Archive for the ‘Train’ Category

Lesson 20 Scallop Parmetier

According to the French chefs at Cordon Bleu, Antoine-Augustine Parmentier discovered the potato.  This is not exactly true; rather he was a big proponent of potatoes.  Originally in France potatoes were considered lethal foods to humans as they caused diseases such as leprosy.   During the Seven Years war, between 1754 and 1763, Parmentier spent time in a Prussian prison where he was fed nothing but potatoes for months.

On his release, he returned to France and campaigned on behalf of the spud and convinced the Paris faculty of medicine to declare the potato edible for humans in 1772.  Just think, had he not been successful there would be no French fries.  Mon Dieu!  To honor the man, he is immortalized on French menus throughout the country for his love of the potato and when you see a description of a dish on a French menu with the word Parmentier included it means there will be potatoes on your plate.

The Parmentier we cooked for this recipe featured layers of mashed potato and scallop beards cooked with minced shallots and a duxelles, finely chopped white button mushrooms.   This was the first time I opened a scallop which is a simple procedure compared to oysters!  The main white muscle that we eat is the adductor muscle.  The beards are known as the “tripe” de St. Jacques or the intestinal tract of the scallop.  The orange coral is also a delicacy and is the ovary of the scallop.  That’s the sum of the parts on your plate!

The beards take a long time to cook, almost and hour, as they are the toughest part of the scallop.  To braise the beards, we sautéed shallots in a little butter, added the chopped beards and a little water with a paper lid on top to hold in the moisture.  Checking the water frequently to ensure it has not dried out is key.  The mushroom duxelle is added near the end of the cooking, the whole mixture is seasoned and ready to layer with a potato mash.  A strange dish to be sure, but I suppose it uses up all of the edible parts of the scallop.

The scallop was sautéed in butter on a medium high heat.  Scallops take no time at all to cook, should have a golden color on each side and be served medium doneness rather than cooked all the way through or they are like rubber.  Chewing rubber is very disagreeable.

Will I make a Parmentier again?  Unlikely, but I am happy that Antoine-Auguste convinced the French to eat potatoes as I’m rather found of French fries.  🙂

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The second atelier for Superior Cuisine came up quickly with very little time to plan.  Once again we would make both an entrée and a main course to present to the chef.   The required technical elements were enrobing one of the main proteins in a pastry and presenting a brunoise, or small dice of vegetable, on one of the dishes.

The list of ingredients we were required to use included:

Gilted head sea bream /daurade royale

Cauliflower /chou fleur

Large spinach leaves /grandes feuilles d’épinards

Veal Tenderloin /filet de veau

Brittany artichoke /artichaut Breton

Pearl (spring) onions /botte d’oignnons nouveux

Raw beetroot /beetraves cru

Both Ingrid and I had the last position in our kitchen for presentation of the entrees, but also the first position for presentation of the mains with only 25 minutes between the two.  That meant that literally all the prep had to be done before we plated the entrée otherwise we would not be able to manage our main on time.   Chef Clergue assured us this was the best of all possible positions.  Yikes!

My entrée Sea Bream Filet & Spinach wrapped in phyllo pastry, cauliflower flan & tarragon beurre blanc with crispy spring onions.  Phyllo pastry was on the list of ingredients and being not so expert with wheat, I decided to wrap my fish in filo.  Having never used it before a little internet research ensued and amazingly there are so many videos on how to use phyllo pastry that I had an easy time overcoming any misgivings.  The main issue with phyllo is it dries out rather quickly when exposed to air so it requires a good coating of fat or butter between layers to keep it moist for baking.  The second challenge was ensuring enough moisture was wrung from the spinach so it would not make the pastry soggy.   After watching a couple videos, I was ready to give my recipe a try.

My main course – Veal Grenadin, Crisp Pancetta Rounds, Roasted Beetroot Puree and an Artichoke stuffed with Pancetta and Parsley.   As the atelier progressed, students were working on different elements of their recipes and I began to notice my classmates veal preparations were a touch more intricate than my plan to brown and roast my veal.  I decided if I was going to have a hope of impressing the chef that I would need to make a change.

