Posts from the ‘Le Cordon Bleu’ Category

“Efficiency is intelligent laziness.”

-David Dunham

Well hello knife cuts from weeks ago, how have you been? They have been hanging with all the other things I did in school and didn’t post about. Six weeks go by like eating a taco. You’re all like that was the best taco (six weeks) ever, I devoured that taco (culinary information) so quickly, and savored every second of that spicy meat (class), did I just eat (take) four (20+) tacos (quizzes, tests, and practicals) that fast (that fast)?

We took one field trip down the road to a Filipino supermarket, made hollandaise, mayonnaise, an impromptu soup in 20 minutes with no meat or broth, made hollandaise, grilled salmon, had half an hour to mess around with plating non- edible food, had trussing demos, chicken butchering, squid, sole, and salmon filleting demos, made gazpacho with only brunoise cuts (which is even less satisfying when you are going to throw it all in a blender), had stock, roux, and bisque, and mother sauce demos, made a roux, oh and all the while sanitation was boring the hell out of me. A whole book of Serv Safe, and the most important thing I learned is wash your hands. Seriously, it’s the answer to most of the secrets of the universe. Oh, and terrorists are one of the saboteurs that will try and jack up your food. Terrorists, people.

Lobster Bisque

It’s a new feeling for me to look forward to going anywhere everyday. Every day. I get fidgety. Not here. The first six weeks was a lot of introduction, but also a chance for me to find out little details about things. It’s weird being in a class with people who don’t know who Anthony Bourdaine or Thomas Keller are, but then I never filleted a fish. We all have different knowledge, which I love most of the time (except for some venison butchering that came up once too much, there is a creep limit, buy a book, or google it). Of course there are a tiny few poky people, and what I like to call culinairheads, but for the most part we have a really great class. Being at the top of my class with people who are friends is pretty great too. It’s so nice to be able to talk about food and food nerd-related things, and not have to worry when you have to stop (at least I hope so).

week 2

I need to hustle more, and with zero knife skill practicing at home (I know, I know), I need to make cuts way faster. I do have less waste with my cuts. Yay me. My hand torture, I mean made mayo and hollandaise, is tops, but I look forward to you food processor mayo, my wrist does too.

week 2

This is just a fraction of the last six weeks, but just imagine the other parts being just as positive and smile inducing. Monday I start Culinary II, and no sanitation. Did I mention no sanitation?

This has been the extent of cooking since I have started school. Chicken scampi farfalle. While delicious, I miss cooking for real.

All in all it’s been a marvelous six weeks filled with pasta, fried rice, sandwiches, and breakfast for dinner. I did finally get to cook this weekend. That will have to hold me for six more weeks ­čÖé


It’s All a Roux


If you’ve made gravy, or stew before, a roux was most likely your road to thickening. It is also a major player in our next two mothers sauces. That’s four if you are counting. I am saving sauce tomate for last. It will get its own little post. After all she is the crimson princess.

A roux is equal parts (by weight) fat (butter, oil, animal fats) to equal parts bread flour, cooked to the desired color.  A good roux is stiff, not runny. There are three types of roux: white, blond, and brown. Remember, the darker your roux, the less thickening power it has. A roux is good to use in sauces that require medium to long cooking times, since you will need to cook long enough to rid your sauce of the raw flour taste. Other thickening agents are: egg yolk, cornstarch, arrowroot, vegetable purees, bread crumbs, and beurre manie. A beurre manie is equal parts (by weight) fat and flour that are uncooked. A beurre manie is used for quick thickening at the end of cooking to finish a sauce. You can keep this mixture at room temperature, to have on hand when needed. Another way to thicken is to make a slurry, which is a starch (cornstarch, arrowroot, corn, potato, or rice flour), mixed with cold water. Starches are less stable than a roux, so it can lose its thickening ability if added to an acidic sauce, or cooked too long.

roux<bechamel and veloute<small sauces


2 oz. butter

2 oz. flour

Melt butter over medium heat.

Once foamy, add flour all at once.

Stir well, and allow to cook at least 1 minute.

For roux blond, continue cooking until it begins to color.

For roux brun, continue cooking until darker color is achieved.

