Thursday, October 8, 2009

Week 4 at Le Cordon Bleu (Basic Cuisine)

Taste, turning, trussing, and tears.

Last week, we had a seminar on taste! Spending a morning talking about taste was pretty cool! In many little white tubs, lined up in rows, were a variety of different colored liquids. In groups, we were given a container and asked to think of a memory that went along with it. Unfortunately, many of the tubs contained slightly stale versions of the originals and too often Grandma's lace or even, in some cases, urinal pucks came to mind! Here's what we had to guess: white balsamic vinegar, lavender, truffle, shrimp paste, bergamot, lime, hazelnuts, sesame oil, anise-flavored alcohol, hoisin sauce, cognac, soya sauce, fish sauce, vanilla, port, rum calvados, pear alcohol, tobasco, chili paste. I found it challenging to deconstruct the aromas, but it was fun.

The next demo was all about Les Fonds Blanc et Brun (Brown and White Stocks), the base of sauces in French cuisine. We covered chicken stock, veal stock, tomato sauce (one of the mother sauces) and fish fumet. Our practical was to fillet a whole Dover sole, use the bones to make a fish fumet and finish with a dish called Filet de sole de Douvres Dieppoise. This dish must include mussels and shrimp to be called Dieppoise. Not a problem. I've cooked mussels before and the shrimp came pre-cooked. However, the whole Dover sole slowed me down. It was the maiden voyage for my filleting knife and my hands with a whole fish. My filleting needed practice, so I attended an extra practice the next day and bought some frozen ones from the local fish monger. I can happily say that I now know how to fillet a flat fish. I can't say that about turning mushrooms. Even after turning pounds of mushrooms that night, my mushrooms are more "carved" than "turned".

Here are some of the dishes the chef made during the demo.

Clockwise from top: Chef’s Fond blanc de volaille (Basic recipe for white stock)
Filets de sole Dieppoise (Sole fillet served with a white wine sauce)
Turned mushroom
Sauce tomate (Tomato sauce)

The next demo discussed two more mother sauces (Espagnole and Béchamel) and their derivatives (demi-glace, Sauce Crème, Sauce Mornay and Sauce Soubise). Trouble came when it was time to truss the chicken during the practical. It looks easy enough. Cut wing tips. Dig out wishbone. String needle. Poke through cartilage in one leg, through other leg, flip, through two bones of one wing, under neck, through two bones of other wing and tie. With the leftover string, thread through cartilage in one leg, through pope's nose, through cartilage in other leg and tie legs together. Tuck wings under. Not so hard. But it was for me. After three tries and each time the chef shaking his head saying "do it again" in his stern, French accent, tears started to fall. I knew this would happen, but I thought it would be over a burnt sauce or charred meat, not over a simple truss. Meanwhile, the other students were getting their chicken broth cooking, but I was still bent over my string with salty tears brining my naked bird. Finally, I plopped my tear-stained and weakly tied bird into the pot and hid it with water hoping I could catch up. Unfortunately, I also seemed to pick the station where the flame kept going out under my pot. This bird did not want to get cooked.

I made my roux, checked it with the chef who with a slight air said I'd added a touch too much butter for the amount of flour. Then, it was onto the rice pilaf. The onions had to be cut in ciseler fashion and were to be the size of a grain of rice. Some were; some weren't. I sweat the onions in butter making sure they didn't acquire any color, then added the rice and cooked until nacré (a pearl color!). A bit of salt, a bouquet garni, the right amount of water, a lid of parchment paper and into the oven for exactly 17 minutes.

Back to the chicken. Checking it confirmed my fears: it wasn't cooked yet. And for some reason, I didn't think to remove some of the broth to reduce separately for the sauce. I turned my attention to the roux and mistakenly added the cream before adding the broth, ruining both in the process! This was not my day. So, I was back to making a new batch of roux. I quickly measured 30 grams of flour and butter and hastily set about to cooking it to the required blond, nutty color. By this time, I had the forethought to put some broth in a separate pot to reduce. When the roux was ready, so was my broth. I added it to my roux, thickened the mixture and let it cook for as long as possible before adding the cream. Everything else came together. My sauce was à la nappe, coating the chicken, my bird was cooked just right (not a second more), and my rice was done with the odd large piece of onion thrown in. And the tears buried in my chicken earlier made it taste even better.

Here are two of the dishes the chef made during the demo.

Chef’s Sauce Espagnole and
Poulet poché sauce Suprême (Whole poached chicken served with a white creamy sauce)

The final demo last week was about emulsion sauces including hollandaise and Béarnaise. I love these two rich sauces. The first step in the Béarnaise is a reduction. Easy enough, but you need enough liquid after the reduction to make the sabayon. For the sabayon, which contains two yolks, you need two half-egg-shells full of liquid. I thought I had enough, but it became apparent while whisking my sabayon that I was lacking a few drops! The chef came over, frowned, went to the sink and dribbled a few more drops of water expertly in my bowl and warned that it might break on me in no time flat. I whisked and whisked and whisked. Although it never broke, it was a little thick. Again, when the chef came over, saw me whisking in the clarified butter on the "cold" side of the station, he grimaced and suggested I move to the stove side, again warning that my sauce would break and that it was saturated with butter! Funny because I had started clarifying more butter since I didn't have as much as the recipe called for. We also had to turn some potatoes à l'Anglaise (a specific size that is three fingers long) and grill some salmon. Again, I finished on time, but critique of my plate was all critique. School is tough, but I'm learning a ton, even through my tears.

