Don't throw in the towel just yet. While it may be tempting to doctor up a store-bought creation, take a deep breath and learn a few tricks of the trade. Sure, mom has a few up her sleeve — but give the little lady the holiday off and head on over to one of these local cooking classes instead. From the art of perfecting pumpkin pie to sides that will make your guests swoon, you just might be tapped to cook next year, too. Oh, and in case you need to save your funds for the fowl, one of these classes is actually FREE. How can you afford not to go?
Looking for a delicious challenge? Forget the average turkey dinner and go for the turducken. What's that you ask? Literally a de-boned chicken stuffed into a de-boned duck, which itself is stuffed into a de-boned turkey. Yes — it can be done, and if you want to learn how, head on over to 2 Sparrows on Wednesday, November 14, at 6 p.m. Executive chef Gregory Ellis will take you through the step-by-step process of preparing this delish creation, including recipes and tips on what the heck you need to ask your butcher when tackling this bird(s). If your curious as to how it will taste, you'll get your chance at the end of class. The cost is $30 per person and reservations are required.
2 Sparrows, 553 West Diversey Parkway (at Clark Street); 773-234-2320.
The Thanksgiving Cheat Sheet class is just that. A turkey 101 of sorts, you'll learn the basic fundamentals (and time-savers) of a Thanksgiving feast, including dishes like sausage and apple stuffing with fresh sage, brown butter brussels sprouts and shallots, five-minute cranberry-orange relish, triple layer pumpkin mousse cheesecake, and (of course) the big bird. And just in case you don't want to spend your entire Thanksgiving in the kitchen (you gotta catch that Macy's parade), all of the recipes can be made ahead of time and are easy to reheat. You might even have time to chill with a glass of vino before the gang arrives. The class takes place on Thursday, November 15, at 6:30 p.m. and costs $65 per person.
Wooden Spoon, 5047 North Clark Street (at Winnemac Avenue); 773-293-3190.
The Chopping Block
Need to know everything from soup to nuts? The Thanksgiving Workshop ($100) on Friday, November 16, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. is for those who want to learn how to prepare a traditional feast (herb roasted turkey, cranberries, corn and bacon pudding) of epic proportions. You'll even learn how to roast and carve that bird and make a roux — don't worry, it will be clear soon enough. Vegetarians can forgo the Tofurkey this year and learn how to prepare some more satisfying alternatives (think sweet corn and gouda bread pudding with shitake gravy) at the Vegetarians Eat Thanksgiving, Too class ($75) taking place on Saturday, November 17, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The Chopping Block, 4747 North Lincoln Avenue (at Lawrence); 773-472-6700.
The Kids' Table
Do you have a little one who is always trying to get his or her hands in the mashed potatoes? This fun spot offers cooking classes ($20-$90) for tots, kids, teens, and you. There are several Thanksgiving classes offered the week of Turkey Day (quinoa and cranberry stuffing = yummy), so check the class calendar for official dates and times. After all, the kiddies are the future of our feasts, so why not give them a jump-start?
The Kids' Table, 2337 West North Avenue (between Western Avenue and Oakley Boulevard); 773-235-2665.
Le Cordon Bleu
This esteemed school is not just for culinary experts seeking a career in cooking. It also offers regular monthly classes for those of us restaurant-goers. While there's normally a fee, on Saturday, November 17, starting at 10:30 am, LCB is offering a free tips class! A pro chef instructor will show you all the tricks of the trade to ensure that the only ripples in your feast are in the gravy. You'll also get to take a tour of the school's commercial kitchens. Who knows? You just might decide to be the next Top Chef. Seats are limited, so don't waste any time and make that reso with a quick phone call.
Le Cordon Bleu, 361 West Chestnut Street (at Orleans Street); 312-944-8500.
Photo: Courtesy of The Wooden Spoon