Audience Participation

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Delish Restaurant Food!

Bonjour mes amis!
I have been a trainer/teacher for much of my career and one of my favorite things to do in a class is create opportunities for participation. It’s usually a lot of fun and the great thing – we all get to learn! So here goes…

I’ve been in Paris now for 4 weeks. As I’ve said before I’m having the time of my life but there is something that is difficult. Deciding what restaurants to try! There are sooooooo many. I’ve read guide books, foodie recommendations, even my girl Ina’s Barefoot in Paris has great recommendations. I’ve also had some recommendations from fellow bloggers – Thanks – or rather Merci Becoming Madame!! What I find is that anyone who has been to Paris has a favorite or two – or more.

So my idea is… If you have a favorite restaurant or 3 🙂 in Paris, respond to this post with a comment and tell us all about them. There is no limit to the number you can recommend! Please include as much info as possible such as name of restaurant, type of food served, location, what Metro stop is nearest, etc and why you love it. In a week or so I’ll compile a whole list and post it. I’ll also try to sample as many as I can and give my 2 cents.

I look forward to your recommendations as does everyone following this blog!

Thanks in advance for your participation!!
A bientot!

Making French Macaron

The days results...

So… One of the classes I was most looking forward to taking when coming to Paris was a class on making French Macaron. They can be tricky to make so I wanted to learn all the secrets and tricks from the Professionals! Imagine my disappointment when I learned that the class being offered at Le Cordon Bleu was full. I wanted to cry! I’ve been on the waiting list for 4 weeks now but all the same I had to do something about it!

Some of the students at Le Cordon Bleu mentioned to me that there are many other cooking schools in Paris (duh – I should have thought of that!) and they may offer the same course. So a few quick Google searches and Voila! I found an alternative. My first choice was Alain Ducasse who is a major Chef here in Paris. He offers cooking courses through his culinary empire but… the classes at his school are only offered in French. – Merde! My French isn’t good enough for that yet…

Next, I found La Cuisine Paris! Their school is located in the Marais right near my friend’s apartment. They have a macaron class AND they had an opening!! What a BLAST I had in this class! It was taught in English only to my surprise, could be that only English-speaking students signed up. Our teacher, Chef Jenny, is an accomplished Pastry Chef who is American and did her training in Boston. She married a Frenchman and is now living in Paris. She has worked in many fabulous pastry shops here in Paris – including the famous Ladurée, known throughout Paris for the “best” macaron. She is such a good teacher, funny and personable, she had great stories for us, as well as fantastic tips and techniques.

The other students in the class ranged from college students studying in Paris to tourists, as well as residents of Paris new and old. We all seemed to click together and the atmosphere in the class was just fantastic.

We made two flavors; milk chocolate passion fruit and white chocolate raspberry. YUM! We worked in groups to prepare the ingredients. My group had the Milk Chocolate Passion Fruit filling so we set out to make it. As soon as the passion fruit puree started heating up, the room was filled with its delicious aroma and everyone started commenting on how good it smelled. We poured the boiling passion fruit mixture over the milk chocolate chunks to melt it and then added pieces of butter as we whisked it all into submission. Filling two pastry bags with our result, we tied them off and put them in the fridge to cool and set.

We used the Italian meringue method to make our macaron, which means you pour boiling hot sugar syrup into egg whites that are mixing in the stand mixer. You could do this by hand as well but it’s a little challenging. The glossy whipped meringue is then folded into a paste made of ground almonds, powdered sugar, egg whites (unbeaten) and coloring. This is a tricky stage because if you over mix it and deflate the egg whites, the cookies will spread too much when you pipe them out so you have to be very patient.

Our batter came out perfectly under the guiding eyes of our teacher. She showed it to the other half of the class saying, “this is the perfect consistency for your batter.” We all high fived each other in our group…

Piping out the cookies into perfectly shaped and even disks is another challenge. Once they are backed and cooled two of these pillowy cookies will sandwich a delicious filling so there has to be a perfect match for sandwiching. After some practice, we got it down. We even made some heart shaped cookies as Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. You’ll see in the pictures that we even combined the two different colored batters to make bull’s eye macaron.

Baking the shells is the final tricky step. If you undercook them, they deflate and are so sticky that it’s impossible to get off the parchment paper. If you over bake them, they crack and fall apart. Thankfully with our expert Chef’s guidance, our shells came out perfectly and the last step of letting them cool to fill them was under way.

French Macaron are a bit tricky to make but the results are heavenly and worth the effort.

Now one of the biggest secrets of French Macaron making is that you shouldn’t eat them right away. They should be refrigerated for at lease 24 hours to develop their flavor and texture. You can eat them right away but they will be dry and not as delicious. My 24 hours is almost up and I can’t wait to dive into them tonight!!

