Discovering French Food With Chef Dominique's Paris Cooking Class
Paris is a haven for foodies. The city's restaurants offer menus packed with creamy soft cheeses, incredibly fresh vegetables, and everything from simple dishes that highlight the flavors of the ingredients — rather than loading them with spices — to deconstructed experimental dishes like the ones found at Le Chateaubriand in the 11th arrondissement. Trying all these delightful foods is one thing, but learning how to make them is an experience unlike any other.
I recently took a Paris cooking class with Chef Dominique and discovered wonderful dishes and flavors while also learning more about the culture of France. It's experiences like these that are why Karen Herbst started The International Kitchen nearly 20 years ago. It's not just about the food, but discovering a culture through its food and people.
The class with Dominique started with a trip to the market right near the Bastille. He took us to "his" butcher to get some veal, as well as his cheesemonger for some goat cheese. We then headed to the outdoor market to collect the last of our fresh ingredients — a near daily occurrence for many Parisians.
Back in his apartment kitchen, we delved into making a three-course meal. Through it all, Dominique shared lots of different tips, including ways of using things already in the kitchen, so that you don't have to go out and buy new gadgets. For one, we pounded out the veal for escalope de veau normande (or veal cutlets with mushrooms) using the bottom of pan. We also made some spaetzle — Dominique's recipe from his Alsatian grandmother — using a nifty trick that just involved a plate and a small knife.
Not only did we learn some handy tricks, but we got a brief lesson in plating, especially when it came to the zucchini salad that we made. Plus, did you know that vegetables can taste differently based on the way they're cut? That's something else we learned in Dominique's cooking class.
But the best part of it all? Eating every last bite of what we made in class. Maybe I'm biased because we participated in the cooking of the meal, but it was by far one of the best meals we had while in Paris. The veal dish was the heaviest of the bunch, but it was balanced out by the light, autumnal flavors of the zucchini. Then the meal ended perfectly with a few sweet bites of clafoutis aux cerises. Just thinking about the meal, I can't wait to go back!
By Liz Hall