How would I dress up this veal?  Roll in herbs?  A crust of some sort?  Then it struck me, the artichoke stuffing was a simple mixture of shallot, butter, lemon juice, chopped pancetta and parsley.  Why not stuff the veal instead of the artichoke?  So I did!  I quickly asked Chef Clergue for advice, should I open up the veal and then roll it and truss?  Was this the right approach?   Was there another method?


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Lesson 19 beef poivrade sauceThe deeper we delve into the Superior course at Cordon Bleu, the further we discover classical French recipes. In this lesson we learn to make a Poivrade Sauce, which is traditionally paired with venison or other game meat.  Pepper features in this classic but to jazz it up we would also be adding chocolate.  Or all of the class would except for me – I forgot it in the end.

The beef is trimmed and marinated in red wine spiced with juniper berries, black peppercorns, vinegar, orange peel and aromatic vegetables such as shallots, carrot and celery.  It needs only a short marinade, no more than 2 hours, so this is an easy dish to prepare.   The marinade is used as the base of the sauce, therefore there is no waste.

The beef is removed from the marinade, which is strained to separate the wine and the aromatics.  The wine is then set on the heat to boil.    The trimmings from the beef are browned; the pan is deglazed with red wine vinegar, and then with cognac. Then the strained mirepoix is added back to sweat.  The wine from the marinade is added, then some veal stock and crushed black peppercorns.   The sauce is reduced by one third and degreased throughout the reduction process.

Degreasing with a spoon is essential for a good sauce as who wants a plate full of grease.  I knew this but neglected my sauce until too late in the process and had trouble degreasing.  I had forgotten the vinegar in the deglazing process and added it after the wine.  A bit distraught, I decided to add more veal stock to counter balance the acidity.  Then after the final strain of the sauce, I was “suppose” to add the chocolate but it slipped my attention completely and I served it without.  Not my best effort!

Chef Clergue was happy with the cooking of my meat as it was exactly the perfect doneness but unimpressed with my sauce.  Not a big surprise.  It hadn’t even occurred to me I’d forgotten the chocolate until I plated and saw the other rich looking sauces the others had produced.   The flavors were fine despite my vinegar mistake but the poivrade sauce was too greasy.

What did I learn in this lesson?  Mostly – how to recover from mistakes in the kitchen!  Perhaps that’s really what all good chefs know how to do?   A little bit of this, a little bit of that, fix up the acidity, kick up the flavor – but one thing you can’t recover from is too much grease.

My top tips for degreasing meat sauces and jus:

  1. After browning meat trimmings for sauces in oil, strain them through a sieve and then blot them with paper towels to remove additional grease before adding back to sauce for the simmering stage.
  2. Before adding aromatics to the pan the meat was browned in, blot the pan with paper towels to remove additional grease.  Use water to stimulate the sweating of the vegetables instead of additional oil.
  3. Have a small bowl of clean water and tablespoon prepared to skim off grease as the sauce reduces.   Skim throughout right to the end.
  4. Skimming is easier if you stir the sauce to send the fat to the sides of the pan.  Spoon off fat into your water.  Change the water often.
  5. Remember the S words; skim, strain, skim, strain, skim, strain, serve – it’s repetitive but it works!

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Fricandeau - really?

Fricandeau – really?

On occasion, we truly cook some odd things in Superior Cuisine; in this case the oddity was Fricandeau.  Essentially Fricandeau is little ground meat patties, which are fried and served alongside the main event.  In this lesson, we made these patties from the leg of a guinea fowl.

The breast of guinea fowl was roasted on the bone, which means we would portion the whole bird and debone the legs.   The breasts were trussed, seasoned and went into the oven on a bed of chicken wings, mirepoix, including of all ingredients lemongrass, and bones from the legs.  The leg meat was ground and combined with mascarpone cheese, basil and chorizo.  French cooking?  Must be Basque!

A further interesting garnish we cooked was a Green Tomato Royale.  Essentially this is a flan but a “royale” is defined, as have less eggs and cream.   Green tomatoes are fried, spinach is wilted and all is pureed with egg yolks and a little cream.  The green tomato and chlorophyll from spinach keep the vivid green color in tact.  A very distracting element on the plate as the color is a bit too vivid.

Gigi, (aka Cindy) my good friend from Canada, was able to witness the weirdness at the day’s demonstration and also the presentation of our final exam basket of ingredients.  She was glad she wasn’t fed frog’s legs and rabbit!  Mini burgers, if not truly French food, where just fine with her!