* Always add cold into hot, or hot into cold. Cold stock into hot roux, or hot stock into cooled roux. This will help prevent lumping, and give you a smoother sauce.


roux blanc

chicken, or veal stock, or fish fumet

bouquet garni

1. Make a roux blanc (see above), and allow it to cool.

2. Heat the chicken stock.

3. Pour hot stock into cool roux.

4. Whisk until roux has dissolved and the mixtures begin to thicken.

5. Add bouquet garni, and allow to come to a low boil.

6. Skim the scum!

7. Leave to simmer until thickened.

8. Remove bouquet garni, strain through a fine sieve, or chinois.

9. The veloute should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Here are some small sauces you can get from veloute: poulette, Bercy, curry, Normandy, Venetian, and Hungarian.



8oz. clarified butter

8oz. bread flour

1 gallon of milk

1 bay leaf

1 whole small onion, peeled

1 whole clove

1. Salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.

2. Make a white roux (see above), and allow to cool slightly.

3. Gradually add the milk to the roux, beating constantly.

4. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to simmer.

5. Stick the bay leaf to the onion with the clove. Simmer at least 15 minutes, if possible 30 minutes or more, stirring occasionally.

6. Adjust consistency with more hot milk, if necessary.

7. Season lightly. Spice should not dominate.

8. Strain.

Here are some small sauces you can get from bechamel: Mornay sauce, cheese sauce, soubise sauce, and mustard sauce.

As if school wasn't great enough, I get to eat too!

Chef's plate, our tasting. Pork with charcuterie sauce, mash, and cornichons.

Your Mother


Like a dog, I thought hollandaise would sense the apprehension on me, and not want to cooperate. Good thing this hollandaise was a cat.

We had a demo, then it was our turn to emulsify some magic. I broke my first one right before it was finished. My fault. I added to much butter at once. Patience! Next one, much better. That was last week. I practiced once at home that weekend. Today, we had twenty minutes to make one. A surprise that I aced. And the only one in class that served at temperature! Woo hoo!


2 egg yolks

lemon juice to taste, start with 2 tsp.

6 oz clarified butter, warmed

salt to taste

In a medium saucepan, bring 1-inch of water to a slow simmer.

In a bowl that is safe for use as a double-boiler, whisk (by hand) egg yolks and lemon juice until you reach the ribbon stage. It is what it sounds like. Whisk will make ribbons in egg yolks.

Over barely simmering water, cook the egg yolks while whisking until thickened. Control your temperature by removing from steam. The bottom of the bowl should be just too hot to touch. If you notice the egg cooking on the side of your bowl, check your burner and bowl temperature, and adjust.

Remove bowl from steam. While whisking, add a few drops of warm clarified butter. You are now starting to emulsify. Add a few more drops. Whisk. You will need to put your bowl back on the steam from time to time to keep a consistent temperature. Keep checking this! Your sauce will break if it gets too hot or too cold. It’s a sauce baby. You need to coddle it. You will know when it breaks. It will be a big greasy mess, and you will feel sad.

Continue to add butter slowly until all is added. Add hot water from you saucepan to loosen your sauce if it becomes too thick. (I have always had to do this). Do not over-whisk at this stage. You will be whipping in cool air, which your warm sauce does not want.

Add salt to taste, and more lemon juice if needed.

*Emulsified sauce: an amount of fat (butter or oil) is introduced to a water based liquid

*They can be hot or cold, and the fat is incorporated off the heat to ensure emulsification.

*Hollandaise is a hot emulsified sauce.

*Hollandaise can accompany many fish and vegetables, and of course eggs Benedict.

*Hollandaise is also a foundation for a number of other sauces (mousseline and mustard)

*Hollandaise is one of the five “mother” sauces. Mother sauces are leading or primary sauces.


1 egg yolk

1/4 tsp. vinegar

1/4 tsp. mustard

4-6 oz oil

salt to taste

lemon juice to taste

Whisk all ingredients except oil.

Slowly whisk in oil, creating an emulsion. Mayo will thicken as you whisk. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

*Mayonnaise is also one of the five “mother” sauces.

*Variations include: aioli (basically mayo), tarter sauce, remoulade, and gribiche.

*Herbs, citrus, and other flavorings can be added to make a derivative sauce.

