Carême and the Grand Art of French Cooking in the 19th Century

These days modern cooking techniques include turning carrots into foam and squeeze bottles are filled with hydrogenized fluids rather than familiar red wine or a plain tomato coulis. But on Saturday evening 17 ambitious foodies traveled back in time and came together to celebrate the remembrance of things past at ICE’s Carême and the Grand Art of French Cooking in the 19th Century recreational class.

Chef Cathy Kaufman, ICE’s resident food historian, didn’t miss a beat introducing us to life in 1800s France. Ushered in with background music appropriate to the era, Chef Cathy launched the evening with a succinct and informative presentation explaining the man of the hour, Antonin Carême, the foremost practitioner of the art of classic French cuisine in his day. She guided us through Carême’s wildly lavish and obsessively aesthetic recipes. A glimpse at Carême’s actual illustrations for his trademark over-the-top culinary and pastry preparations set the stage for the task ahead.


However daunting the menu appeared, the promise for an elegant sit-down dinner with wine and the Carême-based desserts prepared under the skilled eye of Chef Kathryn Gordon’s Impressive Historic Desserts class across the hall, fueled students for the task ahead. The menu included dishes such as Ragout de Quenelles de Volaille aux Petits Pois (Chicken Quenelles with Baby Peas), Dindonneau à l’Africaine, Grosse Piece d’Hâtelets, Sauce aux Truffles à la Parisienne (Capon with Parisian Truffle Sauce) and Le Gâteau de Mille Feuille à la Moderne (Mille Feuille Puff Pastry Layer Cake in the Style of Carême).  


With a course packet chock-full of inspirational French text and a kitchen abound with the aromas of classic French cuisine, this was a Saturday night with more magic than any local dinner reservation. Each menu item was precisely chosen by Chef Cathy, based on what was fashionable, or à la mode, in the time of Carême. Two centuries later, and Carême’s slightly modified recipes are still in vogue, and unarguably delicious. Bravo to Chef Kathy Kaufman’s and Chef Kathryn Gordon’s culinary and pastry students who were truly up for a challenging evening that is sure to be a remembrance in their pasts.

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