French cuisine… We love love it. That much is clear, but how much do we really know about it? Can we really name any additional staples beyond croissants and crêpes? Lucullus – French Gastronomic Association – wants to help us get a better grasp on this diverse and popular cuisine category. Running from November 24th through December 5th, La Cuisine des Chefs presents a delicious cycle of cooking workshops hosted by some of the most illustrious French chefs in town.
This year, Lucullus has decided to base the cooking cycle on a Tour de France theme (presumably leaving out any running jokes that include Lance Armstrong). Each workshop will cover a different region of France, presenting different specialties and ingredients. Plus our favorite form of doping – a wine tasting from bodega Luigi Bosca.
But before you start going through the menus being offered in each workshop and freaking out about the odd, unpronounceable French cooking terms such as “gésiers”, “clafoutis”, “Baeckeoffe” – which doesn’t sound French at all, but more on that later – or “baba”, let us give you a hand.
Let’s get started with the South. France’s southern regions are pretty diverse, which is why this cooking cycle highlights three of them. Here’s the rundown on our two favorites.
La Camargue is part of the well-known region of La Provence, where herbs such as oregano, basil and rosemary are the base condiment of every dish, making it rich in aromatic flavors. The workshop menu will open with an “Aubergine à la Provençale” – unbelievably tasteful fried or baked aubergines cooked with the regions herbs, and lots of garlic and olive oil.
Located in the Mediterranean coast, not far from the city of Marseille, this region’s cuisine gets a good deal of its richness from seafood. Some of its famous recipes include octopus, white fish and shrimp, but oddly one of its most emblematic dishes includes none of those. The Gardianne de Camargue – a traditional stew – is usually prepared with bull meat. Making it the perfect main course for the decadent menu developed by Chef Grégoire Fabre, head of San Telmo’s pearl: Pulperia Quilapán. The Camargue workshop is also composed of a “clafoutis d’abricot” – a mix between a pie and a flan, filled with apricots.
The South West:
A.K.A a duck-lover’s paradise. This region’s cuisine is known for generous portions bursting with flavor. One of the most memorable dishes from the region is the Cassoulet: a slow-cooked casserole made from of white beans (haricots blancs), pork sausages, duck, pork skin and sometimes even goose. Basically, a bomb of awesome. Duck is the base of the cuisine du Sud-Ouest, in Toulouse – central city of the region – it’s not uncommon to top your burger with some foie-gras or fry your potato-wedges in duck grease.
This year, the region will be represented by Sébastian Fouillade, head Chef of Topinambour – one of the newest and most exciting French tables in town. Loyal to the region’s devotion for duck, the workshop menu will be inaugurated by a “terrine de paté de foie-gras” – a forcemeat paté – followed with a “croustade de confit de canard” – a sort of duck confit pie. Fouillade will also be teaching visitors how to properly prepare the famous “haricots blanc” (white beans) but with a gourmet touch. Instead of Cassoulet, he proposes a much more gentle “velouté” (thickened soup). The workshop will be closing on a high (sweet) note: Macarons de Saint-Emilion with nutella ganache. Ok, all you need to remember from that last sentence is macarons – those deliciously fluffy french biscuits – and Nutella – no further explanation on needed.
This eastern region was disputed over by France and Germany at different points in history. After World War II, Alsace was given back to Franch by the defeated Germans, allowing the country to recover its most central-european-esque cuisine. Many of this region’s dishes have decididly un-French sounding names due to the local dialect’s German influence. Some examples are the Kugelhopf – a crown-shaped sweet cake- or the flammekueche – a sort of thin pizza where cream replaces cheese, typically contains bacon bits and onions.
Chef Beatriz Chomnalez – catering expert – has included one of the region’s star dishes in the menu: “choucroute” – long-fermented sauerkraut. Usually served with pork sausages, this workshop will teach a lighter variation served with white fish. The second item on the menu is the “Baeckoffe” – literally “Baker’s oven” in the local dialect – a slow-cooked casserole containing sliced potatoes, onions and meat, marinated for several hours in white wine. This dish is SO good, that if you manage to cook it properly, no one give you a hard time on the pronunciation. The Alsace workshop will end on a sweet note: a classic – but delicious – apple pie. French apple pie, of course!
What would be a culinary Tour de France without Paris? That is why La Cuisine des Chefs cycle has scheduled a workshop devoted exclusively to the secrets of Parisian sweet treats. Macarons, pain au chocolat or éclair au chocolat, what’s not to love? And who could be better than the star boulangers from one of our favorite french bakeries in Buenos Aires, L’Epi, to reveal those secrets? Literally no one.
That is right, Olivier Hanocq and Bruno Gillot, co-founders of L’Epi, have prepared an especially sweet workshop to represent the city of lights. Okay, there is one salty (but very tasty) item on the menu: ricotta and zucchini blinis (a nordic salty pancake). But everything else belongs to the fairyland of parisian pâtisseries. Such a sugary menu wouldn’t be complete without chocolate. That is why one of the star desserts is the “soufflé au chocolat” – a light and fluffy chocolate-intense mini-cake. If your soufflé goes flat as soon as you take it out of the oven, this workshop is for you. The “Baba au rhum” is another of the parisians specialties listed on the menu. This small, soft yeast cake dipped in rum, with a succulent doughy texture and distinguished flavor. Last but not least, participants will learn the techniques for a perfect tarte crust as a “sabayon” and red fruit pie is listed on the menu.
Now you are ready to decide which region you feel the most affinity towards, but if you’re like us and every single menu makes your mouth water, then treat yourself and book your spot for several workshops – think of it as an advanced Christmas/Hannukah gift to your palate. Detailed menus, prices and schedules are available at Lucullus‘ website or facebook page, along with other workshops. Remember you HAVE to make a reservation in advance, as space is limited.