Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Cooking in Paris with Charlotte

On Sunday I got to sit in on professional chef and caterer Charlotte Puckette's cooking class in her lovely townhouse in the 7th. First Richard escorted us through  the Grenelle marché to pick up a few essential ingredients.

Charlotte is all about essential ingredients particularly French ingredients. She spent two years at le Cordon Bleu training and working and then went on to cater soirées at many embassies and still does Fashion Week twice a year.

Naturally being the secret spy I am I poked around and took pictures of all the stuff on the shelves.

Hmmm...Pugot Olive oil. I remember seeing this at the Omnivore Food Festival. Balsamic from supermarché Franprix!? Not what I expected to see. More than in any other cooking class the Ritz, Lenotre etc. I learned from Charlotte details on the differences between French and American products. For instance the best US butters have 80% fat while French butter has 82%. That's 2% more water in US high-end butters and it can change dramatically how things taste. Charlotte has been researching basic French ingredients since she got here some 20+ years ago. She knows things most French chefs haven't bothered to find out. They don't need to. They grew up with excellent products. I get completely confused at the supermarché, clueless how to choose between butters, creams. Now I get it!

We made dessert first, a chocolate fondant gateau.

And you don't have to spend a fortune using fancy Valrhona to get a glorious cake thanks to Charlotte's tests of various chocolate brands.

Miam Miam

We made Roquefort soufflés next.

Lots of helpful secrets to getting the souffles to rise up nicely.

Charlotte's Paris kitchen is sheer heaven in any country.

How to crack and separate eggs using just your hands. I practiced Audrey's method from 'Sabrina'"1-2-3 Crack!"

Shredding Brussels sprouts to go with toasted hazelnuts and pomegranate.

Cranberries and raspberries cooking over a simple caramel sauce Charlotte whipped together with no thermometers or stress.

Voila! This is called a 'gastrique'

To go with and contrast the roasted duck breast (magret). Duck is everywhere in France and well worth getting the hang of. The best roasting ducks are raised for foie gras. Ducks shot as game - are too skinny. The breasts were pan-seared first in case you were wondering before going into the oven. Everything; duck, potatoes, soufflés and cake cooked happily together in a 350 oven.

Charlotte shows us how to cut against the grain.

Duck and other game must be eaten rare or it becomes tough. Who knew?

Did we have our mache salade and soufflés before or after the duck? Qui sait, but it all tasted perfect.

The wine was a cote de Rhone white.

This was my first taste of créme fraiche

Like sour cream but much better and goes divinely with the deep chocolate fondant. Ideally chocolate cake tastes better the next day - the flavors intensify. But no one was waiting to find out.

I found Charlotte's creme fraiche selling at Franprix for a song. Yay.

Plus she mentioned that the Leader-Price (a low-end brand) olive oil is surprisingly excellent.

I'm subletting from a cookbook author and she has the same brand on her kitchen shelf.
"Names, Sweetie Darling, names, names, names!"
It makes such a difference when you know what to buy in Paris and why. Usually I get baffled and leave the store with zero.  Now I Know thanks to Charlotte Puckette. Big Merci Charlotte!
Do check out Charlotte's stories on French butter and chickens. A real eye-opener.
And consider taking her French cooking class while visiting.
Yesterday Bear went to the Loire vallée to learn how to cook wild boar. 
More on that to come.


  1. Oh, all looks so delicious and enticing, I wished I could order in a serving of everything!

    You really never had chocolate cake with crème fraîche? You then must try to get ahold of a scoop of crème fraîche ice cream!

  2. Another fabulous day in the Parisian life of Carol! That all looks so delicious. A lovely seasonal menu. I saw a very similar brussells sprout recipe a couple of days ago, it looks fantastic. As does that dessert. I can't believe you're new to creme fraiche, but glad that you've found it now, and taken to it with gusto.

  3. After this cooking class, does this mean you will be cooking Christmas dinner for all your friends ?? I was also surprised to see olive oil labels I recognised, just goes to show the myth behind these chefs.

    1. It goes to show the Big guys can get quality too when they want it

  4. I don't know how YOU do it. The hits just keep on coming.

  5. Jane G9:50 PM

    OK, that's it! I can't take these foodie pictures any more! Have booked a short trip to Paris for mid-January and will eat my way across the city. Miam-maim

  6. My only conclusion is that I will never dare cook for you again! Never to have known creme fraiche before? Ah, life is now worth living...

  7. I eat Celeste frozen pizzas, so I'm not a gourmet, but, boy, those kitchen & food shots are incredible. I want duck!

  8. I want a chocolate lesson. Most US chocolate has lecithin. I would love to find some without it. Why do they put soybeans in chocolate anyway?

    I just posted about making my own crème Fraîche. It is scrumptious. It is going own my new crêpe recipe next week.

    You really have a fun job. Is there a nice way to say I envy you?

  9. Jhon CS5:01 AM

    Many thanks for sharing excellent informations. Charlotte is clearly very awesome. I am amazed by the information she shared.

  10. you can also buy crème fraiche bulk from the fromageries - they sell it from big bowls, alongside the fromage blanc. We use it for sour cream, mix it with fruit, or use it to thicken sauces (add it to the braising liquid from a lapin à la moutarde.) So yummy. Don't understand why it's so rare/expensive in North America.

    1. I did buy some at MOF Laurent thick I wanted to use it on my skin at night!

  11. Bonsoir ma chère !

    Je crois qu'il faut absolument que j'abandonne l'idée de quelconque régime à cause de toi !... Comment résister quand une avalanche de bonnes nourritures déferle sous mes yeux ?!...
    De regarder tes merveilleuses photos, mes papilles gustatives rejoignent mes cellules olfactives... Tous mes sens sont maintenant en éveil et je jouis de ce plaisir !
    Je te fais de gros bisous

    1. une avalanche de bonnes nourritures'
      You are a poet Martine!!!

  12. I've been trying to master duck! How long did she bake it. I tried a slow bake that was recommended, and the duck was done long before the time they indicated. Fie!

    1. Sear the duck breast in a dry pan skin side down and then the other side.
      Remove to an oven tray and finish cooking in a 400 oven.
      10 minutes for rare, 12 minutes for medium.

    2. Thank you. The recipes I read seem to want you to cook it to death!

  13. Deborah12:46 PM

    Everything looks scrumptious. That cake looks like a killer--I'll have to find a similar US recipe

  14. Oh my! Love the look of that chocolate fondant (chocolate is, after all, my favourite food group) and the Roquefort souffle. Miam. And I can't wait to hear from Bear - I've been wondering what he's been up to.

  15. Lynn C9:14 PM

    Enjoyed very much ....I took many classes in Bay Area from fabulous chefs, and still watch food network so I knew much of this...and I am obsessed by butter..I used to buy butter from France and got good at naming the area where it came from....but I enjoy your blog so much..lots of fun watching you discover wonderful Paris finds...

    1. A butter-namer!!!
      I wish I could do that...i used to keep a stick in the freezer for 6+ months
      Hardly touched the stuff.
      Now i should stay in the pool all day just to keep up.

    2. Lynn C1:19 AM

      Lol...I use ghee has more flavor and temp up in frying like not refrigerate ...I go for convenience and still intense flavor.

  16. Who could have guessed Paris would turn Bear into such a domestique?
    And are you harboring any other unlikely secrets…similar to your announcement about creme fraiche?

    1. Well I have tried Rattlesnake chips at an all game dinner. Does that count?

  17. A wonderful post -- it looks delicious! This is exactly what I would love to do. I appreciate her scientific method, too. Sounds like a perfect time! Sending slightly envious smiles across the sea!


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