Posts Tagged ‘Cordon Bleu Superior Cuisine’

Dossier Title pageI’ve been putting off writing about the Superior Cuisine final exam in some ways as it marks the end of my journey at Cordon Bleu.  It’s hard to believe that 3 years ago I had a dream to earn my Cuisine Diploma at the famous French school and now that dream has become reality.  I suppose with any accomplishment one sets out to achieve the moment you attain it is a bit bitter sweet for although you’ve dreamt of the moment arriving it’s fleeting when it does.

From the basics of chopping vegetables to advanced butchery skills, I’ve learned so much and I needed to bring all my focus to this last hurdle.  The final cooking exam is 4 hours long and believe me, every minute of that four hours was required.  We would cook our own recipes for the exam from a “panier” or basket of ingredients given to us 2 weeks earlier.

There were restrictions of course, with specific ingredients that must be used.  Venison, oysters, foie gras, red kuri squash, trumpet mushrooms and 30 cm long tubular macaroni.  Macaroni?  Isn’t that Italian?  Having not used macaroni through any of the lessons it definitely was there to challenge the class.  Another specific instruction was to deliver one of three different sauces, Diane, Grand Veneur or Poivrade Sauce.

Prior to the exam we were to hand in a dossier in French of the dishes we would prepare including a drawing or photo of the plating for the dish.   We were to cook and plate 4 identical dishes on exam day for a verrine and a main course for the judges.

I spent hours painstakingly reviewing the ingredient list wondering what I would do with oysters.  Forgive me please but I really don’t like them, as I find them overly salty and fishy.  As I had little experience with oysters, I wanted to keep the verrine rather simple so I decided on a Mediterranean theme of ceviche.   The base was a fresh tomato jelly topped with oyster ceviche and a delicate little tomato rose.

The main course of venison filet and shoulder I would prepare two ways, roasted and braised respectively, with accompaniments of one composed fruit garnish and two simple vegetable garnishes.  The villainous item in the panier, the long tubular macaroni would become a trumped up mac & cheese.  I do mean trumped up with trumpet mushroom ragout!

I was determined to practice a few untested theories on my dishes before the atelier to ensure I would not be in a huge mess.   Finding venison shoulder turned out to be a bit of a hunting expedition (pardon the pun).  My good friend Gigi (aka Cindy) was visiting me in Paris and was up for a challenge and agreed to seek out the venison shoulder while I was in class.  What a sweetheart!


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Poached Pears

5 cardamom pods

1 star anise

1 cinnamon stick

500 ml white wine

175 g sugar

2 pinch sea salt

2 pears, peeled, stems intact; slip the corer in the pear to create the cut but do not remove from the pear before poaching


  1. Gently crush cardamom with a rolling pin or the bottom of a skillet to slightly crack open pods without releasing seeds.
  2. Combine cardamom, wine, sugar, lemon juice, saffron, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Add pears; add water if needed to completely submerge pears.
  4. Cover with a parchment lid and simmer, turning occasionally, until pears are tender.
  5. Slice the pears in half.  Cut from the stem, without removing, to the end of the pear 5 or 6 times dependent on the size of the pear.  You want to leave the slices attached to the top of the pear as it will be fanned out on the plate

Savory roasted walnuts

6 walnuts

1 tsp rosemary, finely chopped

1 tsp fresh savory, finely chopped

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

1 tbsp maple syrup

Pinch cayenne

Pinch sea salt

1 tsp olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 190 C
  2. Open walnuts and clean.
  3. Mix the nuts with the herbs, maple syrup, cayenne, salt and olive oil.
  4. Place on a parchment lined baking tray and roast until golden.
  5. Let cool.   Chop roughly.

Sauted Foie Gras

4 escalope Fois Gras

30 g butter

  1. Preheat oven to 190 C
  2. Ensure pears and walnuts are prepared on the plates before beginning to cook the foie gras.
  3. Score one side with a diamond pattern for presentation.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. When ready to serve, sear foie gras in a hot sauté pan on the presentation side until browned.
  5. Flip onto other side, move onto lower heat and add butter and place pan in the oven.  Leave for 2 min.
  6. Pull out pan and baste foie gras in fat.

