Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Splurge-Worthy Cooking Class...Parisian Style

As the eve of our 25th anniversary approached and the plans for the trip to Paris took their final shape late last year, it became obvious to my husband and I that a dinner in the City of Lights would be wonderful, but, predictable.  What to do, what to do...

In a light bulb moment I stumbled across Cook'n with Class.  A relatively affordable, hands-on English speaking class in Paris open during the Christmas/New Year's week.  Gotta love the Internet! 

With the payment for the class made, we were given instructions to meet at a Metro stop in the Montmartre neighborhood.  Look for a green grocery cart.  Two other couples emerged from the metro stop looking for the very same thing.  My husband, in his typically shy manner, approached them and by the time our chef de jour, Patrick, arrived with green cart in hand, we were already introduced and laughing at the frivolity of it all.  Off to the evening markets we go to find the freshest ingredients the class will use to prepare the evening's meal.

Our first stop was the cheese shop.

First many choices.  I had no idea France has over 1000 cheeses!  They do because they have less restrictions on the use of unpasteurized milk unlike we do in the United States.  I don't believe I can overstate this: The French take their cheese very seriously!

The French traditionally have a cheese plate as dessert; not as an appetizer.  A bit overwhelmed, Patrick cleared up the mysteries of mold, aroma, rinds and textures.  Some molds and rinds are okay to eat; even the fuzzy ones although I don't think I'll put my digestive tract to the test on the fuzzy ones.  We ended up selecting 6 cheeses; one of which was incredibly stinky but rewarding at the end of the meal.

On to the butcher and the fishmonger to whittle down our appetizer and main choices, but not before getting a quick lesson on why French butchers display their meat with heads and talons or the merits of developing a relationship with the merchant.

So why haven't the butcher's product lost their heads and feet yet?  It is all about fraud protection.  Take the Bresse chicken, the priciest and tastiest chicken in France.  The way you can tell you have the real thing is by the red crested head, the white breast and the blue feet (the colors in the french flag to help you remember).  Just like many of the merchants at farmers market's all over the U.S., I love the transparency between supplier and buyer.

The fishmonger can be your best friend.  Patronize his shop often and learn that the front display is there for a quick sale.  Go deeper into the store to find the freshest of the fresh.

If he really likes you, he'll help you find the best oysters of the seasons.

By this stage, our little group has found its groove and Patrick asks for a vote to select an entree.  Our choices; either a very nice looking insanely fresh salmon from Atlantic waters or a freshly plucked duck.  We unanimously choose the duck.  Back to the butcher, he advises on the selection of our feathered friend and we watch as he expertly carves two breasts -- enough for the 7 of us.

Quick stops at the produce and boulangerie markets for all the supporting cast of characters.  We'll have sides of vanilla infused mashed potatoes, a sweet onion topping for our duck and a zucchini flan.  Our starter will be oysters with an orange hollandaise sauce.  Along with our cheese plate, dessert will be a chocolate lava cake with white chocolate lava.  Thankfully, John and I had a late lunch or I would be famished at this point.

Now it's time to cook our market bounty.

Our Mise En Place
With Patrick's guidance, we all rolled up our sleeves and gladly take the role of sous chefs.

Prepping the Lava Chocolate Cake

Dropping the White Chocolate in the Batter
Patrick Shucking the Oysters; "Students" monitoring the Sweet Onions and Mashed Potatoes

Adding a little aperitif and wine to the mix, our camaraderie had solidified.

After shopping, learning, cooking and entertaining ourselves, the outcome:

Starter - Oysters with Orange Hollandaise Sauce
Entree - Duck with Sweet Onion Chutney, Vanilla Mashed Potatoes with Zucchini Flan
After Dinner Cheese Tray
Chocolate Lava Cake
Our previous anniversaries have always been anointed with a enjoyable dinner out.  But on this noteworthy occasion, the day of our 25th anniversary, an evening cooking class was just right for us and our new set of friends.

If you go to Paris and want to experience the class for yourself, here's the info:

The school is in the Montmartre area, close to Sacre Coeur:
21 rue Custine 75018 Paris – Metro: Jules Joffrin (line 12) or Chateau rouge (line 4)
Inquiries or phone +33 (0)1 42 55 70 59 (Paris time : Monday to Friday 10am-6pm).


  1. I think this is so cool, and definitely an awesome thing to do for your 25th anniversary! Happy anniversary!

  2. What a great experience! The shopping experience looks so interesting. I am very curious about the menu; vanilla mashed potatoes? Orange hollandaise? Wonderful.
    - Barbara

  3. My husband got me the evening market class as a Christmas present. It is a fantastic class and a great way to learn about French cooking!

  4. loved this post! Really loved this idea for a special occasion meal... I went to Paris last year and took the baking class from cookn' with class. Learned how to make croissants, brioche, French pastry cream. It was fabulous! HIGHLY RECOMMEND this as an experience that will be a real highlight of a trip to Paris :)

  5. I had two cooking classesin December with Cook'n with class and enjoyed them thoroughly!!
    I documented them on my blog http// if anyone would like to check them out.


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