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Friday, February 17, 2006

what's cooking, good looking?

What's a single girl in Paris, with an appetite for gourmet food, and a poorly filled mini fridge to do on a Friday night?

Take an evening cooking course, of course.

This evening I took off for my second cooking course through Atelier des Chefs, where you can make a three-course meal, and enjoy it afterwards, for less than you’d pay to eat in a restaurant.

I chose a different location than last time-there are three in total-and managed to arrive on time after getting lost down small roads with changing street names.

After hanging my coat, a young man in a well-pressed shirt showed me to the toilets where I could wash my hands before the class began.

The setting was warm and comfortable, with a small store of cooking utensils, and a sitting area with cookbooks for sale.

The spotless stainless steal kitchen sat like a masterpiece, surrounded by glass, and off to the side was a dining area with a long, wooden, nicely set table for us to enjoy our meal afterwards.

Inside the kitchen we split into groups at separate counters, and began chopping our ingredients. A shy young woman with glasses chopped beside me, while a smug Parisian couple passed witty remarks in front of me.

Our menu for the evening was mashed potatoes with green onion (what we would call champ in Ireland), a fillet of bass cooked with beetroot and clams, and apples coated in caramel and almond flakes for dessert.

Philippe, our chef, directed the class with ease, and managed to swoon most of the mainly female students. Unfortunately, I still have my heart set on my last instructor, who I spotted leaving when I came in. Needless to say I did a double take, felt my cheeks light on fire, and went to the bathroom.

We let the onions “sweat” in the pan, cooking them in oil and salt, which allows the onions to cook without burning. “And we’re expected to go out after cooking and eating all these onions?” Asked the woman of the smug Parisian couple. When the potatoes were thoroughly cooked we whisked them, added milk, a heavy helping of butter and the onions. Philippe told us that in gourmet cooking, mashed potatoes are often 60% potatoes, and 40% butter.

For the filet of bass, we cooked the clams in water and white wine, removed them from their tiny shells, and then cooked the fish in the clam juice, along with the clams themselves. Upon adding finely diced beetroot, our fish simmered in a sea of purple.

The best part was dessert. To make caramel you need one ingredient: sugar. So we threw a handful of sugar into a large pan, let it sit until it began to smoke and melt, then stirred, and watched in awe as the white powder turned to golden liquid. We then added the almond flakes, which stuck like nougat, and eventually slices of sweet Pink Lady apples. We kept the apples cooking at a hot temperature, with the lid on top, so the caramel wouldn’t harden, but coat the apples in a warm caramel sauce.

When we sat down at the table, the majority of us ordered wine, and were happy and hungry at the sight of our meals. I sat beside a woman whose son had bought her the course. “He comes here all the time, it’s too bad he wasn’t here, he would love to have a girl like you in his class!” She told me, sighing more than once over the fact that her son couldn’t meet me. “You like cooking?” She asked. “He loves cooking!”

The meal went down well, with most students laughing away. One woman was there with three girlfriends and was celebrating her birthday. “You’re not so young anymore!” Laughed one of her friends, a small Asian woman who cracked jokes throughout the whole class, and constantly dipped her finger in for a taste.

It was a lovely evening. I left well fed, and walked around the city until I saw a bus to take me home. And until a tall dark handsome Parisian asks to take me for dinner, this is a good way of getting my gourmet food fix.

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Blogger maitresse said...

I want to go!

4:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am back in my dormroom in the states reading this...stumbled accross your lovely journal which is always a pleasure to read. And now I am famished --- thanks!


7:57 AM  
Blogger Gillian Young said...

Always glad to make a girl hungry! And maitresse-sign up-we could even try and get in on one together.

10:48 AM  

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