I would say most of us were particularly distracted at the beginning of the demonstration by the presentation of the ingredient list we would cook with for the final exam…venison, oysters and macaroni?   So, the strange mini burger was somewhat in the background. I suspect there are some challenging times ahead of me to determine how to make this work for a classic French jury tasting our final dishes!

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Veal with morrelsVeal is meat for a very special occasion given its expense.   In this lesson we paired the veal with an equally expensive morel mushroom crust.   The morel crust couldn’t be simpler, the veal is seasoned and rolled in ground morels, nothing more, but the result is superb!   The flavors of the rich and earthy mushrooms bring sophistication and elegance for such an easy preparation.

The main challenge is ensuring you brown the crusted veal at a low temperature in the sauté pan to ensure you do not to burn the mushroom crust.  Also critical is ensuring the internal temperature is not above 55 C when served or the veal will be dry and overdone.

This is gorgeous recipe and will be gracing my New Year’s table this year.  So simple yet absolutely scrumptious!  Served with a puree of potato and caramelized apple, which complements the veal perfectly.

Pair with Bordeaux or bold Burgundy and raise a glass to the New Year and the good life!


1 Veal Tenderloin 500 to 600 g

20 g dried morel mushrooms

20 g fresh or reconstituted morel mushrooms

Salt and pepper

20 g peanut or canola oil

20 g butter

1 garlic clove, smashed with skin on

2 sprigs of fresh thyme

Port Jus

Carrot 50 g, diced mirepoix

Onion 50 g, diced mirepoix

Celery 50 g, diced mirepoix

1 bouquet garni (bay leaf, peppercorns, parsley stem wrapped in green leek leaves)

1 Garlic clove, smashed with skin on

50 ml Ruby port

250 g veal stock


250 g potatoes, peeled and diced large

70 g butter

100 ml cream

1 Royal Gala or sweet red apple, peeled and cut brunoise or small dice



  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C.
  2. Place the dried morel mushrooms in a blender or food processor.  Pulse until they are a powder.
  3. Trim the veal removing the connective tissue and fat; reserve trimmings for the sauce.
  4. Tie the veal with kitchen twine at portion size intervals.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Place the morel powder on a piece of parchment paper.  Roll the prepared veal tenderloin in the mushrooms.
  7. Heat the oil on medium heat; add the butter.
  8. When the butter is melted, add the veal to the pan and gently color on all sides.
  9. Place the garlic and thyme in the pan and put into the oven.  The veal will take approximately 12 to 17 minutes to reach an internal temperature of 52 C depending on the weight of the meat.
  10. At the 8-minute point, baste the veal with the pan juices.  Return to the oven.
  11. At 12 minutes test the internal temperature.  If it has reached 52 to 53 C remove from the oven.
  12. Place the veal on a wire rack set over a baking tray and cover with aluminum.  Rest the meat for 7 to 10 minutes before carving.  The temperature will rise as it rests.  If you like, test the temperature again to ensure it has reached 55 C before carving.
  13. Sauté the fresh morels in a little butter until warm for a garnish.
  14. Cut the veal into portion size pieces and remove the twine.

Port Jus

  1. Heat oil on med high heat.
  2. Add trimmings and brown well.
  3. Remove the trimmings from the pan into a sieve to drain off fat.  Clean the oil from the pan with a paper towel and return to the heat.
  4. Add the vegetables to the pan and cook for one minute.  Cover and take off the heat for 3 minutes.  The moisture from the vegetables will release the brown bits from the bottom of the pan
  5. Return to heat, remove the cover and stir to loosen the brown bits from the trimmings from the bottom of the pan.
  6. After a couple minutes deglaze with ruby port.
  7. When wine has evaporated return the trimmings to the pan.
  8. Add the veal stock and lower heat.
  9. Cook the sauce for 15 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by 1/3.
  10. Strain the jus from the vegetables and trimmings into a saucepan.  Discard vegetables and trimmings.
  11. Return the jus to the heat and continue to reduce while you cook the veal.