To present

Pear slices, savory crushed walnuts, slice foie gras

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Lesson 26 Black Prince LambBlack Prince or “Prince Noir” is a pseudonym added to the description of a French dish that includes black truffles.  Oh happy days, today we will stuff a beautiful filet of lamb with veal, cream, mushrooms and the “tres cher” star, truffles.

The lamb filet is removed from the bone and opened like a “wallet” (per Chef Lesourd), the interior is scored in a harlequin pattern, then flattened between two pieces of plastic wrap with a cleaver.  Keep the bones for your jus – as always.

To ensure the stuffing is not too easy on us students, the recipe calls for a brunoise of carrot, shallot, button mushroom (or “champions de Paris” en Francais) and truffle.  Veal is ground and used for the stuffing rather than chicken, which is more luxurious than our standard mousseline farce.   The meat is made even richer by the addition of cream and an egg white to bind it.


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Having spent the better part of my life living without gluten I have a fear of making pasta.  Not that I am afraid of pasta but it seems when you can’t taste what you are cooking I fear it will turn out badly.  Cooking involves all the senses and when you eliminate the use of one, in this case taste, you are sorely at a disadvantage.Lesson 25 Ravioli

The fish in our recipe is brill, a flat fish found in the Mediterranean, and is the feature.  A brill has two colors of skin; the face side is brown with a spotty flecked appearance while the back is white.  In classic Escoffier French cuisine the white skin can be presented but not the dark so we are to undertake fileting our fishy friend but we have to remove dark side of the skin.

Flat fish are difficult to filet, and in this case the dark skin must be removed before the flesh can be lifted from the bones.  A lot of tricky knife work?  Not so, a simple slit in the skin near the tail, a little loosening of that skin then drop the knife, grab the skin and pull it off.  Sounds easy, but the fish didn’t really want to give up his skin so easily so it was a bit of an effort.


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Lesson 24 Noisette of venisonAs we build towards the climax of Superior Cuisine and the final exam the heat is on.  Pardon the pun J.   We are charged with making one of three sauces in the final, a poivrade, diane, or grand veneur sauce.   In this practical, we must produce a grand veneur sauce.  I have to share, that after failing miserably on the execution of my poivrade sauce, my motivation to succeed in this practical was high.

Venison is a very lean red meat with a rather strong flavor as such it’s not to everyone taste.  As I am from Canada, it is quite usual to see game on the menu in mid range and high end restaurants which I happily order so I can enjoy a big red wine with my main course.

In this preparation the filet of veal is marinated whole for an hour in red wine, a mirepoix of carrot, onion and celery with a few black peppercorns.  Cooking venison requires a special touch as it is very lean.  The whole marinated filet should be seasoned with salt and pepper then quickly sautéed in vegetable oil over medium heat to brown on all sides.  Then into the oven at 180C until the internal temperature reaches 46 C for a thin filet or 52 C for a thick filet.

It is important to rest the meat for at least 5 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches max 55C then carve.  If you like your meat well done or over cook the venison, you might as well serve your leather shoe sole for dinner as will taste about the same.

Sauces should not be truly that hard at this stage of our Superior course but it seems getting the right flavor balance with the classics takes some determination. The new element in the grand veneur sauce is the addition of red currant jelly ou gelée de groseillles en Français.

It is made in the classic manner of all meat sauces.  After the trimmings are browned, the jelly is used to deglaze the pan rather than wine and adds a pleasant sweetness to the sauce.   The sauce flavor is then built up with a little red wine vinegar, a few black peppercorns, veal stock and the reduced marinade from the meat.

Overall the flavor of the sauce comes alive with the rare meat and absolutely demands a Bordeaux or Chateauneuf du Pape which suits me just fine.  It is a grand life, isn’t it!

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Lesson 23 Cod BrandadeFrench is a difficult language to master.   The name for instance of a size of a sink or a type of fish may have numerous expressions which are seemingly unrelated.  Blogger David Lebowtiz uncovered during his kitchen renovation that the description of  sink in English translated to at least 5 different words in French. Cod fish for instance in French is cabillaud, whereas salt cod is morue.  Why not “cabillaud sel”?  “Ou sel cabillaud?  As such, you can never assume that adding an adjective to the noun will translate properly.

