During week 5 at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit we focused on recipes from Southern France. We made two regional favorites from the Provence-Alps Region and one from the Rhone-Alps Region:
- Class 16 – Cotes D’Azur: Provencal Fish Stew/ Bouillabaisse
- Class 17 – Corsica: Pork Stew with Chestnuts (cooked in a dough-sealed pot)
- Class 18 – Lyon: Pike-Perch Dumplings in Nantua Sauce (cream sauce)
At Le Cordon Bleu, It’s All About Technique
There is no detail too small in French Cuisine.
Yes, there are many guidelines (and even rules, I am finding) with regard to plating (the final presentation of a dish). I made the mistake of filling my soup bowl too full with the bouillabaisse; so much so, my Chef asked, “Mary, where is the fish? I can’t see it. It’s a pity, as this is the star of this dish!” So, while my soup was good tasting, well seasoned and the fish was nicely cooked, I was marked down on presentation. If you’ve ever wondered why there is so little on a plate in a fine, French restaurant, this is the reason: to highlight the skill taken to create the dish and the exceptional ingredients used. Their motto is, “Less is more.”
For a couple of weeks now our Chef has reminded us to practice “turning mushrooms,” as this will be a requirement on our final exam in just a few short weeks. Here is one YouTube video that I found helpful.
Chef’s Note: I’m not sure OUR Chef would whole heartily approve of the YouTube video’s technique, as the mushrooms are just “wiped clean” and not actually peeled as we learned last term in Basic Cuisine. I have to admit, the final look of the mushrooms is much better when they are peeled!
Our First White Exam at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit
In class 17 were given our first “white exam.” There wasn’t any help given from the Chef that day during our class with regard to our kitchen test (we could not ask him any questions regarding our recipe that day) AND, besides presenting our final plate of Pork Stew, we were to present at least one turned mushroom for a grade. Was our class paying attention? Not so much. Much to my dismay, I received a zero (0) for my efforts that day (for the mushroom, not the kitchen test). I was not alone- there were 3 or 4 other people in the same boat, either receiving a zero (0) or a one (1) out of 4 points. After a little practice over the weekend, 45 mushrooms, 1 YouTube video and a little help from my husband who is an expert in geometry, I am happy to say that the next time I am asked to turn a mushroom, I will not get a zero! I may not be ready to showcase the “perfect” mushroom for presentation in just a few weeks, but I can almost guarantee my grade won’t be zero.
This Week’s Marks at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit
I received all-around good marks this week and did especially well on the Pike Perch Dumplings. We learned how to perfect the “quenelles” shape for the fish dumplings. You can’t possibly just drop the filling into simmering water – that would be so uncivilized and far too easy! There are two methods used: one uses two spoons to form the correct shape, passing the filling back and forth between the spoons; the other uses one spoon and as you scrape it against the side of the bowl, you are to turn or roll the filling in the spoon as you go, for the best results. Check. Results, good. I can cross this off my “to-do” list.
Don’t let this presentation scare you – personally, I could have done without the whole-cooked prawn on the plate. I thought the taste of fish dumplings with the cream sauce was quite good and if I had not made them myself, I would have thought I was eating soft pasta.
I happened to find a similar recipe in my Gourmet Cookbook, one of the “Bibles” of modern cooking:
Here is a streamlined recipe.
I love the preface from the editor at the beginning of the recipe:
“Quenelles – light, delicate fish mousse dumplings that are formed into an egg shape and gently poached – are classic French cooking at its most ethereal and sublime. They were once reserved for professional chefs, but the food processor makes them much easier; you puree the fish instead of pounding it until smooth. Although the procedure still involves some work, you will be thrilled by what you have created.”
Stay tuned for next week’s lessons, where we will be making a savory chicken (Guinea Fowl), pork and cabbage pie, stuffed quail and Trout stuffed with Morrell mushrooms.
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.