Friday, December 2, 2011

The Secret to How French Girls Stay So Skinny

Just kidding.  I have no idea on that one.  It truly baffles me.  This is definitely not a skinny girl post.

Three years ago the Mr. gave me cooking classes for my birthday.  It was really a very sweet gift.  He spent a lot of time researching cooking classes in DC (where we lived at the time) and put together a binder with several different options.  As usual, life got busy and we never got around doing it.  But a gift lover never forgets.  So, I decided to cash in my Paris, of course!  Over the next couple of months I am going to try a few different cooking classes and share the results (hopefully this will be helpful for you foodies that may want to try a class yourself on your next jaunt over) .

I took my first class yesterday at La Cuisine Paris.  I chose La Cuisine Paris for several reasons, with the most important being that the classes were in English.  I also wanted a cooking, not baking, class.  Finally, they offered a class covering French bistro basics, my favorite.

The Menu
Magret de Canard aux Figues
Roasted Vegetables
Crêpes et sa Sauce au Caramel Beurre Salé
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the class.  I met some really nice people and loved testing out our creation over a bottle of white Burgundy after the class was over.

A few things I didn't love :  1) they seriously skimped on the food (there was not enough duck to go around); 2) the chef seemed to have a hard time fitting everything into the two hour class, making it a little stressful and crowded around the one stove shared by 12 people, and; 3) finally, the biggest disappointment - the caramel sauce (if you can call it that) was terrible.  I expected a little (lot) more out of a seasoned French chef.

Overall, I would give this class a B-.  The duck was fabulous and I love that I now know how to make crepes.  I have included to duck recipe below.  It's really pretty easy to do.  The hardest part for my US readers will be finding the cut of meat.  In French grocery stores it is readily available, but other Americans in the class mentioned that it is hard to find in US and your best bet is to make friends with your butcher.

Magret de Canard aux Figues (Duck Breast with Fig Sauce)

1 magret de canard = 2 people.  
Fresh or dried figs (depending on the season), sliced with stem removed
Fresh rosemary, stem removed (6 to 8 stems or a big handful) 
Drizzle of honey 
1/2 cup or so of balsamic vinegar 
Salt and pepper 

In the French fashion, the recipe is not very exact :) But, after all, creativity makes for the best chefs.  
The magret de canard comes with a layer of fat.  Do not reomve! This is what gives it all the flavor.  Instead, use a pairing knife to cut diagonal slits vertically into the fat, continue to make slits down the entire piece of meat (about every inch).  IMPORTANT:  cut through the fat but just to the meat, do not piece the meat.  Criss cross with slits going the other direction.  Season the other side of the meat with salt and pepper.  Next, combine rosemary, fig slices and honey in a small bowl.  

Place breast in a deep saute pan, fat side down, and cook for about 10 minutes on medium high heat.  After 5 minutes, remove the breasts from the pan and discard the excess fat (there will be a lot...the chef old us this is not good fat that you can keep and reuse, but then again... she didn't really know how to make a caramel sauce so I don't know if I believe her).  Return the canard to the pan, meat side down and add the rosemary mixture and a splash or two of balsamic vinegar.  Stir to coat the meat and let simmer to reduce the sauce for about 5 minutes.  Then all you have to do is serve it up, killing it at your next dinner party. 

Illustration's via: (1) Doitinparis; (2)  Ann Shen 

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