Here are some of the dishes the chef made during the demo.

Clockwise from top: Chef’s Saumon Grillé, sauce Béarnaise (Grilled Salmon with Béarnaise Sauce)
Sauce Rémoulade (Sauce derived from Mayonnaise) & Hollandaise
Sauce Tyrolienne (Béarnaise sauce made with oil) & Sauce Moutarde (Sauce derived from Hollandaise)
Sauce Grebiche (Emulsified cold sauce based on cooked egg yolk) & Mayonnaise

. . . . . . . . . .

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 10: Les Fonds Blanc et Brun (Brown and White Stocks)
Fumet de poisson (Fish stock)
Filets de sole Dieppoise (Sole fillet served with a white wine sauce)
Fond blanc de volaille (Basic recipe for white stock)
Fond brun clair de veau (Basic recipe for brown stock)
Sauce tomate (Tomato sauce)

Class 11: Les Sauces et Liaisons (Mother Sauces and Liaisons)
Poulet poché sauce Suprême (Whole poached chicken served with a white creamy sauce)
Sauce Espagnole and Demi-glace (Basic brown sauces)
Sauce Béchamel (White sauce): Crème, Mornay, and Soubise

Class 12: Les emulsions (Emulsion sauces)
Sauce Hollandaise (Warm emulsified sauce) and Sauce Moutarde
Sauce Béarnaise (Warm emulsified sauce derived from Hollandaise sauce)
Sauce Mayonnaise (Basic emulsified sauce) and Salade Messidor (Summer Harvest Salad)

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    Jacque said...

    Oh my goodness, what a week! So sorry about that stubborn bird (bad birdy!). But it sounds like you are learning so much. Everything looks wonderful and so much more tasty than the KFC I had tonight :)

    Anonymous said...

    Oh Shari...I'm so sorry! I think I'd have cried too! How frustrating! Bless your heart! Thank you for sharing your class experiences with us...even the painful ones. I'm really getting the feel of what it's like there from your perspective!

    Sunei said...

    My head would be spinning trying to keep all those sauces straight. The links to the posts you've done before are great. Thanks! I want to try the Bearnaise. Fascinating post!!!

    Dolce said...

    The turn mushroom is a cutie... And everything looks delish :)

    Sippity Sup said...

    It's so cool that you are doing this. I already considered you a master in the kitchen... now look out, 'cuz here you come! GREG

    Lynda said...

    You need a good long weekend after that week! I hope you can take some time off. Will you be practicing trussing with your turkey? Thanks for a very insightful post.

    Gera@SweetsFoodsBlog said...

    I don't know where to look first with all these delightful dishes - I'd like to assist to the tasty classes :D



    pam said...

    Oh my goodness. This is so intense. I get stressed and nervous just reading about it.

    Unknown said...

    Regardless of the 'tears'. Everything looks perfect and effortless. Thanks for the behind the scenes look.

    angela@spinachtiger said...

    I love to watch you go through this, but I think it's too much in one kitchen. But you are learning. Perhaps one day you will deconstruct these processes to make a bit more accessible. Your heart is certainly in this, and we're all here for you.

    Dorothy said...

    everything is so gorgeous! i would be soooo beyond stressed if i was taking these classes!

    AmyRuth said...

    Shari, I can't dismiss the feeling that it is beyond wonderful that you are following your passion! Even through the richness of your tears. They are magic! Thank you for sharing ups & downs of your experiences. Your Whisk Wednesday's were probably a great foundation for the days ahead. So many new memories to make. YIPPEE! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving kind words. Okay, girl. Keep up the great work and please keep us posted of your experiences. So fun to read from the inside. Do they know your are blogging about it?

    Eliana said...

    I am so envious (in a good way). Thank you so much for sharing all of your learnings with us.

    Kelly said...

    Great post. Hang in there. The seminar on taste sounds especially interesting. I always love trying to deconstruct flavors and scents.

    Jessica said...

    I love your play by play of such and interesting day! Makes me live vicariously thru your cooking school journey. Best of luck to you!

    pigpigscorner said...

    I love reading about your experience. Sounds really stressful but lots of fun too!

    Velva said...

    Wow, I learned a lot today reading your blog! Looks like it was a tough week but you did it! Congrats on filleting the dover sole-Impressive!

    Darina said...

    How frustrating! That dang chicken. I'd be crying, too. I'm sure school is so dificult at times, but mistakes and setbacks are such a big part of the process. Sounds like you've had way more hits than misses, Shari. I'm enjoying following you through your experiences. Thanks for sharing all this.

    candy buffets said...

    yummy post, food blogs always make my mouth water !!

    Big Bleu Eyes said...

    So I start culinary school in two weeks and this totally is scaring me! Its amazing that you learn so much in such a short time. I hope I can keep up!