Salt cod or “brandade morue” is a dried product, which needs to be rehydrated in water and desalinated.  However rather than use traditional morue in this lesson we used fresh filet of cabillaud and applied a cure of salt for about 20 minutes.  Ergo the “new style” label.  Once cured it was skinned and the heart of the fish filet was removed, which is the nicest piece, and sliced into portions with the remaining trimmings poached in cream and few spices.  I say few because there is not really a ton of flavor imparted.


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Lesson 22 Duck breast pommes annaThere are so many reasons to love duck, especially duck breast or magret du canard.  I love the slightly tangy flavor of the meat, the juiciness of a rose pink breast and the crunch of crispy cooked skin.   I am more apt to cook a duck breast or confit duck legs than roast a whole duck, perhaps for me the parts are better than the sum.

The duck breast is trimmed of excess fat and sinew and then the skin is scored with a harlequin pattern.  The breast is seasoned on both sides and placed fat side down in a cold pan onto the med heat.  The skin should be golden and crisp, which will take around 10 min, then the breast is flipped onto the meat side.  Continue to cook on the stove top until the internal temperature reaches 52-53C, then remove from the heat and rest for 5 minutes before slicing.  So simple you will need to prepare all your other elements before you begin cooking the duck!

The duck is served with a puree of cumin spiced carrots, which was a surprise.  Usually carrots are only included as an aromatic in most of our recipes to heighten the flavor of sauces, so once their flavor is extracted they are tossed away.   For this preparation the carrots are simply cooked in salted water, pureed with a little cream and cumin.  Just delicious!  This is an easy accompaniment that could make any weeknight meal more special.

This recipe included a new potato preparation, Pommes Anna. Anna potatoes are a classic French dish of sliced, layered potatoes cooked in a very large amount of melted butter.   For our method we peeled the potatoes then used a metal form to cut them into even rounds.  The rounds were then sliced thinly using a mandolin.   To create small a galette, we used a bilini pan to make single serving size.  There are many sizes the galette can be made, the main decision is the size of the pan or form you decide to use.

The galette is cooked on the stove top until the bottom is crispy, then gently – very gently flipped over, to brown the presentation side.  If you try too soon or the top layer is not stuck together with enough butter it could fall apart, so don’t rush or skimp on the butter.  That’s so French – don’t you think?

Continue for Pommes Anna recipe

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Lesson 21 Fish with leek base

There are numerous techniques for cooking fish from whole roasting, poaching, braising and sautéing but in this lesson for the first time – cooking fish in plastic wrap in the oven.  I suppose this is somewhat similar to poaching or cooking sous vide which also uses low temperature cooking.

The balance of the dish was excellent with the gently cooked sea bass filet and beautifully glazed tender baby vegetables.  The fish filet, 700 g, is first liberally sprinkled with salt and placed in the refrigerator to cure for 20 to 25 minutes.   The filet is then rinsed, wrapped in plastic and then portioned into 175 g steaks.  Then placed on a baking tray in the oven set at 65 C.  The steaks can take up to 40 minutes to cook.

In the meantime, the trimmed bottom portion of the leek, slightly green and white, is cooked in salted water until very tender.  It is then drained, patted dry and placed between two pieces of parchment paper and gently flattened with the flat side of a cleaver or a rolling pin.   This will be placed on the plate as a base for the fish.  Done in advance, it can be placed on parchment and rewarmed in the oven at 180 C for 5 minutes then gently slid onto the plate.

The baby vegetables all get the same glazing treatment in separate pans.  Peeled and clean vegetables, a ¼ bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, a little water, a knob of butter, good pinch of salt and a paper lid are placed in a pan on med heat and cooked until the liquid is almost evaporated.  At the end of the cooking process swirl the veg in the pan to glaze with the lovely buttery sauce that has developed.  Ready to plate!

Herb – parsley, tarragon, watercress – leaves and stems are separated.  The leaves blanched in salted water and the stems are chopped and sautéed with butter, onion, a clove of minced garlic and 200 ml of chicken stock until soft.  Then all is pureed in a blender.

The flavors are all very mellow but absolutely delicious!  The fish is delicate and moist and complemented perfectly by the buttery glazed vegetables.   The aromatic coulis adds a splash of color and herbaceous goodness that takes it from bland to bam!

These flavors would also translate well to other white fish such as cod or tilapia or other forms of cooking such as sautéing or poaching, so if sea bass is a little to rich for your pocket book just do a swap.  Use your extra cash for great bottle of Sauvignon Blanc!

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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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