Not Quite the New Julia! Cooking Class in Paris

March 17, 2010

My parents gave me the perfect gift for Christmas this year. They knew that I have a budding interest in cooking and they decided to give me a gift I could have all my life: cooking classes in Paris! One of my two half-day sessions at the Ecole de Cuisine Alain Ducasse has been used up, but after spending four hours in the 16th cooking up a feast on Tuesday morning I feel that it was a session well spent!

The class was for beginners, but even so I was the youngest person there by 10 years (the next in line was a really sweet American woman who was younger than everyone else by another 10-15 years herself!) but that just meant that everyone was really nice to me! There was also only one gentleman in the class, he was there with his wife and seemed a little uncomfortable being the only male other than the chef, but as his wife mentioned, he was the one who really wanted to be there since he did most of the cooking at home. The class had 3 Americans out of 10 students, which was great because whenever I didn’t understand something I would lean over and ask one of them to explain in English-we had our little USA corner all staked out!

The "Truffle" kitchen (each of the four is named after a different ingredient-I was happy to be in this one)

The class began with a light breakfast at the table so we could all become acquainted. Coffee, orange juice, and a little brioche made for a very enjoyable ice-breaker, and it gave me time to relax before the cooking began, since I was nervous when I arrived. Our focus for the day was meat and poultry, specifically leg of lamb and slices of duck breast. It was a complicated and lengthy process, but I think I retained almost all of it…

One of the first things we started making was the jus for the lamb. It took the longest, and we were all shocked at how much time and effort  (and how many ingredients and steps) it took to make a little pot of jus, but it was so good that we really didn’t mind! Although it seemed good enough to eat even when it was still just cooking down!

A cauldron of jus in the making!

My favorite thing to make were actually the galettes de pommes de terre, which were thin seasoned slices of potatoes in a round pocket of thin French bacon, sprinkled with baby green onions and cooked in the oven. We each got to make our own, and it was easy, but looked really beautiful! I’ll definitely be trying to do it again!

Ready for the oven

I also really loved making the duck dish! We got to tourne the artichokes, which means taking off the outer leaves etc. and preparing  just the artichoke heart, which we cooked with olive oil, garlic cloves, and fresh thyme. We also made very thin slices from a few artichokes which we tossed raw in olive oil and salt/pepper to add as another texture to the finished plates. The duck breast we pan seared (finished with just a minute in the oven) and then brushed with a sweet hoisin-like sauce and sprinkles of sea salt crystals…

Some of the ladies searing the duck

The lamb legs looked simple-rubbed with olive oil, cloves of garlic, and fresh rosemary how could it not be delicious? The chef didn’t tell us how long to cook it for though-he showed us how to test the interior temperature with a needle that you touch to the inside of your wrist for an estimate-when it is hot to the touch that correlates to an internal temperature of around 50 °C, and the temperature will continue to raise and it will cook even after being removed from the oven, and for the milk-fed lamb that we were eating around 56 °C is à point…I think I’ll have to do a few practice rounds before I get the hang of it, but I know it’s possible!

One finished leg of lamb and chef brushing the finished potatoes with jus

The best part by far was the eating!!!! We made up our own plates and ate in two stages, still wearing our aprons! The duck, served with a little bit of roquette lettuce was delicious! I really want to try and make the entire dish again-it wasn’t too complicated, I think the hardest part was actually the asian sauce. However, it would be worth the trouble if I could taste this again!

Making up my first course

The lamb was also amazing, and the potatoes…I think that those are the first things my host family will be trying!

I still can't believe that this was lunch

I loved what I learned, I loved the people I met, and I loved how fun it all was. The best part was learning how to go off of intuition and taste/smell instead of a super exact recipe. I learned a lot of techniques that will come in handy for a lot of different things, which was the idea for the course! But I can also use the recipes I learned to whip up a really impressive dinner-I just want to practice a little first!  I’m sure it will all all come back easily though once I put on the awesome apron that we got to wear and keep!!!! I can’t wait to figure out what class to take next…

I still haven’t told you anything about Emily D’s visit to Paris though, so à très bientôt!


4 Responses to “Not Quite the New Julia! Cooking Class in Paris”

  1. grandma said

    I can hardly wait until you cook the “lunch” you described. I will be in Michigan to visit this summer and awaiting this meal. Grandpa will probably not be with me as I am going to visit my sisters and I plan on driving up, so we can have lamb. Love you much.

  2. Ben said

    This is exactly what I’m planning to do…well, other than the minor detail of not being in Paris!! It seems like good fun…I thought about bakery lessons too!! Hope you are well!

    • Victoria said

      I’m doing so well and it’s so nice to hear from you! Let me know if you take any classes, and I’ll let you know if I ever make it over to England!

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