Parisian Cooking Class

Many authors, poets and artists have been inspired by the capital of France: Paris. There are so many quotes, photos and iconic images that nothing I could say could do the city justice. All I have is my personal experiences. And here is one of them:

I don't write down resolututions from year to year. I simply make a mental list of things I want to accomplish and I do them. If I do not accomplish a goal, it gets put on the next year's list. 2012 goals included:
Make my social circle smaller.
Have deeper more meaningful relationships with my closest friends.
Go overseas.
I picked Paris because I'd never been, it's a culinary mecca and I have always wanted to speak French. I took a French class at the local community college about 7 years ago and the only things I remember are
'Je suis malade' (I'm sick) and trombone (paper clip). A kind soul gave me all 5 levels of Rosetta Stone (after I asked for it) and I practiced and perfected my bonjours, au revoirs and s'il vous plaîts for weeks on end, hoping someone would mistake me for a native speaker. I also updated my wardrobe so I didn't look like an American. Parisians are very fashion conscious and I just wanted to fit in. I succeeded in one of the two hopes.

Lastly, I couldn't go to Paris without taking a cooking course. It would be like going to Italy and not having pasta, to Japan and not having sushi or to America and not having a hamburger.

First, we went to an open-air market that's only open twice a week and chose our produce and meats. That was an experience in itself, so I'll share those photos in a later post. Upon arriving at the French apartment in the 6th arrondissement, the plan was to have a lunch of:
Roasted beets with goat cheese and white balsamic reduction
Blanquette du veau
Roasted pineapple with honey
Typical Parisian kitchen: small.

I let it be known early on that I am allergic to nuts and refuse to eat beets. Frederic, our gracious instructor, said we'd make a special dish for me. More on that later...

The devil's testicles: Roasted beets

Veal shoulder and its bones

Fresh pineapple and a jar of honey
Espelette pepper was all the rage last year. It showed up in everything. Instead of cayenne, people were importing piment d'espelette and sprinkling it in everything. We used it this day and we hung out with them too. Ha. Ha.

The roasted beet stack.

The roasted pineapple

Drinking while cooking makes the time pass.

Mon oeuf cocotte: an egg baked in a ramequin, on top of other ingredients
Eggs + cheese + vegetables / a ramekin = un oeuf cocotte. Since I wasn't eating beets or pine nuts, I got to make this dish. It's very simple, very French and you can mix and match vegetables and cheeses to your liking. 'Tis the season for Belgian endive, so that's what you're going to see here. How does it taste? Rich, creamy and satisfying. Add a few slices of baguette and it's a perfect starter to a meal.

Oeuf Cocotte
Serves 1-2

1 Tablespoon olive oil or butter
1 shallots, chopped
3 small endives, finely sliced crosswise
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1-2 large eggs
Salt and pepper or piment d'espelette, to taste

Preheat oven to 400F. Place a large casserole dish in the oven and fill half way with water.
Heat olive oil in a pan and saute shallots until browned. Add endive, salt and pepper and cover with a lid. Cook at medium heat until the endives are soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a small saucepot on medium heat and add blue cheese. As the cheese begins to melt, add the heavy cream and whisk until combined. When the mixture is uniform and melted, set aside. Divide the endives in 1 or 2 mini cocottes or ramequins. Add 1/4 cup of the blue cheese mixture in each ramequin. Break the egg and top each ramekin. Adjust with salt and pepper and add the rest of the cheese.

Place each ramekin in the casserole dish water bath and cook for about 7 minutes, no longer than 10 minutes. The eggs should be slightly runny when you remove the casserole dish from the oven. Serve immediately.

Blanquette du veau
Serves 4-6

Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 pounds trimmed, boneless veal shoulder, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 1/2 quarts water
3 parsley stems
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 leek, white part only, halved and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium celery rib, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of cayenne pepper or piment d'espelette
2 tablespoons minced chives

In a medium enameled cast-iron casserole or deep pot, cover the veal with the water and bring to a simmer over moderately high heat. Tie the parsley stems, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, peppercorns in a piece of cheesecloth and add the bundle to the casserole. Simmer over low heat for 1 hour, skimming occasionally. Add the leek, carrot and celery and simmer until the veal is tender, 45 minutes longer.

In a separate saucepot, pour in 2 cups broth from the casserole; Add the heavy cream and simmer over moderately low heat.
In a small bowl, blend the butter and flour to form a paste. Whisk 1/2 cup of the hot liquid into the paste until smooth, then whisk into the simmering heavy cream mixture. Simmer over moderate heat, whisking often, until the sauce is thickened and no floury taste remains, about 5 minutes. Add the the lemon juice and cayenne. Salt to taste. Place veal and vegetables in a serving platter. Season the stew with salt and pepper. Ladle the white sauce over the meat. Garnish with the chopped chives and serve.

Me and my classmates

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About the author

Nikki Miller-Ka

Nikki Miller-Ka

Ms. Miller-Ka is a classically trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami.

Formerly, she’s worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger for various publications and outlets in the Southeast. She has also worked as a catering chef, a pastry chef, a butcher, a baker, and a biscuit-maker. Presently, she is a food editor, freelance food writer, and a tour guide for Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours.

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