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Cooking with Clem

Throughout the semester, small groups of students have taken a cooking class with the most wonderful lady, named Clem! This week, it was finally my turn. From other students, I had heard this class was fantastic, so my expectations were high.

We arrived in Villefranche - Sur Mer on Thursday night and walked through town until we reached Clem’s (adorable) apartment. The kitchen was all set up for us to begin cooking. First things first, we started pealing and chopping pears and apples for what would turn into a delicious chocolate crumble. Next, we measured out the other ingredients on a scale. Measuring ingredients by weight was new to me. We mixed the “dry ingredients” which would turn into crumble on top of the chopped fruit and chocolate. Clem kept saying, “like sand, like sand!” The evening was filled with franglais and I did not always entirely understand Clem, but sure enough, after a few minutes the dry ingredients of the crumble really looked like sand!

Once we finished preparing the crumble, we put it in the oven and began preparing the main course: mashed potatoes and mushroom stuffed chicken. I am not used to cooking with mushrooms so I found the preparation very interesting. First, we had to peel the outer layer of skin off the mushrooms to ensure no one would become sick after eating our meal (probably an important step). We proceeded to chop the mushrooms into tiny pieces, they would eventually be rolled inside chicken, so it was crucial that they were finely chopped. We cooked the mushrooms in a fry pan with parsley and started the preparation of the chicken. 

I still feel guilty because I almost shattered Clem’s beautiful glass table during the chicken preparation. First, we cut any fat off of the chicken breast and then slit the chicken open about 80% and flattened the chicken. We manually flattened the chicken by aggressively hitting it with out fists. At first, I was definitely too aggressive and I hit the chicken so had that everyone in the room was seriously afraid the glass table beneath the chicken was going to shatter!! Luckily, nothing shattered and I learned that there was no need to be THAT hostile while flattening the chicken. 

At this point the mushrooms were done cooking and we could begin rolling them in the chicken. Next, we wrapped the chicken tightly in plastic wrap, horizontally and vertically. This would keep the water out when we boiled the chicken later. We needed Clem’s experience to help us wrap the chicken because it’s actually harder than it looks! Lastly, we made the appetizer of the meal, goat cheese samosas. 

The goat cheese samosas were by far my favorite, probably because of my obsession with goat cheese. We toasted pine nuts, chopped mint, and mixed these ingredients with goat cheese. We added honey, salt and pepper. It created such a yummy cheese spread that we wrapped in phyllo dough. After, we brushed olive oil and toasted the samosas until they were golden brown. Clem drizzled balsamic on the toasted samosas for the presentation and then we enjoyed the first part of our epic meal! The phyllo dough created a tiny crunch and then the slightly sweet and minty goat cheese was so tasty!!

Now, the chicken is ready to come out of the boiling water. We strip the chicken of the plastic wrap and put it in a fry pan to add some color to enhance the presentation. Clem explained how important the presentation of the meal is. We neatly put the mashed potatoes on each plate in a perfect circle and added the chicken sliced nicely for an appetizing appearance. Clem whipped up a herbal cheese cream and drizzled it on top of the chicken and we enjoyed the main course! It was very rewarding knowing we created it ourselves. Lastly, we thoroughly enjoyed the sweet crumble. We were very full but Clem created to-go packages for us so we could enjoy the remaining crumble later. We returned to Nice with full and satisfied bellies. Cooking with Clem absolutely surpassed my expectations. It was a great experience to learn how to cook a few french dishes, especially because cuisine is such a large part of French culture!