This week at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit:
- We worked with fillet of sole, monkfish and beef cheeks
- We practiced more brunoise cutting and vegetable turning
- We made crepes for the second time that we used as garnish on the plate
We are in the final countdown for the completion of our cookbook – one more week to go before the due date! This will account for 30% of our total grade, which will also include the presentation of our dishes. For the first time, we are in charge of ordering our ingredients for our special 2-course menu. Also, this week we were given our written exam for the term: 10% of our class grade. I’m glad that’s over with!
Class 24 at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit: Glazed Stuffed Sole with Surprise Crepe Parcels
For the appetizer, the Chef worked with duck and made a duck jelly, a duck mousse and used foie gras (duck liver) in his composed salad.
For our cooking test in this class, we completely deboned our fish and made a mushroom stuffing as well as a wild mushroom cream sauce. The cream sauce may have been the best thing on the plate! We used blanched chives to decoratively tie small parcels that were made from crepes and filled with sautéed wild mushrooms.
For dessert: To accompany the panna cotta (cooked cream) was choux pastry topped with decorating sugar, or what the Chef called “nibbed” sugar. Once baked, these are éclairs that are as light as a feather.
Class 25 at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit: Poached Monkfish
For the first time this term I was a little skeptical as to the taste of the appetizer and dessert that the Chef presented to us; there were so many components in the recipes and on the plate. I should not have been worried; they all worked surprisingly well together.
You can’t see the raviolis made with foie gras that are underneath the pumpkin soup; on top are small spoons of whipped cream mixed with black truffle and smoked duck breast. I’ve never tasted such an interesting dish! It was shockingly good.
If you had told me beforehand that green tea and chocolate would go together, I would have told you that you were crazy! The Chef spent almost half his demonstration on this dessert. There were two layers of sponge cake infused with green tea and Japanese sake, two layers of the most delicious chocolate and crispy rice filling you can imagine (basically, homemade Nutella and rice crispy treats without the marshmallows), and last but not least, a vanilla pastry cream mixed with white chocolate. Again, there were people practically swooning in their seats.
Two days in a row, we worked with fish. Monkfish is an interesting fish to work with as you need to remove two layers of skin before you can begin to fillet it. This time we left the bones in, poached it in a flavorful stock and at the end, added a few tablespoons of chervil butter to the sauce.
We also made gnocchi as a garnish but not from potatoes; we used a choux pastry made with chicken stock, milk, butter, saffron, flour and eggs. The preferred method is to use a piping bag to dispense small beads of dough into boiling water – about the size of my pinkie nail. Since this is literally a garnish on the plate and not a “side dish,” you only add 8 or 10 pieces (about 1 Tablespoon) to the final dish; that’s fine dining for you! Oh, and I got points taken off my presentation because I failed to peel my cooked cherry tomatoes. Gotta love the French sensibilities…
Class 26 at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit: Glazed Beef Cheeks
Our appetizer was made with pickled herring, diced apples, diced cucumber, diced hard boiled eggs and finely chopped herbs; then all of it was mixed together with whipped cream. The combination may sound a little strange, but I am happy to report that it all worked and it tasted great!
The dessert was a deconstructed Italian tiramisu presented in a martini glass. It had all the right flavors without the ladyfingers. Once the Chef added espresso to the cream, it was pure heaven. Usually a tiramisu is topped with cocoa powder, however our Chef did not think that would pair well with the fresh berries so he made a decorative dusting of the cocoa powder on the bottom of the plate.
For nine weeks our Le Cordon Bleu class ended after 7pm one night per week, which meant I usually did not get home until 8pm. Happily, lesson 26 was our last late night at school. On this particular evening our task was to prepare tender beef cheeks in just 2½ hours. We had to be very quick in the kitchen as we needed at least two hours of cooking. This cut of beef starts out as a very tough piece of meat. Once properly braised, the meat is very succulent and will melt in your mouth. In order to help along the process, our beef and diced vegetables were marinated in red wine two days in advance. At home, I would have set a slow cooker and let it braise for six to eight hours. In class, that was not an option. I was very happy that the cuts I was given were fairly small, so I had plenty of time to cook, glaze and present my dish for tasting. It tasted even better with a nice Cabernet.
Along with the beef, we were asked to prepare more “turned” vegetables – this time a whole carrot that was shaped, hallowed out and stuffed; we also prepared a small square turnip for presentation. After almost 90 cooking lessons, I finally discovered the secret to easily peel baby onions. In the past, it was always a fight to remove the correct number of layers; remove too little skin and the onions are tough on the outside and will cook through, but remove too much skin and the onions will fall apart once cooked. It’s a balancing act as they must be glazed whole, without burning, of course. I’m not sure the reason, but almost the entire class presented undercooked glazed onions (oh, the horror!). It seems the Chef misses nothing and sees everything in the kitchen.
Coming Up Next at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit
There are only two cooking lessons left in the term! Our final week we will work with red mullet fish and veal, so stay tuned to hear about my final days at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit. Our cookbook (the recipes we will make for our final exam) must be turned in to the chef before the end of week 10 and class 29. Our last day in the demonstration kitchen will be a fun one, as a guest Chef will prepare a special menu for our class, highlighting a fine dining menu.
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.