Chef Dena Marino on board the Celebrity Eclipse and a recipe for Stuffed Idaho Trout

A cooking class in a ship’s galley with a well-known chef while on board a cruise ship…how much fun would that be?  It was definitely one of the highlights of our Savor Your Destination culinary cruise in December 2011, featuring guest chef Dena Marino, on board the beautiful Celebrity Eclipse.

This hands-on cooking class and lunch at Murano, one of the specialty restaurants on the Eclipse, was one of the many culinary events we attended during our week long culinary cruise with Celebrity Cruises.  While some of the participants in our class were quite adept in the galley, others were there to just enjoy the great food and wine and have some fun.  Assisted by Executive Sous Chef, Olivier Trividic from France, the experience was not only fun, but educational as well.

We were also able to spend time with Chef Marino on board the ship to discuss her culinary philosophy and her next exciting business venture.  You can read more about her career history at the bottom of the article.

With Chef Marino on board the Celebrity Eclipse

Chef Marino, with her bubbly personality and passion for cooking combined with tons of energy, was the perfect host to instruct our cooking class.  Our lunch menu reflected her philosophy and style of cooking; “Modern Italian Cuisine”, which combines the freshest ingredients with Old World techniques.  This style of cooking originates from her Italian roots and cooking with family, but it is also inspired by her early career experience working alongside Chef Michael Chiarello as Sous Chef at Tra Vigne in Napa Valley.  Modern Italian Cuisine will also be the concept at her new restaurant in the Miami Design District, MC Kitchen (opening March 2012).

Getting ready for our cooking class at Murano

Marino prefers “cooking in the seasons” to “Farm to Table” and says she is truly a seasonal chef.  She said, “This is not a new concept and cooking is supposed to be this way.  I am sure you heard the same comment from John Besh.”   She is correct.  In our discussions with John Besh, he made a point that local and seasonal ingredients should be the focus and that it is about time that chefs are embracing this style of cooking.

While she tries to purchase all local and seasonal ingredients and make as much in-house as possible (ricotta, mozzarella and Charcuterie), she is also focused on sourcing the best ingredients she can find that meet her standards.  “I cook very simply using three or four ingredients.  An amazing piece of fish doesn’t need much.  Cook the vegetables right and add a light sauce…maybe something citrus.  That is all you need.  I am also big on texture.  I like a bit of crunch at the end to add zing.”

“I love to cook by layering in the flavors.  I caramelize the onion to that right color and then add the garlic and cook the garlic with the onion to the proper caramelization and then add the next ingredients.”

During Marino’s time in Aspen, journalist Tom Passavant wrote in Aspen Magazine, “Marino has the uncanny ability to add just one more element that not only pulls a dish together but lifts it up on its tiptoes and makes it dance.”

Chef Marino demonstrates prepping the dishes

The simplicity and elegance of her cooking was evident in the dishes that we prepared in our cooking class.   We prepared a beautiful fresh Idaho Trout stuffed with Parma Prosciutto and Sage that was elevated to another level with a lovely Roasted Lemon Caper Sauce.

This theme was continued throughout the class with dishes like Fresh Mozzarella with Oven Dried Tomatoes, Pine Nut Pesto and Micro Arugula and beautiful fresh blanched and lightly sauteed vegetables.  Each element of a dish was simple to prepare, yet when brought together, had incredible flavors.  Our dessert, a Marsala Wine Semi Freddo, prepared in advance by Chef Marino, provided the perfect ending to our lunch.

Simple and fresh ingredients

Stuffed Idaho Trout with a Lemon Caper Sauce

Marsala Wine Semi Freddo

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