Cooking up a Valentine’s dinner on Martha’s Vineyard


There was a pasta dish with seared prawns, dill and leeks, braised chicken thighs, oven-roasted Brussels sprouts, and the grand finale: chocolate mousse parfait with raspberries and vanilla wafers. All this was prepared by Atria owner and chef Christian Thornton for the eager audience of 15 who enrolled in the cooking demonstration set up by Adult and Community Education of Martha’s Vineyard (ACE MV).

The class was held last Thursday evening at Mr. Thornton’s home behind Atria, in Edgartown. Wine and hors d’oeuvres were served as everyone gathered in the kitchen to watch, ask questions, and finally feast on the prepared foods. Mr. Thornton demonstrated how to hold a knife without injury, the proper way to cut onions, to de-vein shrimp, and add scalded cream to the egg mixture without curdling. There were lots of other tips along the way, using boxed white wine for cooking because it lasts longer, and “make your pasta water taste like the sea,” he said, for added flavor.

There were plenty of questions too, such as “Do you cook for your dog?” “Do you taste everything you cook?” “What kind of salt do you use?” “Where do you buy your meat?” And Mr. Thornton always had an answer. “My dog became a dog as soon as we had kids.” “Every chef that’s worth his salt tastes everything he does.” “Most chefs use kosher salt.” “At my restaurant I always buy the best I can, organic and hormone-free.”

And although Mr. Thornton prepared a handout that listed the featured menu including recipes, he said, “I don’t think chefs are recipe guys.” He certainly never referred to it while preparing the evening meal, as he added a pinch of salt here, or poured in a bit of wine there.