During week 10 of the Superior course at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit I made this for my final meal presentation:
- White Asparagus and Hollandaise Sauce
- Chicken Chasseur
- Roasted Chicken with Morel-Herb Butter
My last days in the school kitchen were spent preparing our final exam recipes. We had a total of 10 hours over a two-day period to prep, complete and present our dishes to a panel of judges that featured white asparagus and hollandaise sauce in our appetizer and a Bresse Chicken in our main course.
One of the most distinctive characteristics of this prized, imported chicken is its black legs. It is farm-raised under highly controlled government regulations and hormone-free. We were asked to prepare the chicken two ways: one recipe for the breast and one recipe for the legs. I chose to roast the breast with an herb-butter under the skin and make a classic hunter’s stew with the legs and thighs. I paired the chicken with homemade fettuccine pasta.
As part of the final exam, our individual class project was to create a cookbook with the recipes for a two-course French menu:
Chef Mary’s Two-Course Menu
Appetizer: (1 plate to share 2 portions)
- Composed, vegetable stacked salad, topped with 2 white asparagus spears and hollandaise sauce
- Chicken liver pate
- Tomato jelly
- Flatbread crackers
Main Course: (4 plates) Imported Bresse Chicken
- Roasted chicken breast with morel-herb butter
- Chicken Chasseur, made with the chicken legs, white mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, wine and garlic
- Fresh-made herb pasta (Fettuccine)
- White turnip slices wrapped and filled with vegetables: green peas with pancetta and béchamel sauce, tomato concasse and roasted fennel with Parmesan
Here is how I prepared my Bresse Chicken for the final presentation:
Salt Brine for Chicken
Before I cook my chicken, I like to “brine it” for 4 hours for added flavor. This technique may not be one usually used in the French kitchen, but it is a technique that will ensure a moist chicken after it is roasted in the oven.
Salt and Sugar Brine:
- 1 liter of water
- 120 g coarse salt
- 120 brown sugar
- 1 lemon, sliced
- Bring all ingredients to a simmer in a large saucepan or stockpot, one big enough to hold a whole chicken, just heat enough to dissolve the salt and sugar.
- Add a few handfuls of ice to the pot.
- Prepare the chicken for the brine / clean and remove: head, neck and feet; save liver, kidney and heart to make a chicken liver pate; save chicken “comb” for the sauce.
- Add the whole chicken to the pot and keep in the fridge for up to 4 hours; drain and pat dry.
- Separate the chicken pieces for cooking, saving the whole breast to roast in the oven and the legs for making a stew; separate the thigh from the drumstick.
- If not cooking immediately, cover the chicken with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge until ready to use.
Roasted Chicken Breast with Morel-Herb Butter
Roasted Chicken is one of my favorite recipes to make. Here I will keep the breast with the bone and prepare a garlic-herb butter that I will use to stuff under the skin for added flavor.
Herb-Butter with Morels:
- 150 g unsalted butter, softened
- 50 g fresh morels
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
- All herbs, diced fine
- Fresh parsley
- Fresh tarragon
- Fresh chives
- Fresh thyme
- Salt, pepper
- 50 g Fresh Morels, sautéed
- 2 whole, bone-in chicken breasts (with skin)
- While the chicken in marinating in the salt brine, prepare the herb-butter
- Mix all ingredients, except for the mushrooms, either by hand or in a food processor, until smooth
- Remove the stems of the mushrooms and sauté in a hot pan until browned
- Fine dice the Morels and add to the herb butter
- Roll the compound butter in plastic wrap into the shape of a log
- Make both ends tight and refrigerate or freeze the mixture until ready to use
When ready to bake the chicken:
- If baking the same day, remove the chicken from the brine after 4 hours; pat dry and get ready to preheat your oven
- If baking at a later time, remove the chicken from the brine and refrigerate the chicken until ready to use
- Place an oven-proof skillet or baking sheet in a cold oven and set the oven temperature to 200 C
- Stuff the butter under the skin of the chicken breast:
- It is easiest to cut small slices from the butter log- using your fingers, carefully separate the skin from the meat of the chicken without tearing it
- Place 3 or 4 pats of butter in between the skin and the meat on each side of the breast
- Any leftover herb butter can be kept in your freezer for another use
- Season the chicken generously on both sides
- Place the chicken breast skin-side down on the hot skillet or baking pan
- Roast at a high heat for 20 minutes to brown the top
- Turn over the chicken and continue to roast for another 20-25 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 54 degrees C
- Remove the chicken to a wire rack to rest; cover with foil to keep warm
- Just before serving or when cool enough to handle, carefully cut the breast in half and remove the bones from the back-side of the chicken
- Slice the boneless breast at an angle into several pieces and decoratively place the slices on individual plates or on a serving platter, as desired
Here is how I made Chicken Chasseur for my final presentation:
In French cooking, this is a traditional, iconic recipe. Chausseur literally means ‘hunter’ and the term refers to poultry or meat dish that has been braised with mushrooms, tomatoes and garlic, similar to an Italian Cacciatore. This is a perfect dish to serve over homemade pasta.
