I was excited to begin week three after two fascinating and instructive weeks at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit. The week of July 28 included the following demos:
- Commonly used pastry doughs, Part 2
- Short Pastry-Blind Baking-Quiche Lorraine
- Puff Pastry-Preparation
- Commonly used pastry doughs, Part 3
- Puff Pastry with caramelized leeks & poached egg
- Sweet short pastry (Pate Brisee Sucree)
- Preparing and cooking an omelet
- Preparing fowl for roasting: How to truss a chicken
- Knife skills technique: Preparing “garden style” vegetables
Here is the chef’s perfectly cooked omelet and a seasonal fruit tart:
What I learned during the week at Le Cordon Bleu:
- While Quiche Lorraine is relatively easy to make, homemade puff pastry is not!
- No matter the sauce, whether it’s a béchamel or standard custard filling for a quiche, you ALWAYS strain your sauce in a fine-mesh strainer called a Chinios. It is a MUST in the French kitchen.
- The correct ratio to use when poaching an egg is 1-liter water (1-quart) to 200 grams (1/2 cup) white vinegar. I guess I’ve always made my eggs wrong! The key is to swirl the water in a concentric circle as you add your eggs to the simmering water, one egg at a time.
- Trussing a chicken is harder than it looks.
- In the local grocery a store (in Bangkok anyway) a whole chicken is ALWAYS purchased with the head and feet still attached.
- Roasting a chicken is not something you can throw in the oven and forget for the next 60 min., at least according to our French Chef.
- For the perfect roast chicken, follow this process for best results:
- Roast the whole chicken on a layer of vegetables and chicken trimmings, leg-side up for 15 min.
- Turn it onto the other leg and roast it for 15 min.
- Flip the chicken back-side up for 15 min.
- Turn the breast-side up and roast an additional 12 min.
- Make sure to baste every 7 min. or so with the pan juices. Your chicken will be done when the juices run clear.
- It has taken me 3 weeks to determine that “heavy cream,” when used in French recipes, really means crème fraiche, not the heavy whipping cream that I am so used to buying.
Another Dinner Diva Funny Story
I decided I needed to practice trussing a chicken before my next class, so I purchased a whole chicken (check). I brought home the trussing needle from school (check). Now I needed to find basic kitchen string. I thought that would be easy, as there is a kitchen store right next door to the school. We spent so long shopping that day that the store was closed by the time we came by.
I wanted this:
Or this would have been nice:
But instead, I had to make do with this – dental tape!
I’m not sure you could actually roast your chicken using the waxed tape, but since this was just for practice, it worked out fine!
Grading at Le Cordon Bleu, Week 3
Here’s my third week’s critique:
Quiche Lorraine (top right in the photo above)
Overall presentation was good, not great. My pastry shrank a bit around the edges, as the sides were “too thin.” Overall taste was “too salty.” I was told that the custard filling does not need much seasoning; since the cooked bacon is the main ingredient, more than likely, I did not soak my bacon long enough before blanching. In the recipe we used, you are to blanch the bacon before cooking it, to remove some of the saltiness. The good news is the custard was well baked and nicely browned.
Puff Pastry (top left and bottom of photo above)
My pastry did indeed “puff” once baked, but clearly not as high as was expected. It was not a complete failure though, as the pastry remained “dry” on the baking sheet, not covered in a pool of butter. Now that would have been a “fail” for sure! In order to properly plate my final dish I had to create a “sandwich” for my caramelized leeks, Mornay sauce and perfectly poached egg.
I was so happy that I was given a very good score on my julienne of leeks. I had just enough to present to the chef, 2 Tablespoons, as the rest I burned in the pan!
Here is a recipe from Food Network for a classic Mornay Sauce.
Roast Chicken with pan gravy (jus)
I thought I had this one in the bag! What recipe could be simpler? However, this was 3 hours of pure stress.
I may have gotten low marks for my trussing of the chicken (the chef had to show me the correct positioning three times!), but in the end I received high marks on color and taste of the finished bird, and my knife skills this time around were right on point. I’ve never been so happy to hear that my chicken was cooked through, since I seemed to have had the toughest time getting mine to the final right temperature.
Final note: “Next time,” my chef told me, “Make sure you serve me warm vegetables!” I guess a received a few points off for that detail as well.
Stay tuned for more about my time at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit in Bangkok, Thailand!
Mary Hathaway, Owner of Dinner Diva, has been a personal chef since 2002. She cooks regularly for clients who have special dietary needs, value healthy cooking by using organic products where possible and those who want healthy family meals but have no time to cook. Whether it’s a dinner for 4, a holiday party for 20, or a set of meals for the week, all of the recipes are customized to her client’s needs or lifestyle. Go to: Dinner-Diva.com for more info.