Saturday, April 14, 2018

Cooking Lessons

Another activity that Judy had signed up for was a Cooking Lesson sponsored by WICE, an organization that conducts English language courses and tours. This lesson would deal with the preparation of Sole Normande and Babas au Rhum.
Judy had already cancelled one of her scheduled outings due to illness and she was not feeling too well on the day of this class. She encouraged me to go and, rather than throw away the $100 fee for the lesson, I happily went to learn how to cook.

We were to meet in front of the MacDonald's on Rue de la Poissoniere (loosely, fish market, person who sells fish). This was appropriate as we were going to cook fish. I saw a woman waiting in front so I asked if she was attending the class. She was. We introduced each other. Her name is Meredith. She said she was staying on Ile St. Louis. I said that we had had drinks with friends on Ile St. Louis the night before. She said, "Merv and Ruth Rothstein?". Yes, what a coincidence. We had met Merv and Ruth through Jo. Proving Merv's point of "1 degree of separation!" Meredith also knows the owners of the apartment we rented the past few years.

Anyway, I digress. Cooking. There were 8 of us in the class, including one other guy, Sean, from New Zealand. Most of them had attended other cooking classes and some worked in the food industry as caterers, etc. All were foodies, except me.

The instructor was Randall Price a well known chef who teaches at a local culinary institute and also cooks for celebrities. As part of an answer to a question about celebrities, he said that Antonio Banderas was pretty short. Judy said, "So what!"

He started by making the dough for the babas. They should sit for several days before soaking in rum and serving. So he brought some from home and he made a new batch to show us how.

The recipe was pretty simple but one of the secrets is to "Cup and Slap" the dough on the side of the bowl while mixing it by hand. The result will be a dough with a bit of a shine to it. Of course, instead of cupping and slapping, you could accomplish the same thing in a food processor in 1/3 of the time.

While the dough rose (twice), Chef Randall prepared the stuffing (Mushrooms Duxelles) and began cutting and rolling the fish fillets with it. (As sole was not available at his market, plus it is very expensive,he used durade, sea bream, or said that any thin, flatfish would do.)

Et, voila! Rolled, stuffed fish standing on end in the pan. No toothpicks, etc, just all wedged in the pan.

Then came the dessert. The previously prepared Babas were wedged in a pan and doused in the rum sauce. They were turned  multiple times to make sure they were fully saturated. 
It was then our turn to participate.

First the Sole Normande with rice with lemon zest and mussels (I may use shrimp instead of mussels.). The mushroom decorations had wedges or diamonds carved in them for a nice touch.

And for dessert, Baba au Rhum with a nice glass of chilled white wine. Randal spritzed a bit more rum on his, as is the custom. When I tried the same thing, my spritz-finger slipped and I poured another couple of servings of rum on my baba... I soaked up all that rum with this delicious cake. 

Too bad Judy couldn't make it. But, I'll prepare the whole meal for her one day. I have the recipe. 

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