I mentioned in my Parisian of the Month interview last November with chef and caterer Charlotte Puckette, that we were going to start cooking classes this year. Last Thursday we organized a test run/pre-launch of our first class and it was a smash hit. I invited my friend Jeremy, a New York foodie, and three tour clients, Donna, Kristi, and Laura, who were also formidable foodies and accomplished cooks from Marin county. It was an added plus that they were from the two foodie capitols of the U.S., New York and San Francisco.
Charlotte Puckette is the author of the wonderful book The Ethnic Paris Cookbook , all about the rich and diverse ethnic food of Paris including a list of different markets, recipes from the top restaurants and food shops, and colorful four color illustrations. The book is a culinary journey through more than 14 countries including Lebanon, Morocco, Vietnam, Senegal, Algeria, Laos, and Cameroon. Charlotte wrote The Ethnic Paris Cookbook to expose people to the unexplored, multi-cultural cuisine of Paris that most people don't know about. The reason we thought of the classes was to give visitors a different experience from traditional French cooking classes by incorporating some of the recipes in the book along with tried and true French recipes from Charlotte's repertoire.
White and green asparagus and goat cheese tart
Poulet Cari/Chicken Curry (a recipe in The Ethnic Paris Cookbook from the island of Reunion near Madagascar)
Almond Macaroon Galette with Strawberries
We started at 10AM at the Saxe-Berteuil open air food market on Ave. de Saxe in the 7th arr. It was a crisp, sunny morning and the market was packed with Parisians filling their cloth covered shopping carts with their daily bread and other foods. Our shopping list included asparagus, strawberries, bread, and cheese. We passed at least six produce stands with lively vendors and it was hard to decide which had the best asparagus and strawberries, since they all looked so luscious. We made our big decision and bought one white and one green bunch of thick asparagus and two boxes of over-sized, ridiculously red strawberries. Happy with getting most of our shopping done, we toured the rest of the market and started walking back to Charlotte's house. The scenic walk included a stop in front the Ecole Militaire (Military School) where we watched handsome soldiers strutting on horseback against the magnificent backdrop of the Eiffel Tower.
Charlotte lives in a charming five-story house in a passage off the Ave. Bosquet and the entire first floor is the spacious kitchen and dining space. She had everything neatly laid out for our cooking prep and we put on the aprons she generously supplied and got to work.
We first prepared the batter for the cake by whipping egg whites till they were stiff and then folding in ground almonds. After, we peeled the asparagus so they weren't bitter and stringy, blanched them, and placed them vertically on top of the layer of creamy goat cheese with the puff pastry underneath. The next step was to prepare the chicken curry and the ladies and Jeremy diligently chopped the onions, peeled the garlic cloves, and diced the tomatoes while Charlotte browned the chicken thighs in a large frying pan. Next we put all the ingredients in a Le Creuset Dutch oven and let in simmer.We all shared memorable, sometimes funny stories about recipes and meals we made in the past, while the curry stewed with its intense turmeric and garlic smell, and the intoxicating vapors from the asparagus tart baking in the oven made us chomp at the bit to eat the feast we prepared in the past hours. Charlotte gave us some valuable cooking tips, some that even with my 21 years experience as a chef, I didn't know. The last task was melting the strawberry jam and cutting the strawberries to decorate the cake.
Donna, left, Charlotte, right
Charlotte cut the hot-out-the-oven tart into rectangles and put one white and one green asparagus slice on a plate and sprinkled salad greens with vinaigrette on top. Ravenous, we grabbed the plates from her and dove in, mouth first. One word to describe the tart: DIVINE! Thinking we had already reached our culinary zenith, the chicken curry was not a let down. We savored the tender chicken sliding off the bone, with a potpourri of flavors ranging from tangy to the just right curry seasoning that was rich and flavorful but not overpowering. The grand finale of the airy and fluffy macaroon galette, topped with plump, sweet strawberries was the perfect flavor balance to offset the chicken curry. Again, one word to describe the galette: OH MY GOD!
Our culinary feast was accompanied with a fruity, floral red wine, Ventou 2007, and Lilli 2007, a white wine similar to a Sancerre, both produced by Xavier, a leading estate in the southern Rhone.
We all thoroughly enjoyed the market and class from beginning to end and Jeremy and the ladies all agreed it was hit and that future clients would love the classes. They said the most special part was being able to experience cooking in a real Paris kitchen and enjoy Charlotte's home and hospitality. Stuffed and satisfied, we rolled out of there at 2PM and continued our glorious afternoon with my new Eye Prefer Paris Tour of the Canal St. Martin and the 10th arr.
I will be officially launching Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes in May, but if you would like to participate in one, please email me and I will let you know of upcoming dates.
Charlotte and I look forward to cooking up a storm with you soon.
I am pleased as punch to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Tours, which are 3-hour walking tours I will personally be leading. The Eye Prefer Paris Tour includes many of the places I have written about such as small museums & galleries, restaurants, cafes & food markets, secret addresses, fashion & home boutiques, parks, and much more.
I look forward to meeting you on my tours and it will be my pleasure and delight to show you my insiders Paris.
Check it out at www.eyepreferparistours.com