So even though I was disappointed in not being able to take the class at Le Cordon Bleu, it still all worked out in the end. I had a fantastic learning experience, some awesome macaron to take home with me, I made some new friends, and I had an experience at a different cooking school here in Paris – ce magnifique!

Bon Appetite mes amis!

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Cooking with Champagne – you’re gonna love it!

The word champagne makes most people think FUN, party, celebration, romance, giggle, kiss, Woo Hoo!! Just the sound of the cork popping makes your eyes open wide and your heart fill with happiness. Cooking with champagne is even more exciting!

One of the classes I attended this past week was for food of the Champagne region of France. The only place from which sparkling wine can legally be called Champagne according to the French. Every dish in the menu has champagne in it and let me tell you – each is absolutely FABULOUS!

Leek and Chaource Cheese Tart

The starter is a Leek and Chaource Cheese Tart. Chaource cheese is also from the Champagne region and looks like a thick brie cheese. It has a stronger flavor than brie but not quite as strong as camembert cheese. The tart is made with a short crust pastry which is pre-baked slightly. Leeks are diced and softened in champagne and butter then they line the bottom of the tart shell. The cheese is sliced and fanned out over the top of the leeks beautifully leaving gaps for the filling. The filling is made with eggs and heavy cream and poured over the top just to come to the top of the cheese. Once baked it is creamy, yummy, delish! – and when you eat it the cheese oozes out to add to the creamy texture of the filling. When I tasted it in class I made the “mmmmmmm” sound much to my embarrassment as I saw the other students look my way with amusement.

Sole Fillet and Whiting Mousseline with Champagne Beurre Blanc

The main course is Fillet of Sole stuffed with a Whiting mousseline. It is rolled into a pipe shape and poached in stock or in water then served with a Champagne Beurre Blanc sauce. Beurre blanc is a heavenly white butter sauce usually made with butter, shallots, white wine and vinegar. In this case, it’s made with champagne. The milk solids from the butter get suspended with the acids from the champagne and vinegar which creates a thick and creamy texture. A little fresh champagne is added to the sauce just before serving so there is fresh flavor and some effervescence. Let me just tell you, I am not usually a fan of fish. I could eat this dish EVERY day!! It’s that good. The sweetness from the butter and the cream balanced by the acidity of the shallots and the champagne along with the slight effervescence and the saltiness from the fish stock creates a taste sensation in your mouth that is transformational. OOOOO la la la la la la as they say in Paris!

Champagne Sorbet

For dessert we have Champagne sorbet scented with lemon and orange accompanied by orange scented Madeleines – VERY French and VERY tasty. A light, tasty perfect ending to a fabulous meal. And yes, there is some champagne in the Madeleine batter.

I often use champagne when I’m cooking at home. Sometimes I open the fridge to grab some white wine to add to a sauce or roasting dish; even to vegetables I’m sautéing. Many a time I have grabbed an open bottle of champagne instead of the white wine and I have always been please with the result. Now I know at least ONE of my friends is saying, “leftover champagne?! Quell dommage! Who would have leftover champagne!!” It does happen from time to time… Try it – you’ll love it!

Happy cooking my friends!!

Inverted Puff Pastry

Whenever I hear the words “Puff Pastry” the first thing I hear in my head is YUUUUUUUUM!!

This week, I learned about inverted puff pastry. To be honest, I have never made my own puff pastry. I’ve always purchased the frozen package in the grocery store and wrapped up my brie or cocktail sausages, baked them off and called it a day. I’ve watched many a TV Chef make puff pastry by creating a dough, wrapping it around an obscene amount of butter, then roll it out, fold it in three, roll it out, etc. until there are more than 50 layers of butter sandwiched between the dough. When you bake it, the steam that releases from the butter makes the pastry rise into a light, flaky, heavenly wonder.

Inverted puff pastry has the butter layer on the outside of the dough. How is this done I hear you ask? By kneading flour into the cold butter, rolling it out and chilling it before enrobing the dough layer. The same process of rolling and folding ensues to create this dough, which produces the same flaky deliciousness. Why then would you invert it you ask? The inverted puff pastry is easier to work with. It doesn’t shrink as much when you’re working with it and isn’t as temperamental.

I was expecting, since this was a pastry course I was observing, that we would make sweet treats. But, I was pleasantly surprised. A delicious spread of 7 different savory treats were produced by our very talented Chef. This was fantastic for two reasons. One, everything was super delish! Two, I didn’t need to make dinner that night! YAY!

Here are the fabulous treats that were created.

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A bientôt mes amis!