Ever since it was founded in 1988, the École Ritz Escoffier cooking school has been one of the best places in Paris to learn new French recipes in an intimate and highly professional setting. Courses are small, and instruction is hands-on, so you come away from these lessons not only with additions to your gastronomic repertoire, but also having mastered valuable culinary techniques.
During our recent visit to Paris, we signed up for a four-hour morning course in bistro cooking. This covered three recipes: a sea bass-and-salmon tartare; a blanquette de veau (veal in egg yolk-enriched cream sauce with baby onions, button mushrooms, carrots and leeks); and a rice pilaf to accompany the veal. At the conclusion of our efforts, the class sat down and enjoyed these dishes with a bottle of good Mâcon white wine.
If the tartare was relatively straightforward, since it mostly involved chopping the two fish into small cubes and preparing a sauce of lime juice, cream and fresh dill, the blanquette de veau — one of the great traditional dishes of the French kitchen — was more complex. First, the veal was poached in water seasoned with chopped celery, carrot, leek and an onion stuck with cloves, and then the meat was set aside while we prepared the baby onions and button mushrooms. Finally, we made a roux, which became the sauce for the veal with the addition of the poaching liquid, cream and egg yolks.
Along the way, the instructor, who spoke English, was a font of useful information on knife technique, how to cut and trim the meat for the blanquette and how to succeed with the egg-thickened sauce, which was very much a question of timing.
Wearing the new Ritz aprons we had been given, we worked together around a central granite-topped island, and conversation flowed amiably among the students, who were French, English and American. The course was as suitable for beginners as it was for more-experienced cooks. It is advisable to book your class in advance, since they’re extremely popular and fill up quickly. This can be done online at the link below.
École Ritz Escoffier
15 Place Vendôme, 1st arrondissement. Tel. (33) 1-43-16-30-50