The title on my post probably has you conjuring up a visual of Paris Adéle, hands tucked up under armpits, elbows out wide, legs bent at the knees and performing some sort of idiotic dance through the streets of Paris.
Never fear people, my chicken dancing days are over but give me a couple of wines too many and I can slice up the dance floor like the best of us, imagining that I have just stepped straight off the set of Dirty Dancing.
This is how I spent my last Friday night in Paris.
Getting up early each morning is something I am not familiar with when I am Paris, unless it is to take a few sunrise shots.
A combination of late nights and the fact that most places don’t open until around 10am is generally a good excuse to stay tucked up in bed but today I had a special reason to rise early. I was going to de-bone a chicken.
After scrolling my name onto a plastic apron, the introductions at La Cuisine Paris began.
Standing around a large kitchen bench, chopping boards and knives placed in front of each of the 8 students, I learned that the only male and couple were from New Zealand and the rest of us women of varying ages were from Japan, China, Ireland, Columbia and America, we all had one thing in common, we had gathered here to learn how to de-bone a chicken.
A couple of years back I attended a half day class at the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. Each time I am cooking up a storm in my small kitchen and tie up my Cordon Bleu apron and hang the Cordon Bleu tea towel from my hip, as they had taught us, it brings back wonderful memories that I hold close to my heart
After reading some good feedback about La Cuisine cooking classes and some friends who are keen cooks gave it the big thumbs up after they had attended a class earlier this year, I went ahead and booked a place.
The half day program we were about to embark on looked like this:
- De-bone a chicken
- Make a stock from the carcass
- Turn the stock into onion soup
- Make paupiettes stuffed with mushrooms with the flesh
- Finish off with ice-cream and caramel
Each of us was assigned a small chicken to de-bone, all the while, learning knife and chopping techniques. Don’t force it the charming Chef Eric warns us, as we attempt not to mutilate the bird, if the knife doesn’t glide through, we haven’t found the sweet spot.
While the carcasses were thrown into the pot and bubbling away to make our stock, we launched into making our paupiettes and the mushroom stuffing.
The young Japanese girl beside me gently tap taps away with a saucepan to flatten out the chicken flesh, sandwiched between plastic wrap.
Find your inner aggression he shows us and thud, slams the saucepan, bang onto the meat.
Thinking about the person who stole my bag was all the motivation I needed as I smashed the flesh into submission.
With the aid of a small glass bowl, cow’s intestines and a length of string we created perfectly formed mushroom stuffed paupiettes, our delicious little parcels were now ready to be pan fried.
CHEF ERIC whips up a quick sauce with the left over mushroom filling and a slurp of cream while we whisk and emulsify a mustard and vinaigrette dressing for our salad.
There was only one thing left to do and that was to sit down in the sunny dining room of the school, that overlooks the Seine, sip on a glass of white wine and savour our creations.
Whether I will continue to buy chicken joints or use the techniques we were taught, I am unsure, but either way it was a great experience.
Sitting in the school dining room with the warm sun on my back, a tummy full of food and a lunchtime glass of wine had me feeling mellow. The best thing to do was to try to walk off some of the three course meal.
A HEIGHT OF ACTIVITY surrounded the Pompidou Centre or Beaubourg as the Parisians refer to it and due to this activity, won me a small mention in a grid of four with fellow Instragrammers!
Although the building with all it’s functional elements are on the outside, giving an impression that it is a building site rather than home to the largest collection of modern art in Europe, the design turned the architectural world on it’s head when it was completed in 1977, allowing more internal space for the art work.
Included in the surrounding activity was the ‘Bird Man’ and the ‘Piano Man’.
The Bird Man, perhaps a slightly unstable, elderly man with a shopping trolley full of bread, went about feeding hundreds of hungry pigeons, stopping everyone in their tracks.
Completely absorbed in his own world and at peace with his friends as they rested on his back, some perched on his hand, as he went about the feeding ritual.
