Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Intermediate Cuisine and Pastry at Le Cordon Bleu Paris - Highlights

Picture this: the swish, swish, ziz, zaz, of knife sharpeners creating the perfect chef's knife blade. Crisp, newly ironed chef's coats and aprons being tied with perfect knots, fish scalers and bearnaise sauce whisks ready to perform, whispers of step-by-step instructions on how to sear a rabbit saddle, and hair nets in place. These were the sounds and sights at Le Cordon Bleu Paris before today's intermediate cuisine exam. 

I made the rabbit with prune sauce, mushroom duxelles, and potatoes with goat's cheese, and it went well. I have to say the prune stuffing was fantastic, and hope the chef judges agree. I didn't take a photo because I was too busy frantically plating my rabbit thighs, stuffed saddle, and goat's cheese potatoes. Finished with a whole minute to spare (of 2 1/2 hours).

I had my pastry exam a few days ago and it went well also. I made the plaisir (dark chocolate and vanilla supreme cake) and was the first to finish, so I hope that means more points for organization. 

In summary, intermediate cuisine was all about French regional cuisine. Each demonstration included recipes, ingredients, and techniques from the different French regions. Oh so traditional, oh so French.

Intermediate Pastry rocked. I enjoyed it much more than basic pastry because I love mousse, and this was all about mousseseseses - chocolate, raspberry, vanilla, caramel, and lions, and tigers, and bears.

What's next? A trip to Morocco with my boys to taste the spices, shop for carpets, and walk the desert. Then, superior cuisine and pastry, and my ongoing effort to become a chef. Stay tuned.

Here are a few highlights from this term. Enjoy.
almond cake
raspberry and passion fruit tart 
red mullet with tapenade
salad with tomato jelly
three chocolate bavarian cream cake
tomato tart
chocolate mousse

sirloin with truffles and flan  
trout encased in corse salt dough
vegetable tart 
piece monte - choux ball and nougatine tower

Friday, August 12, 2011

Mary had a little lamb...

...whose fleece was shaved off, skin peeled off, and bones and meat masterfully cut into a dozen pieces.

Yesterday a butcher was invited to Le Cordon Bleu to demonstrate how to butcher a lamb. It was like watching a sculptor chip away at a marble boulder, finding his way to the human form beneath the rock. Only this butcher was not an artist creating a piece of art, but rather an artist of destruction. 

Butchers in France are very important people. Beef, veal, lamb, pork, and all kinds of charcuterie, including sausages, hams, bacons, etc., etc., etc., are incredibly important aspects of French meals. People go to their butcher for advice on how to prepare their evening meals, and very strong relationships are created between a butcher and his customers. It's all about loyalty, quality, and expert advice.

At our cuisine demonstration yesterday, it was all about hacking, chopping, and sawing. Vegetarians are probably up in arms while reading this right now, but believe me when I tell you that what this man was doing was not butchery. It was art. 

He was a master manipulator of the knife, the cleaver, and the saw. He had the hands of a surgeon, and is probably as knowledgeable about mammal anatomy as the best physician. He didn't have to use force, just his knowledge of the terrain was enough to guide the tip of a small knife around muscle, joints, and skin. 

After the demonstration, we turned this part of the lamb:
Into this:
chef's lamb with couscous 

my version
This is a delicious recipe influenced by North African and Middle Eastern flavors, but a la French style. It'll be interesting to compare it to the lamb and couscous that awaits me in Morocco, which is where I'm headed at the end of this month. Will be sure to tell you about it.