Thursday, August 2, 2007

Beyond Ratatouille

Tuesday night I dined in Provence via U-Village, at the first of two French cooking classes I'm taking through the Experimental College. I and 12ish other 20-somethings (give or take a couple years) chopped and sauteed alongside a center-of-attention instructor, pouring tiny glasses of wine from giant bottles, scribbling notes and dribbling sauces over our photocopied recipes.

The menu:

Salad a la Maroc
(Moroccan Salad with lentils, cous cous, herbs, vegetables)

Gratin aux Courgettes
(baked zucchini and tomato with onions and parmesan)
Mouclade aux Moules
(Mussles with curried cream and fennel)

Sorbet a la Framboise
(Raspberry Sorbet)

I think more than anything French cuisine seemed daunting in its subtlety. Not like spicey Mexican or garlicy Italian, where flavor excess is intentional. Butter and cream should be easy, but a pinch to much or too little pepper and the whole flavor's askew. I imagine this is expecially true with the seafood-oriented Provence, where heavy cream sauces are not entirely ubiquiteous.

Another surprising element, and an intentional motif for the class, was the diversity of foreign influences: Moroccan salad, Italian-esque gratin, muscles with Indian curry. Next week, with a bouillabaisse and souffle, may be more French standard.

This weekend, I plan to try the mussels for Brian, so I can take any questions to class next week. With La Vie en Rose at the Guild 45th, it could be a very French weekend.

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