Potato and Apple Puree

  1. Cook the potatoes in salted boiling water.
  2. Warm the cream on low heat.
  3. Drain the water and leave the potatoes to dry out for a few minutes in the sieve.
  4. Mill the potatoes through a food mill, ricer or tamis/drum sieve into a bowl containing 50 g of the butter.  Stir to combine with the butter.
  5. Incorporate the cream gradually, and then season with salt and pepper.
  6. Keep warm over a bain marie.
  7. Melt the remaining butter in a sauté pan.
  8. Add the apple pieces and cook until apples are soft and caramelized.
  9. Add the apples to the potato puree and continue to keep warm on the bain marie.

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Chef Lesourd's Salmon with Herb Crust

Chef Lesourd’s Salmon with Herb Crust

Half way through the Superior Cuisine and we are faced once again with fish accompanied by a sauce made with veal stock.   I don’t enjoy the pairing that much as I prefer fish with light sauces, beurre blanc or even a simple salsa of fresh ingredients.

A strange and new vegetable in this lesson is a Chinese Artichoke.  It looks a little like a chubby worm and is strange to cook as it needs ages to become tender.  It has relatively little flavor so we cooked with onion, lemon juice, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaf and white wine.  Very strange and I doubt I will come across it in my trips to the market.

What we did learn today, is that there is more than one way to slice and present salmon pave’s.  Chef Lesourd portioned a large filet of salmon into a number of creative presentations that I will use again and again to dress up my weekday salmon feasts.


  1. Remove skin from one large salmon filet
  2. Cut the filet in half lengthwise; you now have two thinner pieces
  3. Set one half on it’s side and beginning with the thinner end roll the salmon up into a round shape.
  4. Wrap a piece of parchment, cut to size, around the salmon and tie with some kitchen twine.
  5. Repeat – two for the price of one!


  1. Keep the skin on salmon filet.
  2. Make a slice in the center of the filet from the top to the skin but do not cut through the skin.
  3. Flip on its side and fold the skin sides together.
  4. Wrap a piece of parchment, cut to size, around the salmon and tie with some kitchen twine.


  1. Keep the skin on salmon filet
  2. Cut off the small end and keep for another use (salmon salad sandwiches maybe?)
  3. Flip the salmon to have skin side up.
  4. Make three scores across the skin.
  5. Make a composite butter and stuff in the scores.

The recipe included creating herb crust out of fresh herbs of your liking, parsley, cilantro etc, softened butter, breadcrumbs (if your gluten free you can skip the breadcrumbs), lemon juice and an egg.  The crust is rolled out between parchment sheets on a baking tray then placed in the refrigerator to harden.  Pieces of the crust can then be cut and placed on the salmon pieces and baked in the oven.

A great lesson with a few different ideas for presentation that are so easy to accomplish with a few inventive knife strokes.  Next time it’s salmon for dinner, wow your dinner partner by giving your fishy friend a new look.

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Cuddly fish?

Cuddly fish?

I hesitate to discuss cuttlefish as my main reaction is to eating this fish is why bother?  Squid I actually like but cuttlefish is a weird and very rubbery fish.  I fortunately forgot my camera and have no snapshots to bore you with for this dish.  As such let’s talk about the other part of the recipe, gazpacho!

The gazpacho made at Cordon Bleu is likely not a recipe most Spanish would be enthused about.  This one included ketchup and bread crumbs.  How strange?  It is a soup right?  So why add bread crumb?   Or for that matter ketchup?  The most thrilling part of this class was the preparation of moijto’s in the kitchen by our wonderful assistant Emmanuel!   Cocktails with entrée awesome!!  They went down mighty nice during that late night demo I must say.  Prevented the revolt against the cuttlefish – good work Emmanuel!

Gazpacho is a very healthy and delicious tomato based soup which is served cold.  It makes an excellent amuse, first course or summer luncheon main.  The best recipe I’ve tried is from the Ad Hoc cookbook, Sungold Tomato Gazpacho, which is by famed chef Thomas Keller.  The reason I like this recipe is the use of yellow tomatoes therefore you are forced to make the recipe in the right season.

adhoc cover

Here’s a link to Vivek’s Epicurean Adventures with the recipe and some great photos.   To add to Vivek’s recipe instructions I would add that the tomatoes should be peeled if we are to make it French style (yes even cherry tomatoes I’m afraid), but I whole-heartedly approve of the substitution of basil for chives in Thomas Keller’s recipe!

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