Wednesday, March 16, 2011

European Cooking Class 1: French Cuisine

Why have I never taken a community cooking class before?!?  (My Google search actual gave me the answer earlier today: because there are NONE offered in central PA.  Please, somebody tell me I’m wrong.)  Granted, the course was not as hands-on as I would have liked, nor was it as organized as it should have been, but I still went skipping back to my flat an hour later than previously anticipated, tummy both full and content.

Our teacher, Zuzana Blazov Tichy, was brought up in Slovakia, but her accent and knowledge of where to find the cheap herbs implied that she’s been in or around Dunedin for a while.  She’s passionate about food and cooking, and her energy was quickly transferred to the class’s dozen or so students.  Though we were all timid at first, she handed out tasks along the way and each of us got to play our part in making our delicious French dinner.  (Guess who got stuck with the onions?)  She gave us all recipes to take home, though I believe I only saw her glance at her copies once or twice, and I did my best to jot down her deviations.  Despite the organizers of the class failing to provide Zuzana with many of the basic tools she would need for the food prep (ie. baking sheets, knives, etc.), she kept an upbeat attitude as we improvised our way through the three dishes.

Her philosophy appeared to be, ‘As long as there’s still wine in the bottle or salt in the dish, the food doesn’t taste quite right.’  And man, did that attitude pay off:

[French Onion Soup.  A dish that reminds me of home, as it is one of my mom’s favorites.  Zuzana used both chicken and beef broth, and I liked how it gave it a slightly lighter flavor.  The toasted bread and freshly grated cheese made the dish, of course.]

[Coq au Vin. (Chicken with Wine)  Very, very tasty.  Zuzana recommended using thighs over breasts (with almost any dish, actually) because breasts are often too dry and chewy once cooked.  And the meat did fall off of the thigh bones quite nicely... The copious amounts of red wine, fresh herbs and chunks of super-thick bacon didn’t hurt either.  Served over linguine.]

[Galette des Rois. (King’s Cake)  Mmmmmm... Puff pastry shell filled with almond/rum custard.  How could you go wrong?  Apparently this dessert is served on Three Kings Day in January and often with a small bean or token inside - whoever finds it is king for a day!  Can be filled or topped with chocolate and/or fruits as well.]

(All photos by Sumin P., a classmate)

Can’t wait ’til next week!  She hadn’t decided between Hungarian or Portuguese - and I will complain about neither.  It was so nice to just forgot about classes and being in a new country for a while and instead simply cook and eat good food.  We were all much more relaxed by the time the meal was served, and we shared some light chit-chat over our bowls of steaming food.

Just a few days of classes to wrap up, some assignments to start/finish last minute, and then another weekend begins!  I’m looking forward to this one - and not just because of the trip I have planned.  My relaxed cooking fun was quickly replaced with a homework frenzy as my classes began to pick up steam.  Combine this franticness with a bad case of homesickness, and I’m pretty worn out.  I believe I will be dropping a class tomorrow (my intro. food science course - too much busy work) so I can spend more time focusing on my upper-level studies and actually enjoying my beautiful surroundings.  I’ve already plowed through far too many hard semesters at Juniata to pass up my opportunity to stretch my wings on the other side of the world.

Oh well - no worries!  It’ll all work out.  And none of this will stop me from enjoying my time at The Catlins this coming weekend - stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. I too love French Onion soup. That sounds really good about now. It all looks very good. You know that we will all want copies of the recipes upon your return.