This week at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit we learned about:

  • Fish from the Mediterranean
  • Fresh pasta
  • Sous vide cooking
  • Molecular gastronomy

Week 2 was a short week. Even though Thailand just celebrated their New Year (“Sonkran”) a couple of weeks before, we had only 2 days of cooking because of more Thai holidays. The school was closed for Labor Day and the annual remembrance of the King’s Coronation Day.

Class 4 at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit: Red Mullet with Tapenade Sauce

"Tatin" of Belgian endive and goat cheese, sweet and sour jus; Figs roasted with rosemary, cinnamon mascarpone.

“Tatin” of Belgian endive and goat cheese, sweet and sour jus; Figs roasted with rosemary, cinnamon mascarpone.

Red Mullet with tapenade sauce and fresh pasta.

Red Mullet with tapenade sauce and fresh pasta.

 

 

You can tell this recipe is from Provence, southern France, because it calls for a sauce made of black olives, anchovies, garlic, fresh basil and olive oil for the fresh-made Fettuccine. It was quite a production for our class of 15 to fight over only two small pasta machines provided for us in class. I have made fresh pasta many times in the last few years, so this was a fairly easy day in the kitchen; I was surprised that many students had not, so this class presented a few challenges since they weren’t sure what the texture of the dough or pasta was supposed to be like. Fresh pasta cooks in just 2 or 3 minutes and can be easily overdone; I received good marks on what I presented to the chef. His only criticism was the amount of pasta served on the plate in relation to the size of the fish. All items placed on the plate should always be in balance!

Class 4’s technical challenges were cutting the zucchini into brunoise using the green outer skin only, making yet another sauce with just a few bones of the filleted fish and practicing how to butterfly and properly cook the Red Mullet. This is one fish where the skin is so thin you cannot easily cook it in a pan (even a non-stick pan) without the help of parchment paper in the bottom as you cook it.

Here is a recipe using Red Mullet that we will make later in the term.

Class 5 at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit: Vacuum-Cooked Pork Chops, Braised Baby Lettuce and Red Pepper “Ravioli” with Cardamom Foam

Appetizer: Eggs stuffed with truffles, port wine glaze; Dessert: Lemongrass cream, strawberry jelly and rhubarb crisps made 2 ways (this dessert can be made and served in a martini glass or baked in small ramekins, then un-molded into soup bowls and garnished with the fruit jelly on top).

Appetizer: Eggs stuffed with truffles, port wine glaze; Dessert: Lemongrass cream, strawberry jelly and rhubarb crisps made 2 ways (this dessert can be made and served in a martini glass or baked in small ramekins, then un-molded into soup bowls and garnished with the fruit jelly on top).

Pork chop, braised sucrine, red bell pepper ravioli and cardamom foam.

Pork chop, braised sucrine, red bell pepper ravioli and cardamom foam.

This lesson was all about using modern cooking techniques and molecular gastronomy for our food presentation. Much to my surprise, our chef told us this was his least favorite exercise of the term. He’s really not a fan, as he prefers what he calls “real cooking” that is seeped in tradition.

The first technical challenge of the day was learning the correct way to butcher the rack of pork so that each pork chop was separated into an even size and thickness. It is definitely harder than it looks. For this particular technique, we used a method of cooking called “sous-vide” in French.

The best part of the plate was the braised baby lettuce (called “sucrine” in French). We cooked the small heads of lettuce in a sauce made with onions, olive oil, golden raisins and veal stock, and topped the small parcels with fresh pomelo or grapefruit just before serving.

Braised baby lettuce ("sucrine" in French).

Braised baby lettuce (“sucrine” in French).

Here’s how we did it: For this particular recipe, the outer leaves of the baby lettuce are removed and blanched to keep their green color; the inside core is braised in the sauce until tender. Because the core will turn a dull brown once cooked, the core is wrapped inside the outer leaves to resemble small parcels and then put back into the sauce for glazing. The result is heavenly, and is one of my favorite recipes so far this term.

I had so much fun with molecular gastronomy!

I had so much fun with molecular gastronomy!

In addition to the super-tender and juicy pork chops cooked in vacuum bags at exactly 65 degree Celsius and then browned on the stove top just before serving and the braised lettuce, there were 3 other important elements on the plate using molecular gastronomy:

  1. Hazelnut oil powder (a combination of maltodextrose and hazelnut oil) used to add a specific texture to the plate.
  2. Bell pepper spherification (a combination of bell pepper purée with alginate and water, salt pepper and sugar that is dropped by teaspoons into a mixture of calcium chloride and ice water). The chemical reaction creates small spheres or disks that harden on the outside but stay liquid on the inside, if made correctly. The result will add color, as well as another layer of texture to the plate; once pierced, the spheres should melt open like a cracked egg or “ravioli.”
  3. Cardamom foam (an emulsion) is made with infused milk & cardamom seeds, Arian oil and soy lecithin powder/ all you need is an immersion hand blender to create the foam for an additional texture to the plate.

Stay tuned for my next lessons next week, which include crispy tart with tomato, grilled eggplants, caramelized coconut cake and more!

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.