We’ll Always Have Paris! at Elle A Cooking

Food Adventures, Food Life, Los Angeles

We received the most pleasant email last week — an invitation from Lilia at Elle A Cooking to check out her Thursday evening cooking class! The menu was French themed with the lovely title We’ll Always Have Paris, featuring salad niçoise, grilled lamb chops with celery root purée, and tarte au citron. After the fantastic experience we had in her croissant-making class, we were very excited to learn from her again.

But before the learning begins, we snack!

But before the learning begins, we snack!

I feel like the croissant class was relatively easier in that sense that we were able to make three different finished products once we got the hang of rolling out the buttery dough. Cooking a three-course menu from start to finish in just a few hours’ time, though, was a bigger challenge.

How does that saying go? Life’s too short, so eat dessert first? Well we didn’t quite get to eat dessert first (other than sampling Lilia’s newest vegan biscotti, pictured above), but we did start by making the tarte crust. Hint: the pastry dough used for the crust can double as shortbread cookies!

From sablage to fraisage - the tarte crust

From sablage to fraisage to rolling out to baking – the tarte crust

As the ball of dough rested in the refrigerator, we moved on to the lemon cream. Cooked over a double-boiler, the lemon cream was also affectionately referred to as a French lemon curd… the French part being the addition of two whole sticks of butter. This will make lots of lemon cream, Lilia said. Everything in moderation, Lilia said. Sigh, if only my cholesterol level and I saw eye-to-eye.

Perhaps Lilia timed it perfectly (or perhaps she heard my tummy growling) but as the tarte crust baked and lemon cream chilled, we moved on to the appetizer – a colorful salad packed with farmer’s market fresh vegetables. We learned the perfect timing for cooking an egg medium-boiled until the yolk is just barely set, similar to the ajitsuke tamago served as a topping for ramen. Butter lettuce piled high with boiled veggies, fresh veggies, canned tuna, and chervil (which totally looks like micro-parsley), and drizzled with a refreshing and simple lemon-based vinaigrette, the salad nicoise could be served as an entree on its own!

Such stunning colors!

Salad nicoise – such stunning colors!

We took a break to devour our salads before moving on to the main event – the lamb chops! After marinating in a beautifully fragrant blend of herbs, lemon juice, and olive oil, the single chops were seared on grill pan on the stove top before finishing in a 400 degree oven. (You could also do all-oven like we’ve done with full racks – we’re excited to try out her marinade recipe at home!) Meanwhile, we boiled the cubes of celery root and yukon gold potatoes in milk (a trade secret for keeping the celery root from discoloring) and made the puree/mash. Paired with the 2006 Clos du Bois Cabernet Sauvignon that Martin had been aging, this was the perfect entree for date night.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Celery Root Puree

Grilled Lamb Chops with Celery Root Puree

Our stomachs were so full by the time we finished the last morsels of lamb, but as they say – there’s always room for dessert! Lilia skillfully filled the cooled tarte crust with the chilled lemon cream and served the slices with fresh blueberries for a picture-perfect dessert that paired well with my 2010 Robert Mondavi Moscato d’Asti. Despite all the butter, the lemon cream was refreshing and surprisingly light, a great way to finish our meal.

Tarte au Citron

Voila – Tarte au Citron!

As we mentioned before, if you’re thinking of taking a cooking class, definitely consider Elle A Cooking! Lilia and her “sous chef” Anthony are wonderfully friendly and really make you feel at ease while undertaking a new culinary adventure. Merci beaucoup for welcoming us into your home and kitchen for another exciting (and delicious!) experience.

À la prochaine!

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Check out Elle A Cooking here: http://www.elleacooking.com

Croissant Making at Elle A Cooking

Food Adventures, Food Life, Los Angeles

That’s right, friends. Martin’s Christmas present to me was adding croissants to our culinary repertoire — best boyfriend ever! I was very pleasantly surprised when he proudly announced that we would be taking this class with Elle A Cooking.

Stunning, flaky butter croissants

Stunning, flaky butter croissants – a labor of love

We spent a wonderful Saturday afternoon covered in flour and butter at Lilia’s place. I had always wanted to take cooking classes and this was a perfect way to start! Lilia’s classes are small, intimate gatherings that move at a comfortable pace, are very hands-on, and encourage lots of picture-taking and question-asking.

The basic croissant dough. Yes, that's butter being wrapped up in dough.

The basic croissant dough. Yes, that’s butter being wrapped up in dough.

The croissant class menu consisted of croissant dough from start to finish, classic butter croissants, pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants), and quince danish topped with homemade orange marmalade. We worked backwards, using pre-made dough that Lilia had prepared in advance and rolling, cutting, and shaping into our pastries. While they baked, we whipped together a batch of dough from the beginning, let it proof, and wrapped it around a stick of butter.

Pain Au Chocolat (chocolate croissants) with Valhrona dark chocolate - yum!

Pain Au Chocolat (chocolate croissants) with Valhrona dark chocolate – yum!

Lilia herself has a very calm demeanor and it was a pleasure learning from her. She has a very interesting back story as an engineer who pursued her dreams and attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to focus on pastries. I really admire her passion and drive to take hold of her life and take that leap.

Quince Danish topped with homemade orange (well, satsuma tangerine) marmalade

Quince Danish topped with homemade orange (well, satsuma tangerine) marmalade

She even showed us how to make a quick & simple orange marmalade from Satsuma tangerines, intended as a topping for the danishes but nearly polished off with fresh, hot-out-of-the-oven butter croissants. Incredible. Bon Appétit!

We wish we could share the recipes with you, but they are not ours to share so you’ll just have to sign up for a class with Lilia to glean her baking secrets yourself. At the end of class, she provides each person with a full set of recipe cards that details the step-by-step process for the dishes prepared that day… super helpful for replicating the process at home!

What we are happy to share with you are these mouthwatering pictures of our experience, and perhaps, after a few practice rounds, our advice and findings as amateur pâtissiers. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to make your own croissants (or macarons or other dishes on her Class Schedule), sign up for a class at Elle A Cooking! We highly recommend it.

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Check out Elle A Cooking here: http://www.elleacooking.com