Larry Zane, of Cape May Court House, is learning to cook.

Having retired from real estate, he's demure about his kitchen facilities. He doesn't have one of those custom-made kitchens you see on reality TV shows about house hunting, with a big granite-top island near the stove that allows the cook to entertain guests with wine and hors d'ouvres while the chicken finishes roasting for the dinner party. But it's "a nice kitchen."

To sharpen his culinary skills, Zane recently attended the Cook, Crack and Eat culinary series at Phillip's Seafood on The Pier at Caesars in Atlantic City.

Executive Chef Paul Drew has the logo of Happy Chef Uniforms embroidered on his chef's coat and the friendly demeanor of someone who hosts a cooking show on TV. He leads the classes, sprinkling in tips on everything from how to cut open a chicken thigh or breast so you can stuff it and close it up like a wrap, to where to find good-quality knives and cookware (gunterwilhelm.com) with his tutorials. While guests sample each of several entree courses he makes, Drew tells entertaining stories from when he was chef at the old Sands casino. There also are stories about when he worked for a blustering chef who required him to carve artistic shapes into mushroom tops by the crate and would make him (gasp) chop up the ones that were not up to snuff. His tips are practical and unpretentious:

"When you pan-sear, you always want to cook the presentation side down first because it looks better," he says while sauteing a Panko-breaded, stuffed chicken breast. "And don't take the cream right from the fridge. In fact, if you're adding it to soup, take a little soup out first and add it to the cream, then add the cream back into the pot."

And since Drew is set up right in front of guests, they can see exactly how clean the back of a spoon should look when testing cream sauce by wiping a finger across it, to which finger he presses to his thumb to judge meat temperature - the meat should feel like the palm just below your thumb when you press it to your index finger for medium-rare; use your pinky for well-done.

Once Drew has decided on the dinner menu, General Manager Dave Schipper studies up on wine to match selections with each one of the dinner-size courses. For pork saltimbocca, he chose Joseph Drouhin Chardonnay, with fruity, citrus flavors and a slight honey finish. As a bonus for the home entertainer, the wine is relatively inexpensive.

Amid all the chatter and casual question-and-answer forum throughout the long afternoon of tasting food and wine, new friendships are formed. A couple of ladies from out of town chatted easily with Drew after several visits. Zane's attempt at making clams casino at home with a recipe card sent home from a previous dinner event was successful enough to prompt him to try Drew's grilled rib eye steak.

Drew showed him how to turn to "10 and two" on each side to create that perfect lattice pattern seen on steaks cooked in restaurants. And for the other parts of that side of beef, he has new friends in Joe and Laurene Ferriozzi, of Margate, who just might teach him to make beef jerky at home.

The couple met in high school 33 years ago and have a long history in the kitchen. The food lovers just wanted to come for fun, they said. And maybe to meet new friends like Zane.

Contact Felicia Compian:

609-272-7209

Stuffed chicken breast

Ingredients:

•4 ounces mozzarella cheese, diced

•1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

•2 ounces sundried tomatoes,

•8 pieces (soaked in 1/2 ounce of brandy overnight)

•1 tablespoon olive oil

•4 chicken beasts, French cut

•3 egg whites

•1 cup Japanese bread crumbs

•3 ounces olive oil

•1 tablespoon shallots, chopped

•3 ounces white wine

•2 cups heavy cream

•2 tablespoons basil, julienne

•3 ounces butter

•Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Combine the mozzarella, thyme, sundried tomatoes, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss and season with pepper.

Make a pocket in the chicken breast on the bottom side. Place the cheese mixture inside breast and repeat until all the breast are stuffed.

Preheat an oven-proof saute pan in a 350-degree oven and add oil. Dip stuffed breasts in the egg white and then bread crumbs. Place in saute pan presentation-side-down and sear on both sides, then place in oven. Cook chicken for 10 to 15 minutes, or until chicken reaches 165 degrees with checked with a meat thermometer.

Remove the chicken from the pan and place back on stove. Add the shallots and saute, then deglaze with the wine. Add heavy cream and let reduce by half. Add butter and basil.

Servings: 4

Pork Saltimbocca

Ingredients:

•8 3-ounce pork medallions

•2 teaspoons dried sage

•4 ounces olive oil

•6 tablespoons melted butter

•3/4 cup seasoned flour

•8 slices prosciutto, sliced paper-thin

•8 slices Fontina or Muenster cheese

•1 1/2 cups white wine

•12 ounces whole butter

•Salt and pepper, to taste

•Lemon, for garnish

Directions:

Pound out pork medallions with a mallet, rub with sage and oil and place in a zipper-seal plastic bag over night.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Preheat a saute pan and add melted butter. Dredge the medallions in the seasoned flour, shake off excess flour and place in saute pan.

Sear until golden on each side, remove and place on a cookie tray. Do not discard pan's contents.

Place the prosciutto on the pork, then cheese and place in oven so cheese will melt.

Add wine to the saute pan and scrape the bottom. Reduce the liquid by half and fold in butter.

Check for seasoning, pour on plate and place pork on top. Garnish with lemon.

Servings: 4