Sunday, February 16, 2014

Things I learned in French Cooking Class

I just finished a 4 part (one night a week) French cooking class, a City of Vancouver community rec program.
Although I wasn't really sure what to expect... I absolutely loved it. I learned so many techniques and tricks, it was really hands on, and my favourite part: at the end of each 2 hour session, we sat down as a class and feasted on the delicious meals that we had just crafted.

Dishes I learned to cook:

Chicken Chasseur *A one-pot dish that combines mushrooms and chicken in a tomato and white-wine sauce. 

Aligot *Aligot is made from mashed potatoes blended with butter, cream, crushed garlic, and the melted cheese. 

Salad Lyonnaise * a traditional French salad,  made with frisée or curly endive, dijon vinaigrette, hot bacon, and a freshly poached egg. We also made delicious croutons for this salad, tearing up crusty baguette, drizzling with bacon fat and toasting in the oven.

Apple Tart

Navarin of Lamb *French lamb stew

Duck L'Orange 
Hollandaise Sauce (on blanched asparagus)

Steak with Tarragon and Shallot Compound Butter

Chicken Fricassee with Tarragon (top left) *a method of cooking meat in which the meat is cut up, sauteed, and braised, and served with its sauce, traditionally a white sauce

Parsley Nugget Potatoes (top right)

Bechamel Sauce (on Cauliflower Gratin- bottom right)

Bouillabaisse *a traditional Provencal fish stew... ours had Arctic Char, Ahi tuna, halibut,  mussels, clams, prawns, crab, scallops
Rouille *a sauce/garnish for bouillabaisse

Cod Provencal * with a provencal ragout (lima beans, tomatoes, capers, olives, shallots and garlic)

Sole Meuniere * a classic dish consisting of sole, whole or fillet, that is dredged in milk and flour, fried in butter and served with the resulting brown butter and lemon. 

Soubise *braised rice and onions, like a French risotto (top right)
Key lessons learned:
-timing is everything: plan your meals, be strategic
-prepare, be ready, be organized: avoid last minute recipe chaos with mise en place
*Mise en place is a French phrase which means "putting in place", as in set up. It is used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients (e.g., cuts of meat, relishes, sauces, par-cooked items, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components) that a cook will require for the menu items that are expected to be prepared during a shift.
-the importance of UNIFORMITY in chopping, mincing, dicing, slicing... you want things to cook at the same time (eg. noone likes biting down on a larger piece of raw onion in their dish)
-how to poach an egg (I've never been able to do this properly...low pot, rolling boil, 2 tbsp of vinegar, 3.5 minutes, handle with care:))
-butter, cheese, and oil make food taste pretty damn delicious

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