I’m excited to report that I’m making good progress in my classes this semester at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit Thani culinary school in Bangkok, Thailand.

Week 2

In week 2, classes 7-9, we made:

  • Stewed duck with handmade sausage
  • Roast chicken with garden vegetables
  • Beef Roast with Bordelaise sauce

Here’s what I learned week 2:

Homemade sausage is much easier to make than I had originally imagined! I would have never thought to add the zest of an orange to the sausage mixture.

Alternative sausage-making technique. In the U.S., I would use dried corn husks instead of the traditional sausage casing.

Alternative sausage-making technique. In the U.S., I would use dried corn husks instead of the traditional sausage casing.

This is something I will definitely make again, but next time I’ll try wrapping the meat mixture in banana leaves instead of pork casings (I have no idea where I would even find pork intestines in Bangkok)!

In Bangkok, since dried corn husks are not available, I would use banana leaves as the sausage casing.

In Bangkok, since dried corn husks are not available, I would use banana leaves as the sausage casing.

Most of my class opted to practice deboning their chicken in class (apparently they thought this was mandatory – it was not), and most of them were late presenting their dish to the Chef. Because of the timing issue, I decided to practice this technique at home and I’m glad I did. You can find all sorts of interesting videos on this subject; at home I was not rushed and could take my time perfecting the technique.

“All About Chicken.” The Basque-style chicken stuffed with ham, pictured top right, required much more skill than I originally anticipated. The recipe for the roasted chicken, pictured in the three photos on the left, had an herb butter placed under the skin that made it moist and delicious. My favorite appetizer from the week, pictured at bottom right, soft boiled egg with a porcini mushroom crust, deep fried with wild mushrooms.

“All About Chicken.” The Basque-style chicken stuffed with ham, pictured top right, required much more skill than I originally anticipated. The recipe for the roasted chicken, pictured in the three photos on the left, had an herb butter placed under the skin that made it moist and delicious. My favorite appetizer from the week, pictured at bottom right, soft boiled egg with a porcini mushroom crust, deep fried with wild mushrooms.

After three weeks of intermediate classes, I now know that I can make a great sauce; it only took 40 lessons! I finally got a “very good” review on a classic French Sauce (the Chef says this is the most important sauce in French Cuisine). My Bordelaise did not “split” until it was reheated at home; I am finding that many of things made in class do not reheat well. This is quite annoying, as I spent the last 12 years perfecting meals for clients especially made for reheating!

Going forward, I can see my challenge will be in the butchery of the proteins we are given; Thankfully, I usually get good marks for the cooking of my proteins.

"All About Beef." The top photos show the beef we prepared with classic Bordelaise sauce. In the middle is my favorite desert of the week, classic Basque-style cake with cherries in the filling. On the bottom left is handmade sausage (we used our sausage in Duck stew. My favorite appetizer of the week is pictured bottom right. It was salt cod with potato (Brandade) stuffed inside piquillo red peppers, served with red pepper coulis (cold sauce), a regional favorite of the Pays Basque region of France

“All About Beef.” The top photos show the beef we prepared with classic Bordelaise sauce. In the middle is my favorite desert of the week, classic Basque-style cake with cherries in the filling. On the bottom left is handmade sausage (we used our sausage in Duck stew. My favorite appetizer of the week is pictured bottom right. It was salt cod with potato (Brandade) stuffed inside piquillo red peppers, served with red pepper coulis (cold sauce), a regional favorite of the Pays Basque region of France

Week 3

In week 3, classes 10-12, we made:

  • Duck breasts stuffed with foie gras
  • Roast squab with blood sauce
  • Roast chicken breasts stuffed with ham and bell pepper sauce

What I learned in week 3:

I did not even know I liked foie gras, until now. The trick with the particular recipe we made is that you first have to sear the outside until golden, and then keep it extremely cold until you’re ready to stuff the duck. If the foie gras is not cold it will melt as you try to stuff the duck breasts. Trust me, this would not be a good scenario.

“All About Duck.” The Chef's plate with a savory, celery root flan is pictured on the bottom; the middle photo on the top left is another "turned" vegetable technique. My presentation at home is the top right. The stewed duck is pictured on the bottom left.

“All About Duck.” The Chef’s plate with a savory, celery root flan is pictured on the bottom; the middle photo on the top left is another “turned” vegetable technique. My presentation at home is the top right. The stewed duck is pictured on the bottom left.

Of all the classes so far, #12 was the worst for me as far as presentation. The dish was stuffed chicken with ham, pictured in the first photo set. What I thought was going to be a great dish fell apart in the last 10 minutes of class! Although I was told my sauce was “almost perfect,” I severally undercooked the chicken and there was no way to recover before time was called by the Chef. So, I was 2 or 3 minutes late to present my dish. Note to self: keep the protein at room temperature until ready to cook!

I am finding that almost every time bell peppers are used in a recipe they must be PEELED before using. When you are short on time this can be a tedious task, especially if you cut the pepper before peeling. I now know that you first peel, then cut the bell pepper, for best results. The same goes for peeling shallots. It’s a very tedious and often time-consuming task. Note: This task is easiest when the shallots are soaked in slightly warm water for 5-10 minutes prior to peeling.

And then there’s the squab; my least favorite recipe of the term. The butchery went okay, but I just can’t wrap my head around the sauce. It would have been to my liking before adding the liver, heart and chicken blood. I guess if you grew up with these tastes it would be a real treat! We were told these birds were farm raised (they were not caught at your local park)! Because of the care taken during production, the meat on the birds can be eaten rare. You will not get sick; we were assured by the Chef.

“All About Squab – aka Pidgeon” Proper trussing of squab; 1 appetizer and 1 entree: both made using the bird’s heart, liver and blood in the sauce preparation and salad vinaigrette.

“All About Squab – aka Pidgeon” Proper trussing of squab; 1 appetizer and 1 entree: both made using the bird’s heart, liver and blood in the sauce preparation and salad vinaigrette.

In just 3 more classes we will have reached the half-way mark of the term! It’s time to sign-up for the 3rd and final course: Superior cuisine. Course 3 will begin the last week of April, so look for more class updates thru June.

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.