The Eiffel Tower - Photo Taken September 2010

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Day 4 - La Cuisine Paris

I wanted to live like a Parisian for the time I'm here, and I guess I am.  I was awakened at 6am this morning by the delivery of a load of scaffolding being placed in front of the building across the street by a crane!  Fortunately, I had set the alarm for 6:30, so it wasn't really a rude awakening and my window was closed.  But, still pretty darned early. 

Today was my cooking class and I needed to meet the group at 9:30.  So, wanting to save my walking energy for the market and walk to the cooking school, I checked the online interactive transit trip planner to see if the bus or metro would work best.  According to the site both methods would require quite a lot of walking, so I decided to take a taxi.  This morning I walked the block or so over to Rue Beaubourg where there is a taxi rank.  There were 2 taxis there, but no drivers.  I waited a few minutes, then looked at my bus line map.  It appeared to me that #47 went right down Rue Beaubourg, across the river and right to the corner where I was to meet the group.  So, I walked down the street to the bus stop, checked the map there, and yep, #47 looked to be just what I needed.  A few minutes later #47 pulled up, I got on, and it dropped me off right at Cafe du Metro at the corner of Blvd. St. Germain and Rue Monge - right where I needed to be.  I must not have put in the right addresses for the online planner or something.  Guess I'll just rely on my own map reading.

The market on Rue Monge is 3 days a week.  Tuesdays, Thursdays, and I think Saturday.  It is a nice market with what appear to be semi-permanent shelters.  There are fishmongers, vegetable and fruit sellers, meat and poultry butchers, fromangiers (cheese), flowers, and some crafts people. Everything is looks very fresh and pretty.  This is not a farmers market per se - none of the markets in Paris are farmers markets as we know them - these markets are supplied by the big wholesale market in Rungis outside of Paris, which is the largest market in the world.  The market had been at Les Halles, just a couple of blocks from my apartment until the late 1960s.  I had time to look around a bit before meeting the group.

Looking across the street, I saw a small group gathering and was correct to assume those were the people I was meeting.  The class was through La Cuisine Paris, a cooking school catering the tourists who want to take a cooking class in Paris, but only want to spend a few hours.  This was a market class, meaning we met at the market and did the shopping for the meal we would cook and eat.  Because it was a market class, there was no set menu as the group got to decide what we would buy - with guidance from our chef Diane.  Diane spent quite a lot of time telling us about the history of the market and about how to pick out good fish, vegetables, fruits, etc.  We decided to prepare fish, so our first stop was the fishmongers where we picked out some cod - actually fillets from the back of the cod.  Next we got some peaches (for dessert), fingerling potatoes, carrots, zucchini, red and yellow peppers, and onions.  Our next stop was at the boulangerie for bread, then the fromangerie for some cheeses.  We also got some cashew nuts, and Diane popped into an Asian shop for some ginger and lemon grass.

To get to the school, we had to walk across the river to Ile de la Cite, and then across Ile Saint Louis.  In route we crossed over one of the so-called "love lock" bridges, and I didn't take a picture because I needed to keep up with group, but I'll probably have a chance to go back.  These are bridges where "lovers" place a padlock, confess their love for each other, then throw the keys into the river.  The bridge is literally covered with these locks - 3 to 5 locks thick in places.  This is very controversial and is not condoned by the City of Paris, which periodically has them removed.  Some consider it vandalism, and I tend to agree with them.  The weight of the locks can compromise the aging bridges, not to mention what the pile of keys at the bottom of the Seine is doing to the ecology of the river.

 When we got to the school, there were welcome pots of coffee waiting for us, so we had a chance to get acquainted with our fellow cooks.  There were 10 of us.  A woman from Seattle (Lake Forest Park), couples from Denver and Minneapolis, a woman from Australia and her friend from Iowa, a fellow from New York, and a woman from Chicago.  While we were drinking our coffee, the staff was busy prepping our purchases, eg., washing the produce, etc. By the way, the cost of the food was included in the cost of the course.  When we went upstairs (a narrow winding staircase), all of our purchases were laid out on the work table and there was a spot for each of us with a cutting board and sharp knives.

Before we started to cook we got to taste some sausage and some little grey shrimp.  Sort of like our salad shrimp.  We had to peel them, then we buttered a piece of baguette, placed the shrimp on it, a squirt of lemon juice - very tasty.  First job was preparing the peaches for dessert.  They were poached in their skins in a syrup made with water, sugar, honey, lime juice, lemon grass, and some other flavorings.  We then caramelized the cashews, which would be mixed with creme fresche as an accompaniment.  The next project was fixing the vegetables.  The peppers were diced and roasted in the oven.  The carrots were peeled, sliced lengthwise and also roasted in the oven.  The onions and zucchini were each diced and sauteed separately on the stove top.  Everything was seasoned with salt and pepper and a little cumin and some garlic.  The potatoes were cut lengthwise, then small crosswise slices were made without cutting all the way through.  These were seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper, and whole unpeeled garlic cloves and some bay leaves were scattered around, then baked in the oven.  Two sauces were prepared.  One a beurre blanc made with white wine, white wine vinegar, shallots, and parsley.  The wine, vinegar, and shallots were simmered to reduce, then a POUND of butter was slowly whisked in (I got to do that).  Two of the women in the group were dietitians and I think they about swooned! Then some parsley was added, and simmered longer while I continued to stir.  Finally, it was seasoned with salt and put through a sieve. The other sauce wasn't really a sauce, more of a topping, made with parsley, toasted pine nuts, and some other ingredients - that was done at the other end of the table. The cod was portioned, seasoned with salt, pepper, and fennel, sauteed for a few minutes, and finished in the oven for a few more minutes.  We each plated our own dish and sat down to a wonderful meal - it was absolutely delicious!  We also had a salad of lettuce with 3 different cheeses and fresh figs.  We enjoyed some white wine and bread with the meal.  Back to the peaches.  Once they were cooked, the skins were removed, and the syrup reduced.  We had the peach with some syrup and a spoonful of the creme fresche/cashew mixture. Yummy.  I know my Mom is expecting me to fix this exact meal for her once I am home. We finished around 1:30.

After the class, I had originally thought I would go out to Chateau de Vincennes, which is just on the edge of Paris and the metro line is close to the school.  But after yesterday's walk through the Marais, I decided to take it easy this afternoon, so walked back to the apartment and sat down to write this while it is fresh in my mind.

While taking a break from writing this, I went up to the Super Marche to pick up a few items.  I went out without my coat or umbrella, and guess what!  It started to rain while I was in the store, and I got drenched by the time I got home.  After I lugged my raincoat around all day, too!  I changed into a dry shirt and put on my raincoat, grabbed my umbrella and went out to get some goodies for tonight's dinner.  I got some Terrine Campagne (sort of like meat loaf, but it's served cold), a little bit of sausage, a demi-baguette, and a Tarte au Chocolat for dessert.  With the cheese, and vegetables I already had, it was a good dinner.

The cable seems to be out tonight, but I'm streaming KIXI through the internet, so I have some music. Think I'll watch a DVD.

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