We got stuck in a congested Paris street with a car about to run out of gas anytime soon. I am not going to mention this story since I am trying to forget the exact moment I said “We have enough gas to make it to the city centre, no need to lose time with fueling up!”. By a miracle we managed to get there and I felt one of the biggest relieves I had experienced up to now. To my surprise, it looks like we were not late this time. She was waiting there; a young, slim Parisian lady with a fashionably short haircut in front of a door that was opening to a well equipped kitchen.
She was our instructor chef today and looked so confident with her plain white apron tied on her neat outfit and was telling something in French to her assistant who was in a real hurry to get things in the kitchen ready before everyone arrives.
She saluted us warmly and said something in French, probably told that the cooking course would start soon and they were waiting for other participants. I said “probably” since we had just realized that the class would be in French. That was why our elegant Parisian chef could only speak in her native language. They were not expecting people to come who do not speak French at all. Of course they ruled out the possibility of stubborn ones making reservation through L’atelier des Chefs web site by the help of Google translate. To their surprise, we were standing right before them, knowing very few words in French and gazing their face with enthusiastic looks.
When other people -do I need to say they were all French?- arrived, we all washed our hands and put on the aprons given. Our chef started to tell about the recipe we were going to make that day and listed the ingredients one by one, pointing each with her finger in case some of us who do not understand French would miss what she said -oh no, we knew the words poisson, courgettes, citron, beurre, noisette and huile d’olive so I preferred not to take any offence-.
Believe me or not, there is a common language of cooking and after five minutes everyone understands the other party very well no matter in what language they are talking. We were all chopping, dicing, cutting and stirring according to our chef’s instructions. The recipe we were working on was scorpion-fish fillet with brown butter on a bed of stewed zucchini and coppa (an Italian cured meat made from a piece of pork shoulder).
We started with taking out even the smallest bones from our fish fillets not to come across any unpleasant surprise while eating. Our skillful chef demonstrated how to chop shallots and slice zucchini in moments. Needless to say, we all followed her as fast as we could. Everything was getting ready rapidly and all participants seemed to enjoy their time a lot.
Waiting for the fillets to be cooked, we were all growing impatient to taste while our chef said that things were almost done. During the last minute of cooking we poured browned butter over the fillets which I believe was the fatal strike of the recipe. The smell of lightly burned butter was all around the kitchen like the perfume of a beautiful French lady. And voila! It was done. As expected, fish was scrumptious and we devoured everything on our plate in a very short time. All in all, it was a delightful experience to cook in Paris with a Parisian chef who speaks French only and us understanding almost nothing. Oh, just a second; did I mention that I knew the words poisson, courgettes, citron, beurre noisette, huile d’olive?
- 6 pieces of scorpion fish fillet
- 6 small zucchinis (sliced)
- 6-8 shallots (finely chopped)
- Zest of 1 lime
- 50 g (1,75 oz) butter
- 100 g (3,5 oz) coppa (cut in strips)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon grated red pepper
- Sea salt
|1.||Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over high heat and add the shallots. After they became translucent add sliced zucchini and some salt then let it simmer for five minutes.|
|2.||Add coppa strips and lime zest and cook for additional few minutes. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter and cook until it gains a nicely brown color.|
|3.||In a skillet, heat the rest of olive oil over high heat and place the skin side of fish fillets down after seasoning them with salt, and red pepper. After 3 minutes flip the other side and cook over low heat for another 3 minutes. During the last minute of cooking add browned butter on fish fillets.|
|4.||Drizzle some balsamic cream on empty plates and put fish fillets on top of stewed zucchini-coppa bed.|