- 2 T. olive oil/ 60 g
- 2 chicken legs, separated into 4 pieces, skin removed
- 2 small leeks, coarsely chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 T. flour/ 60 g
- 400 g dry white wine
- 400 g chicken stock
- 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 8 white mushrooms, peeled and sliced
- 16 morel mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed
- Fresh thyme, chopped
- Fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1.5 g salt
- 1 g pepper
- 30 g soy sauce
- Fresh tarragon, chopped (for garnish)
- Heat the oil in a large, non-stick skillet; add the chicken legs and brown over medium heat for 3 minutes per side, or until light brown.
- Set meat aside, transfer to a plate.
- Add the leek and onion to the pan drippings and sauté 30 seconds; add the flour, cook another 1 minute, then mix in the wine, stock and tomatoes and bring back to boil.
- Add the chicken pieces, garlic, mushrooms, herbs seasoning and soy sauce; cover the pan, reduce to low and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through to an internal temperature of at least 60 degrees.
Originally, I thought ten hours would be more than enough time to prepare my two-course menu. Unfortunately for me, I had a very bad two days in the kitchen, as I was a little too ambitious with what I offered and I forgot to “keep it simple,” as our Chef instructed us weeks ago when we were first planning our special menu. Had I focused more on the final plating and executing everything well, I would have fared far, far better. At the end of the day, I was not the only one who let the stress and nerves overtake them as four of us, out of 15 students, failed to impress the Chefs that last day of class.
I was ecstatic to hear that all four of us could have a second chance to prepare and make our dishes for the Chef! He gave each of us a 15-minute consultation that evening on how we could improve our recipes. We all came back to next morning with renewed energy and were given another five hours in the kitchen to once again prepare our special chicken dishes. The third day in the kitchen was everything I wanted it to be and I was happy with everything I presented. This time the Chef told me he ate every bite of the chicken and LOVED the modified pasta dish (this second time I made spaetzle). You can’t get better praise than that!
Two days later was graduation day! Our class of 15 was joined with the graduating French pastry students and those who completed French baking. With friends and family in attendance, as well as the entire school staff, we were presented with our official diplomas and symbolic “tall chef’s hat.”
We all worked very hard to complete the rigorous curriculum presented to us. Not everyone who started this journey with us made it to the end; there were 42 students at the beginning and nine months later, only 15 students remained. During my time at Le Cordon Bleu, I completed 540 hours of study in the classroom and in the school kitchens learning to master all aspects of French cuisine. We first mastered basic and intermediate knife skills and sauce making, then intermediate and advanced butchery skills and finally advanced sauce making and plating skills. Along the way there were French culinary terms to learn (276 of them!), a bit of French history and, most important of all, we learned the importance of regional ingredients in traditional French recipes. I will leave the classroom knowing that no job in the French kitchen is “too small” for a professional chef – every aspect on the plate and every detail of the menu is of utmost importance to the overall dining experience.
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.