For this week’s creative adventure we decided to get inspired by one of Paris’ largest and most celebrated outdoor food markets and challenge ourselves in the kitchen.
Dinner party challenge:
Think about a recipe or dish that holds some meaning for you. What is a dish that you’ve always wanted to make but have been too scared to try? Or the meal that your parents made for you growing up that instantly transports you back home? Don’t plan a meal that you know you have perfected. Challenge yourself instead to cook a dish that will make you feel something, be it nostalgia or pride.
Make a day out of your dinner by shopping for ingredients at a local market (where prices are cheaper and food is fresher than in chain grocery stores). Wander around the stalls looking for not just any parsley, but “the most beautiful parsley” (as our favorite vegetable guy described it). Turn off your phone and take your time.
The Marché Bastille takes place weekly on Thursdays and Sundays from 7am-2:30pm and offers a variety of fresh produce, local cheeses, meat, fish, and much more. Spanning from Metro Bréguet-Sabin (line 5) to Bastille on Boulevard Richard Lenoir, it’s not to be missed and worth getting up even on Sunday morning. The three rows of market stalls can be a bit overwhelming, so it helps to come prepared with a shopping list!
The best part about the market experience is the interactions with the vendors, picking out the perfect vegetable or piece of meat, and elbowing your way to the front of the line to be waited on. Some vendors even make up catchy tunes to accompany the produce they’re selling you (we were serenaded on the beauty of rosemary).
Pro Tip: Vendors will take their time with you at the market and not shuffle you through. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice i.e. how long to cook fish in the oven or how many people that cut of meat will feed.
Boucherie Bruno — midway down the far left row (while facing Place de la Bastille)
Vegetable stand with many fresh herbs and produce, name unknown — midway down the far left row (across from Boucherie Bruno)
Fresh seafood stand, name unknown — first stand of the far left row next to the Bréguet-Sabin metro exit
Click HERE to view a list of all of the weekly markets in Paris.
For this post I decided to challenge myself to make two family recipes that I’ve never made entirely on my own. Because of my Italian heritage on my dad’s side, I grew up making various forms of fresh pasta from scratch. Potato gnocchi (defined as soft dough dumplings) were always one of my favorites and the following recipe is one of my ultimate comfort foods.
For the pork dish, the real challenge is the sauce. It’s simple, made with only a few ingredients, but requires a lot of attention and careful reduction over high heat. When done right (I think I was successful!) you are left with a delicious, rich, sweet sauce that goes well with pork or duck breast and is perfect for a winter meal. Don’t forget to serve bread since you’ll want to mop up every last drop!
Moules-frites (mussels and fries) is one of my favorite French dishes. Eating mussels instantly reminds me of being with my family in southern France, where mussels are incredibly fresh and fries are intoxicatingly crispy.
I told myself before and during my move to Paris that if I could learn to cook one thing during my time here, it would be moules-frites. Though I had heard from multiple sources that they are easy to cook, mussels somehow always seemed daunting to me, somehow much more involved than your average sea creature. I challenged myself to finally make this dish for our dinner party and am happy to say it was not as scary as I thought! Thanks to our sous-chef and apartment host, Ella, we were able to clean and debeard 3 kg of mussels (enough to feed 6 people) in only 45 minutes. Yes, the cleaning and debearding got tiring after a while and there was a debate in terms of what “gaping” means (any gaping mussel before it has been cooked should be thrown out), but I was happy that this dinner party gave me the chance to attempt this dish.