“A meal without wine is breakfast”, said Charlotte Puckette in her Paris kitchen and I immediately felt ecstatic to be one of her students for an afternoon cooking class. And as a bonus I learned why French women don’t get fat!

Six of us took our places around a large island, primed to learn how to prepare a delicious three-course French meal. (As blogged about previously, I was on a group tour with personal stylist, Noelle Cellini. Read more about her tours here).

Charlotte teaches Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes in her 17th century home and she pointed out the original walls. Originally from South Carolina, she’s now well immersed in the culture and cuisine of her adopted home. She also divulges this expertise in her cookbook, Ethnic Cooking in Paris.

To market to market

Prior to the class we met Richard Nahem, an ex-New Yorker turned Paris expert, at a Parisian market close to Charlotte’s home.  He works with her through Eye Prefer Paris Tours. We were guided along as we savoured the scents and sights and did a bit of shopping. Richard selected some cheeses for the feast we were about to prepare.

Richard Nahem of Eye Prefer Paris Tours expertly guides us through a Paris market

Richard Nahem of Eye Prefer Paris Tours expertly guides us through a Paris market

 

Checking out the produce in a Paris market

Checking out the produce in a Paris market

A lesson in French cooking

Charlotte started with dessert, Chocolate Ganache Tarte, with a to-die-for brown butter crust. We learned how to prepare the tarte pan with paper in a way that would make things easier when it came time to remove it, and then watched while she combined the crust ingredients. “You’re going to like this!” No rolling out pastry; the dough was simply pressed into the pan.   Now I think part of what made this dessert so special was the chocolate and European style butter. The cream is fermented before it’s churned into butter; and it has more fat. As she melted butter she pointed out, “See it’s getting brown on the side. That’s the protein in the butter. There’s always going to be a little bit of milk in the butter and that’s what they call petit lait. That’s what’s burning.” Then she prepared the filling, filled the crust, and put it in the fridge to set. Voilà!

Chopping Chocolate

Chopping Chocolate

She instructed us on the nuances of  whipping up Roquefort Soufflés and then we helped peel white asparagus for the side dish, White Asparagus with Roquefort Sauce and Walnuts.

Charlotte Puckette, Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes

Charlotte Puckette, Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes

 

All of us had a go at assembling the Ravioli de Crevette avec Sauce Petite Brise. Made with Chinese wonton wrappers they were filled with shrimp and scallops, cut into rounds, and immersed in a pan of simmering water.

Charlotte Puckette, Eye Paris Cooking Classes

Preparing the ravioli

 

Preparing the ravioli

Preparing the ravioli

When everything was ready, Charlotte poured wine (bien sûr), plated the food, and we happily dined on our French feast.

Charlotte Puckette, Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes

Charlotte Puckette, Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes

 

Charlotte Puckette, Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes

Charlotte Puckette, Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes

And as is so typical in France, Charlotte presented a cheese course, fresh from the market and served with bread. She educated us on the fact that it’s big faux pas to cut and to serve yourself the point of a triangle of brie. That’s the absolute best piece because of the way that brie matures! The correct way is to slice yourself a triangle down the length of it. We also learned that in the evening it’s best to eat goat cheese rather than cow cheese that “takes at least six hours to digest”.

It was a lively kitchen with friends and family stopping in and she commented, “It’s Grand Central Station here today!” “You came for the best part”,  she said to a visiting friend as dessert was being sliced. Agreed. BEST DESSERT EVER!!!

Eye Prefer Paris, Charlotte Puckette

May I just say ….. YUMMMM!

So why don’t french women get fat?

So what of these slim French women? Charlotte told us, “French women don’t get fat because they don’t eat”. She came to know that they eat a light breakfast, a huge lunch, and a light dinner, especially if at home; and no meat at night. Charlotte, with a trim figure herself, certainly fits in. We laughed when she told us about going to a yoga party. “Yoga is becoming the thing to do”. But she told us that because people didn’t really want to exercise, they mostly laid on their mats, drank copious amounts of red wine, and then had dinner.” Sounds like my kind of yoga!

Here we are, Travelling and Shopping with Noelle (I'm on the far right)

Here we are, travelling and shopping with Noelle Cellini (I’m on the far right.)

 For more information

For more information on Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes and Eye Prefer Paris Tours check out their website at http://eyepreferparistours.com/cooking-class/. Highly recommended!

For more on travelling with personal stylist Noelle Cellini, visit http://www.noellecellini.com/trips.html. Also highly recommended!

To read other blog posts about this trip, click here and here.

 

More on why french women don’t get fat:

Mireille Guiliano, of French Women Don’t Get Fat fame once wrote to me on her blog, “French women eat very well… but not too much; in fact they eat tiny portions. (I was reminded of this a few days ago with U.S. friends eating steak at a friend’s house in Provence . . . they had bought them at the market and one steak would feed 4 or 5 persons . . . when they asked how much we  would eat and heard about 5 ounces, they were shocked).  It truly is all we need.  We’ve been conditioned by the food industry, tv ads, etc., to eat more and lose all sense of portions . . . “