So it has been a while since I have written – this is mainly due to the new year attempt at a diet and surviving on simple stir-fries that don’t really deserve to be photographed.
But today was the day of the hyped Taste of Le Cordon Bleu course and my fingers are still smelling of chicken and tarragon as I am typing this. I was so nervous beforehand that I even considered cancelling and not going, but I am so glad I didn’t.
First thing in the morning was croissants and coffee to calm our nerves – we received our welcome package, our aprons and our tea towels, and at around 9.30 we headed up to the kitchen. The area is huge, very convenient with enough work stations for everyone. We all got our own little tool kit too, which included knives, a whisk, a spoon, a peeler and a few other useful trinkets.
Then the first dish was, to quote the workshop recipe book, Gravadlax salmon and asparagus salad with poached egg and tarragon dressing. We got right to it… Gravadlax basically means a marinade of salt, brown sugar, Dijon mustard and brandy – it has a gorgeous sandy texture and it makes your fingers super sticky. I kept licking them when no one was looking. So we rolled our salmon fillets in this and cooled them in the fridge. We trimmed the asparagus then blanched them. Then we poached two eggs each (I did it without my little poach pouch for the first time! yaay!) and finally we made the salad dressing of mustard, white wine vinegar, a lot of oil and freshly chopped tarragon. For decoration, we received a piece of oven-baked and crispy salmon skin. This is what it became:
In this session, we also had to joint a whole chicken for the chicken fricassée – you all know how I swore not to debone any more birds, but… I had more difficulty with this than the duck though, honestly. First of all, we had to use a blow torch to get rid of the remaining feather (and I had to use tweezers before , gosh!). Then we had to take the chicken apart, cutting the wings off and getting the carcass out. Both of these went into a massive stockpot with a lot more chicken wings already prepped for us, and this became our delicious stock later (for which we also had to cut onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms into mirepoix/convenient cubes). For the time being, we put the chicken into the fridge.
When we finished this, we reheated the elements for our salmon dish and got our lunch break so we got to devour it instantly. The salmon wasn’t even cooked, because the salts work in it just enough for it to be edible (and they make it so delicious… like sushi).
After lunch break, even though it seemed impossible to move, we headed back to the kitchen and got started with the chicken fricassée. (For that, you can see the recipe a few posts back.) When that went into the oven, we got on to our dessert – Burgundy poached pear with chocolate sauce. We poached peeled pears in a syrup of red wine and sugar for about 40 minutes, then prepared a chocolate sauce of dark chocolate, butter and water.
And finally, we glazed courgettes and sautéed potatoes in clarified butter to go with the fricassée – and suddenly we were done. The sad part is, none of these got plated on site, so I’m giving you pictures of how they looked in the plastic containers:
Why is the pear plated? Because I haven’t even taken my coat off yet, I knew I had to have a bite… so, as I was, in the kitchen, with a fork, dug my nose into the fricassée and had a piece of chicken – and then prepared the pear and had it right there and then. It was absolutely delicious and I was overwhelmed.
Now of course, I am leaving out more details than I care to mention – from the techniques we learnt to the tiny niceties. The leading chef was very nice, very helpful and very French – and the three students who helped him were super helpful too. Every element was measured out and prepared for us, all we had to do was enjoy ourselves. It is an excellent and very enjoyable course – I didn’t really want to leave. But hey, I have an apron, and it’s amazing!
Vera Sugár, graduate with a journalism and creative writing degree, started writing at the age of 10. Passionate about literature, arts, history and languages, she speaks fluent English, French and Spanish. Her works are available at http://goodaswinter.wordpress.com.