Friday, November 15, 2013

Cooking Fun in France

On Thursday I got to enjoy a fun day of good food here in France. I met Janine Springall of l'Assiette de Paris ( during ASP's Living Skills Workshop - something the school puts on 2x a year to help people new to France and ASP. Janine does a great talk at the workshop about grocery shopping, food, etc. that really helps people get oriented to their new lives here in Paris. Things sure are different! She also teaches cooking classes at her home, and they can be really fun, informative and delicious.

I went with my friend Julie to Janine's house for a class based on fall flavors. There were 2 other women there - an Australian (who has lived in the US amongst many overseas assignments) and a South African. I always love meeting other people at Janine's classes from all over the world - we share good food, wine, and stories of times in France. The four of us sat at the horseshoe counter while Janine worked behind it - her classes aren't hands-on, but I really enjoy them partly for that reason. I'm a pretty decent cook on my own, and doing all the chopping and prep work are my least favorite part of cooking. I really enjoy sitting back, soaking up her expertise and getting answers to any questions we may ask. Janine's kitchen is quite amazing for France (where the kitchens are usually small), and we learned that she bought her kitchen first and then built her house around it. A woman after my own heart! I really loved each and every dish we made this day - it was one of my favorites so far.

Janine lives further out West in the country and the view is always beautiful on the long-ish drive to Janine's house.

Janine has all sorts of beautiful dishes and serving sets as she is also a caterer

Our first dish was a Root Vegetable Salad with Crème Fraiche Vinaigrette. I don't normally eat beets, but I actually enjoyed them in this dish!

Next was Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans, Dried Cranberries, Toasted Hazelnuts and Brown Butter Sage Sauce. I think this was definitely a favorite of everyone's, it was so flavorful. This would be a great Thanksgiving dish as it contains many of our traditional Thanksgiving foods in one dish.

This Chestnut-Apple Soup was very rich, smooth and again, full of flavor. I had leftovers for lunch today and it was just as good the second time around - though I missed the pumpkin seed garnish.

The main dish was Seared Duck Breast, Pumpkin Purée, and Fennel Crisps with Madeira Jus. I haven't eaten duck very often - I think only once in the US, but I've been trying to eat more since I moved here. France knows how to do duck well! Fennel is another thing I'm not super fond of, but these fried crisps were yummy.

To finish it all off we enjoyed a Pumpkin Bread Pudding. I was so full I thought I would just have a bite and take the rest home, but once I started I just couldn't stop until it was all gone.

Of course you aren't meant to serve all of these things at the same time if you were cooking dinner, but it gave a great view of all the different ways you can use winter/root veggies. These were all so good, I wouldn't hesitate to cook them again. And lots of the prep work can be done ahead of time, so it isn't too overwhelming in terms of effort.

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