If you’ve been reading my past few posts about my time at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit in Bangkok, Thailand, you can tell I’ve been having a lot of fun and learning a lot. Here’s a recap of my fourth week, which began August 3.
Our demos for the fourth week included:
- Red Meats, Part 1: Rump Roast, Beef Burgundy
- Roasting, Braising and Marinating
- Puréed Potatoes
- Red Meats, Part 2: Grilled Prime Rib
- Sautéing, Grilling and Tomahawk Cut
- Sauce Bordelaise (Red Wine Sauce)
- One-sided Cooking of Salmon
- Emulsified Butter Sauce (Chive Butter)
- Roasted White Meat
- Dessert: Chou Pastry, Vanilla Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce
Here’s what I learned during week four of Le Cordon Bleu Dusit:
- The best way to make Beef Burgundy, also called Beef Bourguignonne, is to marinate the cubes of beef overnight in red wine before you begin the cooking process.
- “Toasted” flour should be in every cook’s pantry. Basically, this is flour that has been browned or toasted in your oven and is then used for dredging beef (or could be used chicken or pork cutlets). This technique gives your recipe a nice “nutty,” well-rounded flavor. If I were at home in my own kitchen I’d keep some on hand in my freezer to use whenever I wanted.
- Absolutely everything in French cooking seems to be about precise measurements. I’ve never used a ruler so much the kitchen while cooking!
- “Sweating” vegetables is not the same as “sautéing” vegetables; everyone in the class should know by now. The first is done low and slow; the second is done on high heat where the end result is browned not burnt. Apparently our class, in general, needs to work on this (not me, of course!).
- “Mousseline Potatoes” is a fancy term for whipped or mashed potatoes that have been put through a ricer (or other similar device). These have a velvety smooth texture when done correctly. As my fellow chef-trainees discovered, too much stirring is bad – VERY BAD.
- I’ve only seen a “tomahawk cut” of steak on the TV show, Iron Chef. I’ve never ordered one in a restaurant myself. The cost for a plated steak like this this could cost $100 per plate in the best steakhouses, as the prime rib cut is usually very pricey.
- When grilling, always place the meat at the “10 o’clock” and “2 o’clock” positions in relation to the grill grates to achieve a “diamond” pattern on your meat. This will make the nicest presentation.
- “Unilateral” salmon (salmon that is cooked skin-side down and ONLY skin-side down) produces extra-crispy skin and a moist interior. In this technique it is much more difficult to control the heat than in my method of cooking one side in a sauté pan and then finishing the salmon in the oven.
- In order to produce the creamiest butter sauce, you must start with cold butter and a whisk. If the sauce “breaks” or separates, it cannot be saved! I tried reheating my butter sauce later at home and I ended up with clarified butter. I was so disappointed!
I don’t have any funny stories to tell this week, just practice, practice and more practice. That is the mantra of the chefs; they tell us you will not succeed at Cordon Bleu if you do not practice cooking at home. They emphasized that 20 hours per week of instruction is NOT ENOUGH for you to pass the class and achieve good marks on your final exam.
Grading for Week Four at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit:
Beef Sirloin Roast: Class 10
- Although my beef was well cooked, my beef sauce, or as the French call it, “Beef Jus,” was too thin/not the right consistency. Apparently I added too much water to my sauce while braising the beef roast. During the Chef’s Demo, it was stressed not to let your sauce reduce too much in the oven. I guess took him too literally.
- The Chef, who critiqued my final plate, was disappointed that I tried to correct my mistake by adding flour at the end of cooking, just before my presentation. Apparently a “thin sauce” is better than one that tastes like a mouthful of flour! She admonished me as to the wisdom of using this technique so close to the end of class. If there had been more time “to cook out” the floury taste, then that would have been acceptable.
Note: This is what I call “liquid gold.” Once my demi glaze sauce was refrigerated overnight, the picture below was the end result. The jelly-like consistency is exactly what you can buy in the store in the form of a concentrate. My photo shows the beef jus plus the separated fat. My three hours of hard work paid off; when it was only a thin stream of sauce I was disappointed, now it all makes sense! Once reheated, the sauce was perfect.
Here are 2 related links:
Beef Burgundy: Class 11
- I received overall good marks. I have made this dish many times at home but never with such precision. According to the Chef, my pearl onions were well caramelized but my sautéed mushrooms were not; they needed more color, along with the croutons that were added as a garnish.
- I received high marks though on the browning of my beef. The Chef told the class, “Everyone! Look what Mary is doing! Follow her lead; most of you have pans on the stove that are too crowded – you are steaming not browning your beef!” I was very excited. This is the first time I have heard a Chef single out a particular class member!
Seared Salmon: Class 12
- By far, this was the easiest class for me to date! How many times have I made seared salmon and sautéed spinach for clients? Dozens, I’m sure.
- I received an “excellent” score on this particular dish. Although I personally use a slightly different cooking method at home, I will have to agree that this “unilateral” method of cooking salmon fillets tastes better than mine. The salmon is much more moist, and of course, the crispy skin is the best part (I’m sure that my method is easier to make, but I can’t argue with the results in class).
- I was surprised that I was the only person in the class who actually drew the correct size of circles onto parchment paper (as a guide) for the preparation of the “piped” whipped potatoes, what the French call, “Byron Potatoes.” Add a little Mornay sauce (a white sauce with cheese) and bit more cheese on top, bake in the oven and then you have a little bit of heaven on a plate.
All in all it was a good week. Stay tuned for a recap of week five next week!
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.