I think I was suffering from the tryptophan of the amazing meal we prepared last night because all I wanted to do when I got home was go to sleep. Now that I have recovered from the food trance, I’m ready to talk about what an amazing experience I had. There were several classes offered, but I knew the Evening Market Class was right for me.
First, let’s start with who should sign up for a class. I know it may be a little scary to look at the price, but this class will be worthwhile for you if at least one of the following is true. You:
-Like going on field trips
-Like spending time with small groups
-Like learning from an expert
-Like practicing what you learn
-Like kind teachers that are patient
-Like experimenting with food
-Like the French culture
-Or you just want to improve your skill
So, basically if you are a human, this class is for you. Now that we know who this is for, let’s get to the good parts. What do we do?
Part 1: Shopping
The trip begins with shopping for dinner’s ingredients. The menu evolves as we browse the selection and get to know each other. Patrick did not skimp on quality or quantity.
We began at the boulangerie where we picked up the necessary baguettes. We even saw the man baking as we walked by the window.
From there, we headed to the butcher. Fish would be the main course, but we agreed on veal for the entree (which is an appetizer in France).
Next, it was time for cheese. I think I probably learned the most in this store. I’m even acquiring an appreciation for the stinkiness of a fromagerie. Patrick selected five cheeses with us.
Then, we walked to the fishmonger. Patrick took the opportunity to teach us about farm raised vs. ocean fish. He also shared techniques for how to determine fish freshness. He was originally going to pick out one fish, but the fishmonger told us that a different one would be the best because it was caught today. I think he was right because it was phenomenal (and I don’t care for fish much).
Finally, we needed the produce to tie all of the ingredients together. A local market housed some of the freshest fruits and veggies that we would later chow down on.
Main Lessons Learned:
-Some boulangeries don’t make the dough there, try to find one where they make the dough and bake the bread.
-Cheeses are grouped together by kind.
-They put the stinkiest cheeses by the door to help with ventilation.
-Cheeses have signs with a wealth of information (pasteurized, not pasteurized,animal it came from, and seals).
-Typically not pasteurized cheese is the best, except with Roquefort.
-Common brie in America is not brie.
-Comte cheese is the most famous in France right now (and my favorite of what we tasted).
-Some rinds of the cheese is eaten by mites, but that is okay.
-Some mold is good (especially for digestion).
-When you go to a fish stand, typically the outermost part is either the fish they are trying to get rid of or it is farm raised. The best fish is usually inside.
-If you see a small portion of tuna left, don’t buy any. Tuna is a huge fish and if there is only a little left, it is probably not as fresh.
-Milkiness on the scales of the fish indicates freshness.
-Looking under the gills for a deep red also indicates freshness.
-Fish is expensive and you only get a percentage of the fish close to half of what you pay for.
-Celery root can be substituted with potatoes.
-Look for light green and yellow in the center when buying celery.
Part 2: Cooking
Now that we have the ingredients, it is time to start putting the masterpiece together. I’m not going to list every detail of how we made our dishes because that is the joy of taking the class. Here is the menu though:
Veal on top of a celery salad with Dijon and Roquefort blue cheese vinaigrette. Garnish: Candied orange peel
Fish with celery root gratin, haricot verts, red onions in wine, and tomato/butter sauce. Garnish: basil and julienne tomato peel
Goat, Brie, Roquefort, a stinky one, and one that was my favorite (and the favorite of France, similar to Swiss), but the name is escaping me
Cherry cake with improvised sauce
Main Lessons Learned:
-Candied fruits are easy and great as a garnish or addition to dishes.
-Celery makes a great salad with orange and vinaigrette.
-Add cold butter to make sauces to avoid oily sauce.
-To remove the smell of garlic on your hands, rub them on something made of stainless steel.
-I really need to stop touching my meat so much when it is the pan. Cook, flip, cook. That is it.
-Celery root is awesome and will now be added to my grocery lists.
-I think I am a fish person after all.
-Blanching vegetables stops the cooking and preserves vitamins.
Part 3: Eating
After slaving away in the kitchen (yeah right), we put together our plates. We spend some time on garnishing and presentation. When I looked at my plates, I thought about the couple of extra minutes it took to take a meal from just delicious to beautiful and delicious. Each dish was a fusion of sweet, savory, crunch, smoothness, and every wonderful combination imaginable. I will make these dishes again. In fact, I am eating candied cherries on bread with goat cheese right now. Not only can I reproduce what we did, but also incorporate twists based on the foundation of skills taught.
Part 4: Rolling Home
After the abundance of wine and food, it was time to roll down to the metro. This night will probably be the highlight of my trip because of the people I met, food I ate, and experiences I had. If you are considering a cooking class in Paris, I highly recommend Cook’n with Class.
I’ve shared these pictures in a previous post, but I’d like to throw them up here again now that there is more context behind them.
Of course I have to get food in here. This was a dish I created in cooking class. I’ve realized that food and gathering with people have fueled some of my favorite memories. Even I can make a masterpiece dish.