18 February 2013

Classic French Cooking in Singapore.

If I told you I sucked down a ton of duck fat on Saturday, would you believe me? What if I told you that it was amazingly delicious? That I couldn't stop thinking about cooking with duck fat for the next three days. That the smell of our simmering duck legs in said fat still makes it's way to my memory bank nose and reminds me of precisely what deliciously happy actually tastes like . . . 

I'm going to let most of this blogpost speak through images. So sit back and enjoy!

On Saturday I had the absolute pleasure of attending my very-first-meetup-ever: Classic French Cooking at Nourish Studios. It was a fun group of 11 people learning about French food and cooking together, all levels of expertise welcomed. 

Nourish Studios is located on the Singapore River, just off Clarke Quay. It is a small place: 2 longish countertops housing 4 cooking stations. Just big enough to fit 11 people comfortably. They have all of the pots and pans and cookware that one could possibly need. Utensils, serving plates, mixing bowls: you name it! And they even wash the dishes!

Our faithful leader was Jes (above, center). She came prepared with recipes printed out that we could take home and a timing chart, helping us to stay on task. She divided us into 2 groups of 4 and one group of 3, each group at a different cooking station. Beforehand she laid out all of the miscellaneous ingredients and spices we might need: thyme, olive oil, salt, pepper, bread, mustard, etc.

Our first order of business was to prepare the salads. We made a Rustic Roquefort Salad with Warm Croutons and Bacon. And let-me-tell-you-this: whoever's idea it was to fry up the croutons in the pan with the cooking bacon . . . Pure genius. The flavor of the salty bacon mixed with the bread and the mustard/vinegar dressing was intense, affecting all of the orifices on my face: my nose holes flared with delight as I ate my salad faster than I had ever eaten a salad in my life.

While we were preparing the salad, we tossed four duck legs into a pan filled with duck fat.

Duck Confit is a speciality dish out of France. The confit is prepared in a centuries-old process of preservation that consists of salt curing a piece of meat (generally goose, duck, or pork) and then poaching it in its own fat.

The legs had to cook for close to an hour, since we weren't baking them half-way through in the oven. So as they were simmering away, we started on the Braised Puy Lentils. In a large pot, we placed carrots, celery, onions, and lentils. Jes showed us how to make a bouquet garni as well. We let this cook for 45 minutes, stirring and tasting occasionally.

My favorite part of our cooking came with the preparation of the Spiced Pear Tarte Tatin. The smell alone was heavenly: pears and vanilla, straight from the bean. Incredible!

If you are going to get messy during a day of cooking, getting vanilla bean on your fingertips is completely the way to go . . . 

I had an incredible time meeting new people and experiencing new taste sensations. If you are interested in borrowing any of the recipes prepared during this class, please feel free to email me. Next up? My Big Fat Greek Wedding happening in March. I'll keep you posted!

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