Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Week 2 at Le Cordon Bleu (Basic Cuisine)

Clockwise from top: Chef’s Flamiche aux maroilles et poireaux (Leek tart from northern France),
Pâté Pantin (Pork pie without use of mould),
Getting Ready to Taste

Week 2 at Le Cordon Bleu was full of flour, fraisage, and finger injuries.

I’m thoroughly enjoying the demos. It’s almost as if the secrets of the culinary world are being whispered in our ears, passed down to the next generation as grandparents would for their grandchildren. The demos are full of helpful tips that are best shown live: watching the chef make pâte brisée, showing us how to flour our tables (fleurer), how to gently work in the flour without over-mixing the dough, and demonstrating the technique of fraisage where you take just a bit of dough and rub it between your palm and the marble countertop to form a dough, repeating this for all the dough. Although I’d read about fraisage before, to watch it makes more sense. And I was surprised by the texture of the quiche that the chef served us. It was more like custard with salt, cheese and lardons (we’re not allowed to use the word bacon!) and less like scrambled eggs.

Chef’s Quiche Lorraine (Gruyère cheese and bacon tart from East of France - Lorraine)

For the demo following our introduction to Les Pâtes de Cuisine, we all headed to the kitchen to make Quiche Lorraine. Once I was in the kitchen, making my well on the counter for my pâte brisée, time disappeared while I focused on blending the flour with the butter, salt, egg, and water. Rolling the dough was easier after watching the chef roll from the middle of the disc and out to the edge, turning and rolling from the middle again.

However, there was an injury, and this time it was my turn with the first aid kit. Although I didn’t faint, I sliced my thumb while drying my knife with a paper towel and looking over my shoulder at my lardons sautéing on the stove. I have a new respect, or fear, when using my chef’s knife. It was the worst cut I’ve ever inflicted on myself (but likely not the last!) and one that definitely required the rubber finger glove. Unfortunately, this was the first practical for which we were being marked! That knife was sharp, cleanly slicing through anything in its path. Although it wasn’t painful, it was annoying, embarrassing, and caused undue stress (though I did serve in the nick of time).

The next demo was all about pâtes levées, or doughs made with yeast, including brioche, pizza dough for pissaladière and a dessert called sugar pie that starts with a brioche and ends with a buttery custard. In the kitchen, we were all slapping the pizza dough on the worktable, working out our tension and stress and creating a cacophony of what could be rude sounds if you had time to close your eyes and imagine it. Although anchovies and olives aren’t my favorite ingredients, the pizza dough was salty and airy (and "impeccable" according to chef's critique!), but my onions needed more cooking time.

Clockwise from top: Chef’s Tarte au sucre (Sugar pie),
Pissaladière (Salted yeast dough with onions, anchovies and olives),
Saucisson en brioche (Sausage baked in a brioche dough),

The final demo about basic doughs covered the ever-popular, versatile but most difficult dough in the world: puff pastry. From flour, water, salt and butter comes this amazing dough that rises due to the butter that's carefully rolled between layers of dough. We also watched the chef make French-style gnocchi with pâte à choux, flip several crêpes and roll pasta dough for Fettuccini Alfredo like a true Italian might. In the kitchen, we had to make our own puff pastry (and turn vegetables in our spare time). My turning is coming along. I realize now the shape of a turned vegetable is not a fat football, but a thin, sleek one.

Chef’s Gnocchi à la Parisienne (Baked dumplings in Mornay sauce),
Fettuccini Alfredo (Fresh pasta with a creamy pepper and Parmesan cheese sauce)

Next week, we have a couple demos about desserts so we can leave the white pepper on the shelf for a bit (and I may not need a finger condom on my thumb)!

. . . . . . . . . .

Here is a link back to the recipes as I did them last year (although they aren't exactly the same as what we did in class):

Class 4: Les Pâtes de Cuisine (Basic Doughs, Part 1)
Part 1 - Flamiche aux maroilles et poireaux (Leek tart from northern France)
Part 2 - Pâté Pantin (Pork pie without use of mould)
Part 3 - Quiche Lorraine (Gruyère cheese and bacon tart from East of France - Lorraine)
Part 4 - Tarte aux pommes (Apple pie)

Class 5: Les Pâtes Levées (Basic Yeast Doughs, Part 2)
Part 1 - Pissaladière (Salted yeast dough with onions, anchovies and olives)
Part 2 - Saucisson en brioche (Sausage baked in a brioche dough)
Part 3 - Tarte au sucre (Sugar pie)

Class 6: Les Pâtes de Cuisine (Basic Doughs, Part 3)
Part 1 - Allumettes au fromage (Puff pastry strips with cheese)
Part 2 - Gnocchi à la parisienne (Baked dumplings in Mornay sauce)
Part 3 - Fettuccini Alfredo (Fresh pasta with a creamy pepper and Parmesan cheese sauce)
Part 4 - Crêpes au sucre (Sugar pancakes)


Carol Peterman/TableFare said...

What beautiful results you are having! Sorry to hear about the knife meets finger incident. A little distraction is all it takes. I just made some rather lousy little cookies for TWD tonight. I will bake the rest tomorrow and see if I can make them at least photo worthy so I can get a post up. I am surfing around to see how others turned out and it seems lots of people had issues and aren't wild about them. At least it's not just me. Have a great week in class!

Dolce said...

This looks yummy and makes me want to go home (France, that is...)

Lynda said...

What an interesting post. I love reading about what you are doing at LCB.

Monica H said...

This all looks so delicious!

Anonymous said...

Shari...What incredible experiences you're having...ok, except for the thumb. Sorry to hear about that. Your descriptions are wonderful! I can almost imagine being there...almost!
The turning "Aha!" moment! Thank you!

Sandwich recipes said...

That looks absolutely delicious. I'm going to try and mix in a little french influence in my own sandwiches now. Very inspiring!

Eliana said...

Ah yes - battle wounds you will remember for the rest of your life. This food all looks incredible.

Shandy said...

You are attending Le Cordon Bleu...I LOVE it! If I had life to do all over again, so would I. Your photos are amazing and I love how you are sharing your experiences. Hope the finger heals quickly and YUM!

Débora said...

Hi :)
I see we both enrolled in LCB around the same time... I attend LCB Peru.
It's nice to see the way they do things over there, and I really your blog.
My friends and I call them finger condoms too hehe