience with live fire cooking.
During my childhood in Connecticut and New York and in my later years traveling around the USA, I ate my share of pizzas—everything from sturdy, cheap NY slices reheated in gas ovens to fluffy pan pies cooked in electric ovens. Aside from the delicious grilled gourmet pizzas I devoured at Al Forno while attending JWU, real fire never came close to my pizzas. It’s hard to believe, but before 2012, I had never tasted an authentic wood-fired Neapolitan pizza. I deeply regretted this lapse and I became obsessed with the dream of going to the birthplace of pizza and studying with someone whose passion and deep knowledge of the subject was unimpeachable.
Enzo Coccia, was a well respected fourth generation pizzaiolo from Naples. I knew from my scant research that he consulted with several American restaurateurs and I imagined him to be a large man with huge forearms and a big paunch. It turned out that Enzo, in the flesh, was nothing like I expected. He had a very slender physique. He was strong, but not overly muscular. When he shook my hand, I marveled at how smooth his palms were. After I saw how much work went into making Neapolitan dough by hand and the number of pizzas Enzo balled up and then slapped out with me, I understood why his hands were smooth. “He never eats pizza,” one of his assistants confided to me when I asked how Enzo stayed so thin. It took me awhile to accept this fact, since the locally made buffalo mozzarella, the cherry tomatoes grown in volcanic soil, the glorious, freshly pressed olive oil, and the fragrant basil that Enzo tossed on his soft, perfectly puffed flatbreads were completely irresistible.
The good news regarding my pizza making naiveté was that I didn’t need to unlearn any bad habits. The bad news is that I had no experience and when I made a mistake, Enzo let me know. “Gyro! Gyro!!” (“Spin it, Spin it!!”) he would shout when I allowed the pizza to rest more than a second in one spot in his 850 degree wood-burning oven. Valerie found the maestro’s frequent bellowing and his stern manner unsettling, but I assured her that since I really didn’t understand what he was muttering about me under his breath, I was eager to continue my private pizza lessons.
I’ve always said that cooking classes at Jillyanna’s Woodfired Cooking School should be an adventure, not an ordeal—which is why we do much of the prep work for you and why classes are small. We want you to have the time to learn new techniques and receive plenty of attention and hands-on opportunities. This year we are offering:
*Private Wood-fired Pizza Parties (5 people minimum, 8 people maximum) We are also offering a Spring Promotion. If you book a private wood-fired pizza party before May 1st, you can save 10% off the cost of the party!
As many of you know, our classes are offered outside on our patio by the fire (weather permitting) and inside in our test kitchen. Now that the pandemic seems to be on the wane, masks are optional at Jillyanna’s Woodfired Cooking School. Vaccines, however, are required for all who attend. All of the staff at Jillyanna’s has been vaccinated and boosted. We are so grateful that we can, at last, welcome you back.
By the way, here’s the famous recipe for Bananas Foster that I used at cooking school—a very easy, slightly dangerous, flaming dessert to serve your guests for Easter.
The One And Only Commander’s Palace Bananas Foster Recipe
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Serving Size: 2
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick)unsalted butter
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons banana liqueur
3 ounces light or dark rum
1 1/2 cups French Vanilla ice cream
Melt butter in a flat chafing dish or skillet. Add brown sugar and stir until sugar is melted and sauce thickens.
Add bananas and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes on each side. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Pour banana liqueur and rum over bananas, shake pan to distribute the liquid and tip slightly against the stove flame to ignite. You can also do this with a match (be sure to have an extinguisher handy, just in case).
Baste bananas with the flaming sauce using a large spoon until flames die out.