Friday, 3 October 2014

French Cooking

Steak au Poivre
Whenever I go to a new city/town/country, the first thing I do is check out the food. The first day in my new home of Viterbo, Italy, population: under 2k, I literally took home my entire study abroad group because I just had to mention that I could cook a good Jumbalaya. This resulted in a 20 person trip to the local grocer for the Italian equivalent of Southern gumbo ingredients and a panicked phone call to my then boyfriend in South Carolina, who actually new the recipe. So when I came across a French cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education, I jumped on the chance to learn how to cook the foods i'd consumed with a gluttonous passion at 19, during my first sojourn in Paris.

The menu read like a dream: Pâté de Foie de Poulet (chicken liver pâté), Moules Frites, Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Tart, Confit de Canard, Céleri Remoulade et Pomme Granny, Potage Crécy (a delicious, creamy, carrot soup), Steak au Poivre, Frisée aux Lardons (a gorgeous escarole salad with chopped bacon), and a Bittersweet Chocolate Soufflé with Grand Marnier Crème Anglaise.

The Chef, Melanie Cecilio (she was so much fun and I can't wait to take another class with her!), ran us through the ingredients list of each dish, the layout and laws on the kitchen (hey, some of us have never graced a commercial kitchen before), and then split us (10 students) into three teams - each one cooking a portion of the meal. Now a lot of people likely think that 4 1/2 hours in a kitchen sounds like hell but I was in a state of ecstatic, gleeful bliss the whole time.

Each dish was timed out via a chart we got that detailed what should be done when and by what time, so we would be able to sit down to our feast at the end of the night. Beyond this, we (my team) divided ourselves into two's and three's to tackle all of the dishes more efficiently and learned the necessary techniques as we went. *The method here is very hands on as opposed to a 'demo and repeat' type of class, which is why I loved it. Chef (when you're in the kitchen, that's what the head chef answers to - no Mr. or Miss - you just yell "Chef" across the room!) and the assistant chef were on hand to answer our multiple questions and I even learned a much easier way to chop onions and peel garlic.

Confit de Canard
Of the multiple recipes, the ones that I volunteered to prepare were the Pâté, Moules Frites, Confit de Canard, Frisée aux Lardons, and the Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Tart. Now obviously, I couldn't cook all of those by myself (I wish), so the ones I specifically know how to prepare are the Pâté and the Moules Frites. This might not sound like much but seeing as i've never done either, I was thrilled.

Caramelized Goat Cheese and Onion Tart
You can find directions for the Pâté here and for the Moules Frites here.

My place at the feast, with all of the dished lovingly arranged.
You can see the escarole salad and the gorgeous carrot soup.
In case you wondered how my emergency Jambalaya turned out, the entire group was successfully fed and that was the start of 6 months of weekly potlucks at our flat!

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