Have you been following along with my recaps of my lessons at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit in Bangkok, Thailand? During week 7, the classes all focused on different ways to cook beef.
Week 7 at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit – Got Beef?
Class 19: A Balanced Menu
- Raw Marinated Fish
- Preparing for boiling meat / Stew
- Sauce thickening with egg (Veloute Sauce)
Class 20: A Business Dinner
- Cooking Meat- Different Stages of cooking
- Béarnaise Sauce
- Deep Frying Potatoes
- Frozen Parfait
Class 21: A Typical Bistro Menu
- Preparing Mussels
- Preparing and cooking a Veal Chop
- Classic “Grandmother” Garnish
- Sweet Pastry Dough
Here’s what I learned during week 7 at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit
- I would call raw, marinated fish, “Ceviche.” One of the students asked the Chef if you could substitute “smoked salmon” for the raw fish; apparently they don’t understand the concept of marinating at all!
- This week we prepared ”traditional” veal stew with a white cream sauce. I believe this lesson was a test on our organizational skills, as we had 2 recipes to make instead of one. It was also a test on temperature control. The French seem to like their vegetables with little color or browning. I so wanted to add some color to the dish at presentation, but the Chef told the class if he saw even one sprig of parsley or herbs on the plate we would get a “0” for the day!
- I have found that sometimes I have really good ideas. I finally got tired of not having enough prep bowls at my cooking station (we are given four bowls of various sizes, the smallest being 2 cups) so I went out and purchased eight small stainless steel bowls to use in class. Four hold about 3 Tablespoons and four hold about 1/3 cup. These are great when you need to measure and have 2 T of butter or 3 T of flour, etc. on hand. I now noticed that a handful of students did the exact same thing; I love being a trendsetter!
- Our class was introduced to Maroilles Cheese (imported from France) that was used to make a “Flemish” Leek Tart. We all agreed that this is the stinkiest cheese on the planet and not something we’d ever care to have again! One of the students asked if she could substitute another cheese and wanted his recommendation for an alternative. The Chef stared at her in confusion and asked why she wanted to do that! He reluctantly said, “YES, but then you could not call the dish a “Flemish” Tart. Clearly this is one of his favorite cheeses and favorite savory tarts.
- In class 20 we were shown how to cook the perfect beef tenderloin. Whether you want your portion rare, med-rare, med-well or well-done, it’s all about temperature and timing. Our test in class was to pick a temperature, cook our beef to that temperature and, without cutting into it, present the cooked portion to the Chef and tell him which one you have prepared. If your description did not match what was presented you failed! I chose med-rare so that I could reheat it later. After all these years, I now know I prefer med-well and should always order my meat this way in a restaurant or prepare it this way at home.
- A “grandmother” garnish is olive-shaped “turned” potatoes (the size of your pinkie finger), pearl onions or small baby shallots, button mushrooms and medium strips of bacon, called “lardons,”- all cooked separately and pan-glazed, then added together at the end as a garnish for beef. This is a lot of work for a side dish and requires a lot of small pans!
- I know I signed up for a course in “basic cuisine” and not pastry, but the Chefs continue to make killer desserts at least 2 times per week. I really loved the “Italian-style biscuits” that were made this week to accompany fresh strawberries and mascarpone-cream filling. Think of a restaurant-quality, modern take on “strawberry shortcake” with a balsamic-orange glaze. I’ve got to try this one at home!
- Another excellent dessert they created: frozen coffee parfait with a caramel and cognac sauce.
- Sometimes it pays to be fast in the kitchen, and sometimes not. This week I was lucky to have the time to remake my Béarnaise sauce (three times) in class. All that work to use just 2 or 3 tablespoons on the plate and all the ingredients that went to waste: a total of 12 eggs and 1 lb. of butter!
Grading for week 7 at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit
Here’s this week’s critique:
Class 19: Blanquette De Veau A L’Ancienne, Riz Pilaf (Traditional Veal Stew with Rice Pilaf)
- This was clearly one of the easiest days in the kitchen for me so far and I had my best review to date:
- Rice – Excellent
- Sauce – Very good
- Veal was perfectly tender – Excellent job
- Seasoning – Good
- My secret to the good review was I waited until the very end to present my dish so that my Veal could cook an additional few minutes and the sauce had more time to thicken. I did not remove my meat from the stovetop when everyone else did; I told the Chef my meat wasn’t done yet, although it would have been “acceptable.”
Class 20: Tournedos Poeles Sauce Béarnaise, Pommes Pont-Neuf (Sautéed Beef Medallions with Béarnaise Sauce, French Fried Potatoes)
- Even though this should have been an easy lesson, this was not a good day in the kitchen for me! One of the problems I had was I cut my potatoes too small. These were supposed to be thick-cut deep fried potatoes. The Chef told me I made thin, American “French Fries,” something he is not fond of.
- My Béarnaise sauce proved to be trickier to make than I had imagined: It took me three times to get it right! The Chef must have taken pity on me, as he originally told the class we would only get 2 chances to prepare the sauce. I don’t think I got a “0,” but you never know, as we are never told our exact grade or number of points we receive for each lesson.
- A “turned” artichoke isn’t so difficult to make after all. We used ours as an edible “bowl” to hold the béarnaise sauce. Mine was severely undercooked and under seasoned.
- And last, but least, one ray of sunshine in an otherwise disappointing meal: my beef was well received, a perfect medium rare! So I hope I scored a point or two there.
Class 21: Cotes De Veau, Grand-Mere (Sautéed Veal Chops with Glazed Onions, Mushrooms and Bacon)
- What could be better than butter-poached veal? My meat was well received and well seasoned. Finally!
- My “turned” potatoes were acceptable – a relief!
- I had one tiny miss step – I almost burned my pearl onions. I decided to peel off the outer layer so that I would present “white” onions to the Chef. He noticed immediately that something was amiss on the plate and commented that I did not glaze my onions enough. I had to confess that I basically burned the outside and I couldn’t bear to present something burnt. His only feedback: He nodded sagely in agreement.
Curious what I learned in week 8? 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.