The City Girl Takes a Cooking Class

Sometimes I am so amazed at how well my parents know me. When I moved to New York, they went from being a 45 minute drive away to a 4 hour drive away (without traffic), so I can’t just go home on a whim anymore. Maybe that parental instinct goes beyond geography, because they found the perfect birthday gift for me this year – a gift certificate to take a recreational class at the Institute of Culinary Education in the Flatiron District.

My birthday was all the way back in January, but these classes book up fast, so I’ve been waiting weeks for the day to arrive. Finally, this past week, it was time to cook. I selected a course called “Essentials of Provençal Cooking” because the menu looked amazing and I absolutely love to eat French food, but have rarely attempted to cook any of my own.

What a great choice! Provence, as you may know, is the most south eastern region of France, neighboring Italy. In class, we learned that because of this, Provence is the only region of France to prefer olive oil to butter (like me) and they are also huge fans of fish (also like me) because it’s on the Mediterranean. I also learned that it’s better to cook with regular olive oil and use extra virgin in uncooked preparation because it can become very bitter otherwise – glad that mystery is finally cleared up!

On the menu for the night:

  • Tapenade (olive spread) served with toasted bread
  • Brandade de Morue à l’Aïoli (salt cod with aoili)
  • Soupe au Pistou (bean soup with pesto)
  • Daube de Boeuf (beef simmered in red wine served over penne)
  • Tian d’Aubergines et Courgettes (eggplant and zucchini crustless tart)
  • Carré d’Agneau Rôti aux Herbes de Provence (roast rack of lamb with herbes de provence)
  • Fenouil à la Provençale (braised fennel with tomatoes and carlic
  • Dried Fruit and Honey Compote (served over vanilla ice cream)

There were 13 of us in the class, split into 3 groups. Although we didn’t get to work on every dish, the chef demonstrated basic knife skills and the skills needed to make each dish at home, like how to french a rack of lamb. My group worked on the daube de boeuf, the tian, and the fenouil. At the end of the class, we all sat down to our meal accompanied by wine and it was to die for. I can’t wait to sign up for my second class!

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