During week 7 of the Superior course at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit we learned to make these main courses:
- Class 18: Sautéed sea bream, stuffed calamari and langoustine risotto
- Class 19: Crispy sea bass with sautéed spinach, capers and lemon
- Class 20: Lamb rib roast fillet in a bread crust, artichoke purée with hazelnuts
We only had two desserts this week, so that the chef could focus part of his time to make a special appetizer presentation of foie gras:
Our chef called the 2nd dessert an “apple crumble.” Who knew? I guess it comes down to plating – yet again!
Class 18 at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit: Sautéed Sea Bream
In class 18 we prepared a seafood feast. Not only did we fillet and pan-fry our fish, we also worked with calamari that we made two ways and used every part of the langoustines (which seems to be a cross between a baby lobster and shrimp). We pan-fried the tails and made a stock with the shells for the risotto. This is the second time we’ve made risotto in just two weeks. Personally, I still don’t like the texture of the risotto we are asked to make; it’s just too “al dente,” or under cooked, for me. Even after I cooked it a little more at home, it wasn’t to my liking…
Class 18 was one of the few classes where we had another chef (other than or usual chef, Christian) who prepared our cooking demo. He really had to work hard that day to complete all of the recipes in three hours. He actually went 20 minutes over, a rarity, which gave us only about 15 minutes between classes. In addition to preparing a dessert and the main course he needed to present foie gras that had been made a couple of days earlier. He presented foie gras made three ways and made three accompaniments to the plate:
- Homemade mushroom vinegar
- Chutney made with pineapple, mango and banana
- Fig jam made with duck fat
I have to say, all of the flavors on the plate worked amazingly well together.
Class 19 at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit: Crispy Sea Bass
For the appetizer in class 19 we learned that the best way to remove crabmeat from its shell is not to break or crush the outer shell, but to carefully remove the meat in small stages with a long poultry needle. In this way, pieces of the shell will not inadvertently fall into the delicate meat. If it sounds tedious, you are correct! During the demonstration we tasted the difference between already prepared crabmeat you purchase in the grocery store versus fresh crabmeat removed from crabs that were boiled in a homemade stock called court bouillon.
The crabmeat was layered with a buckwheat cracker and what the chef called “tomato jelly” on top. After I saw it, it occurred to me that this was what used to be called an aspic. When I asked him, our chef was surprised I would know this term. He said he did not mention it because most of the students were not even born when making an aspic was common in French cooking. Apparently he and I grew up eating these in our childhood. In my case, my mom was always trying new recipes, especially those from Julia Child or a recipe highlighted in Gourmet or Bon Appetit.
Crispy Sea Bass with French Toast
As far as the main course, we had just seen a similar recipe demonstrated by a 3-star Michelin Chef who came to our school for a special cooking class. In his version, he filleted the fish, removed the skin and then cut a piece of sandwich bread the same size as the fillet that he adhered to one side before pan frying it until golden brown. On this day in the kitchen, instead of just cutting one piece of bread to fit the fillet (our Chef said this was too easy!) we cut the bread into small squares, about the size of your fingernail, and adhered them down the length of the fillet to resemble fish scales! Yes, this was another tedious and time-consuming endeavor. The fish was then sautéed in hot clarified butter to brown the top of the bread before the fish was baked, bread-side up, for about eight minutes. The final taste of the bread crust was exactly like eating French toast!
This term the Chef is encouraging us to be more creative in our cooking and presentations, so he has given us more freedom when preparing our recipes for tasting. In my case, for this class, I decided to make the Sea Bass two ways: one as outlined above and to the second fillet I made a nut and herb crust (rather than the elaborate bread “scales”). Much to my surprise, he liked my second version the best! It was definitely crispier. Unfortunately, my pan was not hot enough when I made the first fillet, so it was not very brown on top. The second piece of fish was cooked perfectly and was pan-fried in less than three minutes. He also liked that I took a few extra minutes and took part of the fish skin and pan-fried it until extra crispy. His main criticism was that I didn’t season the crispy skin! Aaagh…when in doubt, add salt! In my opinion, the best things on the plate were the crispy skin and the small chicken wings that were glazed in maple syrup. I could eat a bucket of those!!
Class 20 at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit: Lamb Rib Roast
For the appetizer in class 20, our chef made what he called a “beetroot salad” with langoustines and asparagus spears that he presented two ways:
- In a martini glass
- As a stacked salad surrounded with fine diced beets and individual herb leaves
The chef made a beetroot vinaigrette/foam; as garnishes, he made beet chips in the oven and he cut the beets into julienne and brunoise as garnish for the plate.
Of the two presentations I preferred the more decorative stacked salad:
Lamb Rib Roast in Bread Crust
For our third cooking class of the week, our chef told us this would be the most difficult of the term – after making the beef wellington last week, this one wasn’t nearly as difficult; it was just the timing that was a concern, as we had to make bread (again) that we used as a crust for the lamb fillet. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, we did not have enough time to let the bread “proof” two times and we ended the class 30 minutes late. We got to practice our “julienne” cutting skills with carrots, leeks and celery. Our “chef of the day,” not Chef Christian, helped us out by cutting the mushrooms for us, which saved us at least 10 minutes of class time, but he left us alone for the timing, so everyone in the class was scrambling to get their lamb baked before the end of class.
Stay tuned for more about my lessons at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit next week!
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.