Teaching menus

I have been trying to figure out the right thing to serve before my creamy leek, scallop and cod chowder for weeks.  It’s tricky making menus for a cooking class in France.  I need to capture the terroir, the season, the lust for taste and without getting complicated or taking too long.  I need to have enough burners on the stove and space in the oven for everything to be ready at the right time.  I have to engage my audience, but not overwhelm; I have to seduce them slowly and profoundly–I want them to smell, stir, and eat France, and to take home a need to cook and recreate.

I think about it staring at unfolded piles of laundry and marching up the steel slabs of steps of the Polaski Bridge.  I ponder textures and timing and balance.  I need a saturation of delight but just enough to start a smoke of wonder about what’s coming next.  The goal is to need for more.

I decided on pumpkin.  Tiny dark green pumpkins with a deep orange flesh that are sliced, salted, oiled and roasted with no effort at all.  Over the fire, we’ll crisp up fat chunks of salted slab bacon into lardon and finish with just a few fried shallot slivers and flat leaves of parsley.

Next course: salad of frisee and tender dandelion leaves with an absolutely classic Dijon vinaigrette.

Dessert:  Lemons stirred into a sweet curd and baked into a crust.

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