I have never been great in the kitchen. My family is filled with wonderful cooks and bakers, but it has always been clear that I did not inherit that gene. My father owned a restaurant and has always encouraged me to be an adventurous eater. My mother is well known for her cakes and decadent buttercream frosting. My brother collected TV infomercial kitchen appliances and loved experimenting with them. Does any one remember the Perfect Pancake Pan or the Fasta Pasta Microwave pasta cooker? Those were some of his favorites. Growing up, while they were concocting delicious meals in the kitchen, I was reading a book.
Once I moved away to college, cooking became more of a necessity and I occasionally took a stab at it. Family and friends still love to mock my infamous brownie experiment where I so innocently made brownies from a box using olive instead of vegetable oil. Needless to say, the brownies had a rather different flavor than intended.
Living in France has allowed me to marvel at the elegance and simplicity of classic French meals. Working as an au pair allowed me to watch my host mom come home from work and effortlessly whip up a delicious meal. These daily demonstrations left me longing to learn the same and move past the specters of my past cooking failures.
At long last, I have found the way thanks to Bénédicte at The Parisian Kitchen. I recently joined Bénédicte for her market tour and cooking class and was amazed at how, with the right guidance, a flavorful meal unfolded before us.
The morning began with us wandering the market stalls on the rue de Lévis, picking up real butter, baguettes, fresh produce, and other delicious items. With our market bag filled with ingredients, we headed back to Bénédicte’s apartment to commence cooking. Her lovely flat is located just around the corner from the market and is a wonderful place to cook, with light streaming through the large French windows. I selected the fish menu – cream of asparagus soup with foie gras foam and truffle oil, followed by cod with a citrus dressing and a caramelized vegetable tart, finishing with a chocolate soufflé smothered in caramel sauce.
Bénédicte explained the prep and cooking times for each component as she walked me through how to chop onions and carrots properly, how to make a tart crust from scratch, and the best way to cook the cod. Though there were moments of hesitation on my part, nothing was overwhelming or too difficult. Her passion for cooking shone through and her patience was appreciated. Try as I might, some egg yolks did not separate from the whites properly and another round was needed for the soufflé. Time passed quickly thanks to some lovely champagne and convivial atmosphere, and before I knew it, the meal had been completed.
Sitting down to a meal that you labored over and tasting the fruits of your hard work was truly special. Every morsel was delicious and it was all thanks to Bénédicte! Now, I am under no illusions that I will magically be able to cook wonderful French meals everyday, but I do feel one step closer, especially with the detailed recipes that she sent to me after the class.
If you are visiting Paris for the first time, or even if you live here on and off as I have, Bénédicte’s Parisian Kitchen experience will allow you to become more confident in your cooking skills during an afternoon to remember.
Written by Meghan Cunningham for the HiP Paris Blog. All images by Briag Courteaux. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.