Week 10, which included classes 27, 28 and 29, was our last full week at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit before our final exam. We worked with red mullet fish, veal breast and lamb fillet as our main courses; these were the dishes we recreated in the practical kitchen.
This week was also the time when we presented our final “cookbook” (our individual class project) to the Chef. It included the recipes we would use on exam day. As part of this project we also were responsible for creating our ingredient or market list that was given to the production staff. Not surprisingly, everything had to be measured and counted twice for accuracy so that we had everything we needed to complete our dishes when the big day arrived.
Class 27: Red Mullet with Crispy Potatoes
Appetizer: I would call the recipe for tabouleh with shrimp a “molded salad.” What was surprising to me was the couscous was not really “cooked”- when I previously prepared couscous (a small grain pasta), I always poured boiling water or stock over the grains and let them steep in a covered bowl or pan to make the pasta soft. In the recipe the Chef made in class, the juice of a lemon “cooked” the grains. He combined all of the ingredients together (small-diced vegetables and fresh herbs with the lemon juice) and set it aside for an hour until it softened and the flavors had time to meld together. He told us that at that point, if we wanted the grains to be “softer” in texture we could add hot stock to the bowl – just ½ cup or so – to alter the texture of the salad.
Main Course: Earlier in the term we made a similar dish using cut bread slices to make fish “scales” that we adhered to the outside skin of the fish. In this recipe we used thin-cut potato slices as the faux “scales.” I guess practice makes perfect; the second time around, my fish (and outside potatoes) was cooked perfectly. The secret is to use just the right amount of hot clarified butter in a non-stick pan and only cook the fish about 75% through. The fish will continue to cook after it’s removed from the pan. This was one time where there was nothing really for the Chef to critique – the sauce was perfectly seasoned, no complaints on the fish and my carrot-orange butter (my new obsession) was perfectly glazed. Only one item could have been better: the zest of the orange could have been cut finer!
Dessert: French Macaroons continue to be all the rage in Bangkok. You can find them at all of the local French pastry shops and tearooms. In my classes at Le Cordon Bleu, even though we were not studying French Pastry, we learned how to prepare 3 types of meringue:
- Italian Meringue (made with cooked sugar syrup)
- French meringue (made with granulated sugar)
- Swiss meringue (made with cooked egg whites)
The recipe made on this day called for French meringue and English cream for the center filling (egg yolks cooked to 85 degrees C), and once plated was topped with a candied fennel ice cream and a mixed berry coulis (fresh berry puree or sauce). The macaroons themselves were tinted with green food coloring to match the use of fennel in the ice cream. A delicious combination!
Class 28: Glazed Beef Cheeks
Appetizer: The components of this composed salad were cooked crab (cooked in a homemade stock with wine, vegetables and whole spices), a tomato coulis (strained tomato juice) and a mayonnaise sauce using a vinegar made from “new wine” (the first pressing of grapes at harvest). The decoration was made with individual Chervil leaves.
Main Course: The veal breast was cooked using the sous-vide method: We used a vacuum machine and slow cooked the meat in vacuum bags in exactly 72 degree C water for 24 hours. Our only job for the day was making a sauce from the cooking liquid and browning and glazing the cooked veal, then preparing a meat stuffing and vegetable garnishes on the plate.
We had 2½ hours to complete our dishes. I decided to make both purple and regular mashed potatoes, candied fennel and a small ring mold filled with expertly cut carrots and turnips surrounding the stuffing. By the time I chose my ring mold, I was left with a tall cylinder rather than a short, wide ring mold. Unfortunately, after un-molding, my presentation was not perfect because the tower I created leaned slightly to the left, so a point or two was removed from my overall score that day.
Dessert: The chef made 2 dessert soufflés this week, both for class 28 and class 29. In this class he showed us 2 methods for making a soufflé:
- A warm mascarpone soufflé, the batter can be made in advance and then baked when ready.
- A warm yoghurt soufflé, this one must be made and baked immediately for best results.
Surprisingly, these soufflés are ready to eat in less than 10 minutes once they are popped in the oven.
Class 29: Lamb Fillet
Appetizer: The Chef worked with whole lobsters and made a cooking stock (also called a court-bouillon) with whole spices, water and the juice and center segments (called Supremes) from two oranges, a lemon and a grapefruit. The outside zests were cut julienne for decoration and the lobster shells were used to make lobster oil. I was surprised that one serving was ½ of a lobster as usually the potion size has been very small.
Main Course: This was the fourth time that we worked with a whole rack of lamb in class. The Chef waited until the very last class of the term to show us a much easier technique for removing the backbone! Why had he waited so long to show us this new trick?
We made a ground chicken, nut and herb stuffing for the lamb chops. We then wrapped the chops in a “brik sheet,” a prepared pastry that is similar to phyllo pastry (which is paper thin), but soft like a crepe.
The side dish we prepared was called a Provencal “tian” in French; I would call the recipe a vegetable stack. We used all of the ingredients you would normally use to make ratatouille, just in larger pieces and placed on top of each other when plated.
Dessert: Unlike in class 28, this raspberry soufflé was made with Italian meringue (not French meringue). One of the main differences, besides the use of different forms of sugars, is that the meringue used here was folded into the batter warm – not cooled down in the mixer as in other soufflé or cake recipes.
The Final Exam
After class 29 we will only have four days until the final exam. The next day in the kitchen will be our prep day: five hours that we can use however we needed. The Chef will be there to oversee the day and be available for assistance, if needed. Then, on day two we will have another five hours in the kitchen to prepare, plate and serve our dishes to a panel of judges for our last critique. These comments translate into a grade that represents 30% of our final term grade! Unlike on Exam Day 1, on Exam Day 2 he cannot offer any comments or feedback until everyone in the class presents their dishes.
Stay tuned for one last post on my final critique and my last thoughts on graduation day at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit!
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.