After taking the Baguette Cooking Class at La Cuisine Paris in January, I knew I wanted to come back for another class. Mackenzie and I returned a few weeks ago for the French Market Cooking Class, one dedicated to picking out fresh, local ingredients from the market and creating an improvised menu with the chef.
We met at the Marché Maubert bright and early – just a hop, skip and jump away from the La Cuisine Paris kitchen. Our chef for the day, Camille Labro, gave us a brief introduction to Parisian markets and an overview of seasonal produce. Paris supports 100+ markets, offering at least one per district. We could tell from looking at the market that many stalls were empty and learned that French farmers have taken a hit from the poor weather conditions this year. Many summer produce, like cherries, are suffering from the excess rainfall, thus are in short supply.
The best part of this class is inventing a menu based on the fresh selection of ingredients at the market. We aimed to collect only locally grown, organic, in-season products such as tomatoes, cherries, peaches, apricots, cantelope and fava beans. After shopping for produce and cheese, we went to the nearby boucherie and boulangerie for fresh bread and meat. With our bags full of ingredients, we walked across Île Saint Louis to prep our meal in the classroom.
We returned to the kitchen for coffee and got down to business. As chef Camille said, “creativity merges from constraint” and we did just that. Together, we created a five course meal complete with soup, salad, main course, dessert and cheese platter. Nothing on the menu was over-the-top and can be easily made at home. I spent most of the time scribbling away notes as chef Camille shared extremely valuable preparation tips that I’ll cherish forever.
- “Red” Salad: A mélange of homemade candied cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, kumato tomatoes, green onion (marinated in balsamic vinegar), olive oil, fava beans and cilantro, topped with a French cheese similar to American cottage cheese. This salad screams summer and I’m not ashamed to say that I devoured half of the bowl.
- Cold Cantaloupe Soup: A blend of cantaloupe, salt and espelette pepper – a mild French paprika – and topped with mint. Served cold, this spicy-fruity combination was interesting to try, but is definitely for a specific palette.
- Filet mignon of pork with potatoes and white asparagus: The pork was marinated in an Asian-inspired mixture of Dijon mustard, soy sauce, honey, olive oil, orange zest and four spice (ginger, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg). After searing the pork on the stove, we put it into the oven to cook through. The potatoes were boiled and tossed with butter and spices; the white asparagus was steamed and sautéed until brown. This “magic” sauce tied everything together as it dripped all over the plate. I’ve recreated the recipe twice since the class without my notes – it’s that easy!
- Roasted peach and apricot “crumble”: After cutting and pitting apricots and peaches, we filled each with a mixture of brown sugar, almond powder and butter. The fruit baked in the oven until browned. Unfortunately, our apricots melted away but ended up becoming a sauce for the peaches. With a side of vanilla ice cream, this dish is the perfect summer dessert.
- Cheese Platter: Leave it to me to lose my class notes halfway through writing this post. Instead of listing the cheeses below with tasting notes, I’ll just let you use your imagination…
Overall, this class was one of the best decisions I’ve made in Paris. The price may deter you from registering, but trust me, it’s worth every penny. If you’re in town during market season, don’t think twice – take this class!