I've just finished the most relaxing, inspiring day I've had in recent memory. Dear husband kindly stayed home with - these days - incredibly trying daughter so I could finally take a cooking lesson with the oft-lauded Paule Caillat (she is not related to Colbie, I asked). The day began on Rue Montergueil (a fabulous pedestrian shopping street near Les Halles) at Stroher, a traiteur (caterer) and pâtisserie on that's served up delicious pastries, savory treats, and chocolates for nearly three centuries, where we met our market "promenade" guide S, along with Paule's intern A. My fellow students J and K were terrific guys from D.C., with whom I (of course) share at least one mutual friend. S took us to a poissonerie, a boucherie, a fromagerie, and a boulangerie/patisserie, teaching us along the way what to look for, how to order, what to buy in season, all information I could have used a year ago, but hey - better late than never.
After our market walk we journeyed to Paule's sunny, welcoming loft in the Marais for our day of gastronomic discovery. Paule fixed us up with aprons and knives and put us to work chopping, peeling, and "sweating" leeks. We made watercress velouté with scallop carpaccio and twice-cooked veal shank with a delightful sauce. We then took a break from cooking for a wonderfully informative cheese course, learning about terroir, appellations and wine pairings. Paule then showed us what I believe to be an idiot-proof (but we'll see when I try it next week!) tarte au chocolat with raspberry coulis, making today's pastry a creation by moi! Well, ok, all I really did was stir chocolate into hot cream, but it's a start.
The tarte, inspired by Joël Robuchon's recipe, starts with a homemade pate sucree (the Caillat family crust, which Paule made appear effortless) and a filling of 63% Cacao bitter chocolate mixed with hot cream and egg. Paule also showed us how to make a raspberry coulis to decorate the top of the tarte. Shocker: it was actually enjoyable to make!
After our amazing luncheon - the soup was fresh, delicious, perfectly seasoned, the veal tender, juicy, the sauce a rich and tangy puddle of perfection - we (I!) decorated and served the tarte. It was still warm, the chocolate melting on the tongue, the crust crumbly and delicious, the coulis a tart and fruity complement to the rich chocolate. In my book, cinquante times better than the tarte from Thevenin!
I've participated in several walking tours, wine tastings, and classes in my year in Paris and every time I do, I wish I had the time to engage in more academic and culinary pursuits. I can never decide which I love more: getting to see Parisien(ne)s in their natural habitats and learn their shopping, drinking, cooking and eating secrets; or meeting other really interesting ex-pats and/or tourists and learning their stories, what brought them to Paris...always engaging and enlightening - and vaguely familiar - in some way.
I left Paule's full of energy and inspiration - hubby met me back on Rue Montergeuil for a coffee and a pastry (from Strohers, bien sur) and I dragged him to Dehillerin to purchase a stainless (my first!) saucepan and stock pot and various culinary gadgets and tools to take to Bath. I may be leaving Paris, but I'll be taking a little of Paule's spirit and some damn fine cookware with me. The dream goes on!