I was later to learn that he doesn’t like being photographed, however as I inched my way closer and closer, I could have taken at least 20 photos except that I ran out of memory and there was not a boo from him.
But it was the Piano Man who gave me my winning shot.
A novel idea. Somehow he had managed to haul an upright piano to the front of the Pompidou Centre and was playing beautiful calming music to anyone who bothered to take a couple of minutes out of their day and listen.
The day was warmer than it had been.
Overcoats were replaced with shorter jackets, and Parisians were out and about enjoying their city and I thought I’d join them.
With nowhere to be and not a care in the world I wandered around taking photos of whatever took my fancy.
A few weeks back at one of Jim Hayne’s famous Sunday dinners, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting a lovely and charming man called Julien.
In order to discuss the possibility of me taking some French lessons next year and to explore the idea of Julien taking me on one of his guided tours, we met for a drink that turned into a dinner.
Our last dinner was a great fun night and I was really looking forward to meeting up with him once again, this time to explore Montmartre at night under his guidance.
Climbing the long stairway on what was now, quite a chilly night had me gasping for breath but Julien sensing my need for a break considerately used this as an opportunity to pause and inform me of the artists, singers and philanthropists who famously lived in the area, while I caught my breath.
At least I have no worries about feeling guilty over my three course meal for lunch at the cooking school, I am sure I panted it all off!
Julien imparted a great deal of knowledge about the history of Montmartre and it’s residents as we wove our way through the dimly lit, hilly streets.
As he reliably predicted, by the time we reached the top of the hill, all the time, showing me great vantage points of the Basilica Sacre Coeur, there was not a tourist in sight, well except for me, but I don’t count!
The tiny cobbled streets that once had Picasso, Dali, Modigliani, Monet and Van Gogh, strolling along on their way to frolic at the Lapin Agile, can be confusing at times but I didn’t need to worry, Julien did his internship at Musée de Montmartre and knew the place like the back of his hand.
We visited the square named after the popular singer and actress Dalida, who sadly took her own life at the age of 54, suicide it seems, surrounded her. A former husband, finance, lover and a close friend all taking their own lives.
Pausing in front of her humble two storey home, where she lived until her death, she won Miss Egypt too you know, Julien tells me.
He has now aroused my curiosity enough so that I made a mental note to watch her on YouTube, when I got back to my apartment.
He is a mountain of information and delivered all the history and stories really well, enough so that I now have to buy a Dalida CD.
I guess being a school teacher helps his new founded career as a tour guide. Of course I have been to Montmartre many many times before but tonight I had a more intimate and in-depth insight in the charming village, without having to wade my way through the tourists.
JULIEN SAYS HE IS INDECISIVE but I think we are very similar.
We are both very particular about where we want to eat and want it to be a good experience each time. He offers if I would like to eat in Montmartre or go elsewhere, I opt for elsewhere and we are off to the metro, what type of food he asks but before I get a chance to reply, he answers his own question; I suppose you will want French food! Of course.
The crowded Friday night metros are a great opportunity for would be pickpockets and I couldn’t believe it when I felt the hand on my hip, sliding into my coat pocket. Swinging around and hissing at him, I spat out with venom; you have got to be kidding, do I give him a lecture about my bag, do I stamp on his foot, elbow him in the jaw, too late, he is off the minute the doors fling open.
Julien could see me across the crowded carriage but couldn’t quite work out why I was so stressed, he warns me to zip up my pocket.
In the same gentlemanly fashion as last time we ate, he offers me a choice of restaurants near Canal l’Ourcq for me to decide on.
I knew that the moment you saw the red and white checkered tablecloths, that this would be your choice he tells me as we pull back the brown velvet curtain across the door and slip into the warm and welcoming, Au Rendez-vous de la Marine, a casual local restaurant.
We settle in and look around to note the owner sitting down next to the diners as he takes the order and nod to one another with approval, it’s perfect.
Black and white photographs of old movie stars decorate the yellow walls and the quiet local crowd devour their enormous servings of delicious food.