I hope you’ve been enjoying hearing what I’ve been learning about at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit so far! Week six, which took place August 17-21, was almost completely about fish. Keep reading for the details!

Week 6 at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit

Here’s a list of our demos for the week (1 veal dish, otherwise it was all about fish!):

Class 16:

  • Fish, Part 1 (Barracuda)
  • Poaching in a Court-Bouillon
  • Pan Frying; Hollandaise Sauce, Turning Vegetables

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Class 17:

  • Fish, Part 2 (Filet of Sole, Salmon & Turbot)
  • Breaded and deep fried; braising, Making Mayonnaise
  • Cutting Escalopes

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Class 18:

  • Historical & Regional Influences:
    • Frying batter For Shrimp;
    • Veal Stew: Veal Morrengo
    • Seasonal Fruit Flan: Clafoutis

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Here’s what I learned during week 6 at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit

  • I not only learned to filet a fish I had never seen before (a flat fish called Turbot), but also how to remove the skin. Since this fish is predominately found in the Mediterranean and Baltic Sea, I can understand why I never came across it the SF Bay Area. I’m going to congratulate myself, as I struggled at first, but in the end I got the job done!
  • Barracuda (the Chef called this fish “Hake”) is not something I would seek out and want to make again.
  • The next time you make fried shrimp, you can make the shrimp stand straight (rather than curling) during frying by scoring or making small crisscross incisions across the belly just before breading or frying the fish.
  • Wait to season your fish batter until just before frying. Always re-season after cooking and before serving.
  • Whenever I have heard the term beignets, I have thought of fried doughnuts, especially those served at Café du Monde in New Orleans (here is their famous recipe). However, now I know this term refers to anything that is batter-fried: Our fried shrimp were called, “Beignets de Gambas.”
  • In culinary terms, a Hollandaise sauce is referred to as a warm emulsion sauce; mayonnaise is referred to as a cold emulsion sauce.
  • Mayonnaise is really easy to make as long as you take it slow; unfortunately we were told you can only keep it for 24 hours, once made and refrigerated. This is because of the use of raw eggs. I guess my jar of Best Foods won’t be replaced anytime soon!
  • Hollandaise has a beautiful texture and creaminess that you just can’t get from a powdered mix (seems obvious, I know). It is significantly more challenging to make than mayonnaise, takes A LOT of whisking and muscle power to make by hand AND it cannot be saved for later use or reheated because it will end up as clarified butter. You make it and serve it!
  • I always thought a Sabayon sauce was a dessert sauce; now I know different. Any emulsified sauce in French cooking is referred to as a Sabayon sauce.
  • In case you were wondering about the difference between veal and beef: Veal is the meat from a baby cow and is sold as veal in your supermarket when the age of the animal is between 1 month to 1 year old. After 12 months, the meat is labeled and sold as beef.
  • As far as regional dishes go, our Chef introduced us to Veal Marengo. Although we were told the stew was originally made with chicken, this is a hearty stew that has tomatoes, white wine, mushrooms and pearl onions and is topped with fried eggs. Apparently the recipe was named after a town in Italy where Napoleon’s Chef whipped together some local ingredients in the midst of war; General Napoleon loved it so much that this became his favorite dish and then a national favorite.

On a side note:

The web is a strange place: Sometimes you find more than you bargained for! When I tried looking up the definition of Sabayon in Wikipedia I got a 14-page reference to one of my favorite TV reality shows: Top Chef, Season 10. I was intrigued to say the least! As far as I can tell, one of the contestants in episode 2 (2012) made an herb sabayon with roasted halibut, mushrooms and English peas. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty good right about now…and remember whatever you do online someone will be able to find it years down the road, so be careful what you put out there!

Grading for week 6 at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit

Here’s this week’s critique:

Class 16: Poached Hake Steaks with Hollandaise Sauce

Although my fish was well cooked, I did not think this particular fish was very tasty. Grading on the turned vegetables was acceptable, but still needs work. My hollandaise sauce was saved at the last minute by adding a little water to the emulsion; I came very close to having scrambled eggs. After straining one last time, I got an acceptable grade on my sauce.

Class 17: Turbot Filets Duglere (with white wine, fish stock and chopped tomatoes)

I failed to season the outside of the fish filets before poaching, so AGAIN I was told my final dish lacked seasoning; we were asked this session to provide eight turned potatoes (I recently spent an hour practicing at home and still only made six). In the time allotted I was able to successfully prepare only four. The chef was not pleased. He said, “You must learn to work faster!” On the plus side, the chopped onions and tomatoes used as a garnish during cooking showed much improvement in my knife skills – yeah, for me!

Class 18, 2 recipes: Deep-Fried Shrimp with Tartar Sauce, Cheese Soufflé

The last class of the week was not particularly challenging or interesting. It was a good one to have after a long week; the purpose was to show our organizational skills. This was the first class where we made two completely separate dishes. I was very happy with my fried shrimp and so was the Chef; ditto for the cheese soufflé. The grading is always about seasoning or knife skills; today I was told I could have chopped my herbs finer in the tartar sauce, otherwise, “Good job!”

Curious what I learned week 7? Stay tuned to find out 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.