Gathering at a friend’s home whose friend is a chef now living in France, we knew we were in for a treat. Here for a few weeks visiting family, Maurine Fischel held a cooking class for our tasting pleasure. The evening was advertised as “Soup Class”. What an incredible understatement!!

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Of course Maurine makes everything from scratch. The stock for the chicken soup contained  a vegetable bouquet garni of parsley, peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme and garlic. Chicken shared the pot with carrots, celery, parsnips and onions. She shredded the chicken. To serve the soup, it was placed in individual bowls and topped with a classic Pistou. To the untrained like me, Pistou is a similar to a pesto-like sauce that includes tomato paste. Quite yummy and really added to the flavors in the soup.

The creamy smooth Butternut Squash Soup also started with a chicken stock base. It was served topped with crème Fraiche, pieces of crispy pancetta, croutons and dried sage leaf.

Mixed Green Salad  with Walnut Vinaigrette and a Chevre-topped baguette crouton accompanied the soups. If this wasn’t enough, these delights were followed by a splendid dessert called Clafoutis. It is baked in a 9 x 13 baking dish. The ingredients and the texture make it a cross between a cake and a pudding. The different fruits used for this dish create the distinct flavors. Ours included prunes which were dropped into the batter before baking and then covered with powdered sugar. Other fruits which can be used are grape, cherry, pear, and even chocolate and hazelnut.

All this, accompanied by a couple of glasses of wine and stories of Maurine’s adventures in France made for a very special evening.

A later-in-life adventurer, Maurine, after 47 years of marriage, 4 years of widowhood, three children and many grandchildren, careers in the clothing and real estate industries, and her training as a chef, sold almost everything she owned, packed up and moved to Nerac, a small town in southwestern France. Unlike so many of us who are afraid or unsure about change, she is living her dream.

To hear more about Maurine’s adventures and check out her cooking classes, visit her website at http://www.chezmoeenfrance.com. If you would like any of these recipes, email her at maurine@chezmoeenfrance.com. Follow her on Facebook at Maurine Jernigan Fischel.