Yesterday, my friend Camille suggested that I look into "Concept Chef" here in Avignon because he offers great cooking classes, and I am so glad that she did. I signed on for two classes back to back, which seemed initially a bit aggressive, but it was fabulous. Part 1: Lunch
This morning we met outside of Les Halles, which is the local indoor market for Avignon.
I can only dream of a day when Newport could have such a fabulous market, filled with the rich flavors of the region...until, then, we are doing our best and we have places like Avignon to travel to! I walked into Les Halles and felt immediately at home, macaroons to right of me, cheese, to my left, here I am, stuck in the middle again...
This is a stop everyone should make in Provence, Julien is a master chef, and learning from him is a pleasure. I had fun, laughing with a couple from Canada, eating great food, and learned a ton of great advice about cooking.
For lunch we prepared a beautiful vegetable stew with artichokes, biragoule, so tender. The thing about the stew is the way the flavors marry and how stunning it presents itself...
Seriously, this dish is so simple and so delicious. Each bite sent me for a moment to that wonderful feeling of pleasure that only food and wine can produce. We had a simple light Provencal rose, super light and fresh which contrasted with the smooth, rich late summer stew of vegetables (with a touch of bacon, of course).
I will make the recipes available if you want, just email me.
Second course, yes, lunch...thankfully I slept too late to have a croissant before I arrived...second course was a lovely sea bream with thinly sliced zucchini on top. It sounds, well, quiet compared to the stew, but it was so lovely and delicate. It is the first time that I have cut the fish away from the bone. Sounds simple, but not so much, but we did okay, and the fish was wonderful. Carefully covered in olive oil and dusted with a local salt and herb mix, then layered with thinly sliced zuchinni and roasted and drizzled with a light pistou.
oh, that is a lovely pile of mashed potatoes on the side...yes, I had to nap and take a run before returning for part two.
That was, in part, due to the dessert. Brioche French Toast with a Salted Caramel Sauce...need I even say more than that? (see that photo below; sometimes, this app os fussy!)
What I learned today, more than just recipes were some really useful tips from Julien: 1. clarified butter does not leave the little burned bits on your French toast, so clarify (a good life rule, generally speaking) 2. blanch greens with a lot of salt, they are smart enough to know when to stop taking in salt (smarter than root vegetables, and, apparently, human beings) 3. drink rose often while cooking ( ok, I knew that one already) 4. deal with potatoes when they are hot, otherwise they become tough ( not unlike life's tricky problems)
So funny how food is so philosophical!
After lunch, I walked for a long time to digest, and I thought a bit about how fortunate we home cooks are to have people like Julien who are willing to take the time to teach us what julienne really means...and the life lessons that are associated with that...I will leave you to make those connections, and with a vision of one of life's sweetest gifts...
bread soaked in sweet eggs and cream and the fried in butter...oui! Watch for Concept Chef, part 2: dinner.