Steve Rosoff (L) and Francis Glorie (R)
I thought for certain I would be lost when I walked into everyday cook for Francis Glorie's & Steve Rosoff's first class about French cuisine taught en français. In fact, my tongue froze up completely when Francis greeted me in French and I could only stammer an apology — in French — that I didn't speak French very well.
You don't need to speak French very well to have a lot of fun cooking and learning about French cuisine with Francis and Steve, but you do need to be able to understand enough spoken French to follow along and get the gist of what they are saying. If you can do that, though, you'll have a very enjoyable time cooking along side of these two guys as they talk you through the preparation of several courses while, at the same time, helping you brush up on your French culinary terms.
Francis is a private French chef and business executive. Steve teaches French at U of M and is a restaurant consultant and experienced cook. Over the course of the evening, they shared their love of food and French language and culture while showing how to prepare several amuses bouches.
We kicked off the evening with a short lecture on the history of French cuisine and some of the main characteristics of French cuisine from different regions (e.g. butter is heavily used in the North, duck fat in the Southwest, and olive oil in the South). Then we got cooking. After they show you what they want, they hand you a knife (or other implement of destruction...) and ask you to finish it. I'm fine with a knife, but a danger around a stove. Sure enough, after Steve handed me a ladle for the blini I managed to graze my wrist against the hot handle of the large griddle (and consequently spill my ladle contents in a messy blob). As burns go, it barely even turned pink. And the side benefit was getting to eat the blini mistake as a test subject.
And then there was the pâte aux choux... I got an arm workout incorporating eggs one at a time into the base until a soft elastic dough was produced. Once the pâte aux choux was ready, we stirred in grated gruyère, then dropped it in large spoonfuls on a baking tray, topped with a touch more gruyère, and baked until they rose into airy puffs. While I worked on these, my fellow student cleaned mussels and chopped confit de canard for a potato-duck appetizer.
I've never cooked mussels at home before, but watching Francis steam them and then build the sauce showed just how quick and easy it was to make a bowl full of delicious mussels (with enough sauce left over for mopping up with bread!).
On occasion they took pity on us less-than-fluent students and dropped in an English word here or there, but the conversation and instruction was conducted in French. At the end, the dishes were casually plated up and we sat down to eat and do a debrief in English. (Our chance to get answers for anything we didn't understand the first time around.)
The menu for the first class (alas, I did not write it down! so it's all by memory) included: gougère (gruyère puffs); frisée salad with bacon and goat cheese and a lovely dijon vinaigrette; little potato halves topped with duck confit; mini buckwheat blini topped with smoked salmon, a savory herb-flavored whipped cream, and salmon caviar; and mussels in a mild curry-white wine-cream sauce.
I highly recommend this, even — perhaps even more so — if you think your French is not all it should be. I strongly believe that the best way to improve your foreign language skills is jump into an immersive experience that pushes you to learn. It's hard to find immersive experiences locally, and this comes fairly close to being immersive.
And what better way is there to improve your French (at least your listening skills) than to spend a fun evening, with delightful company, learning about French cuisine?
Space is limited and pre-registration is required, so call to reserve.
Classe 1: Introduction (a repeat of the class I took)
Thursday, March 1, 6:30 - 8:30pm
(This class only: special introductory price $45)
Classe 2: Les Potages, les Fonds
Thursday, March 8, 6:30 - 8:00pm
Classe 3: Les Hors d'Oeuvres, la Charcuterie
Thursday, March 22, 6:30 - 8:30pm
Classe 4: Les Poissons, les Sauces
Thursday, April 5, 6:30 - 8:30pm
$75/class (or $65/class if you take all three)