*Mayonnaise is a cold emulsified sauce.

emulsion: a stable liquid mixture in which one liquid is suspended in tiny globules throughout another

lecithin: most common emulsifier, found in eggs and mustard. One end of the lecithin molecule dissolves in fat and the other end of the molecule dissolves in water – bringing the water and fat together.

Culinary school is about learning technique, not recipes. If my recipes seem not exact or not written in a strict sense, this is because I have written with the purpose of getting you to focus on your technique and palate, instead of your measuring spoons and cups. I know it may be hard at first, but soon (very soon), it becomes freeing. I prom promise.

Be Great, Not Good: Make Some Stock

Fish bones for fumet.

Along with measurements and recipe conversions I have learned that stock is the stuff of cooking life. It seems making stock at home has become a thing of the past, and I’m not sure why. Is there much better than homemade chicken soup? If a restaurant makes good soup, and nothing else worthy of my palate, I’m still visiting. Making lasagna is more time-consuming, yet I think there are more noodles being layered than stocks being made. Why cruel world, why?

Fish fumet

There are 5 main categories of basic stocks: fonds, fumets (fish stocks), essences, glaces (concentrated stock), and jus. They are divided generally into brown and white stocks. The basic ingredients of a stock are : bones, mirepoix, acid, spices and seasoning, and water. Veal bones are used for beef stock; chicken for chicken stock; white, non-fatty fish bones for fumet; lamb, shellfish, and the like for specialized stocks. Mirepoix is onion 50%, carrot 25%, and celery 25% (substitute parsnip for carrot if making a white stock. This is a white mirepoix, used when making a white stock to keep a light color). Leeks can be added to white and brown stocks. A vegetable stock may have a variety of vegetables. An acid helps to dissolve connective tissue. Use  white wine for white stocks, tomato or red wine for brown stocks.  Spices and seasoning can be added as follows: sachet bag or bouquet garni. They can contain parsley, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns (I crack mine), cloves (2 or 3), or celery. Last but certainly not least, the giver of life, water or remouilage (stock made from the bones that have already been used once to make a stock).

The bone-to-water ratio is debatable. At least 50%, up to 80% bones. I say start middle ground at about 60% bone, and tweak to preference. Do not use Brussels sprouts, asparagus, or spinach/leafy greens in your stocks. They will cloud your stock, and will not hold up to long cooking times. These are all general measurements. Most importantly, make sure your bones are covered with water or remouilage, and don’t use any overpowering herbs or seasoning, skip the salt, and as Chef says, “skim the scum”!

Hello, fish fumet.

Brown Stock

If you are making a brown stock, cut your bones in 3-4 inch pieces, roast your bones in a *375 oven until browned (about an hour). You can also separately roast your mirepoix if you like flavor, but you don’t need too.

Bring roasted bones to a high simmer, skim the scum, add mirepoix, keep at a simmer. Not a boil!

Skim the scum.

Simmer for 6-36 hours. Obviously the more you simmer the more concentrated your stock will be. If you are going for the long haul, add your mirepoix, and bouquet garni during the last couple hours, so you do not cook out the beautiful flavor they have just given you.

Strain through a chinois or fine mesh strainer.

Cool in small batches, and refrigerate. Then freeze if desired. Frozen stock can last for months.

There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?

And, white stock is even easier!

White Stock

Same as above, but no roasting. You want to achieve a light color. No Maillard reaction for you. (chemical reaction when glucose and amino acids are heated, the color and flavor change)

Chicken bones, water, mirepoix, boquet garni, and wine if using.

Bring to a simmer, skim the scum.

Simmer for 3-4 hours. Only 3-4 hours!

Skim the scum.


Cool in small batches.

Refrigerate or freeze.

Oh wait, fish fumet: even easier!

Fish Fumet

Fish bones, water, wine, mirepoix, sachet in the pot.

Bring to a simmer, skim the scum.

Simmer for 30-45 minutes. That’s less than an episode of your favorite show. If you can give 45 minutes to Dexter, you can give 45 minutes to you and your loved ones’ tummies.


Cool in small batches.

Refrigerate or freeze.

* For a cleaner stock, you can blanch your bones to rid them of impurities. Blood and such. You may also be blanching out flavor. Weigh this when thinking about blanching.

No, that is not every detail of stock making, but when you add some chicken, carrot, and some egg noodles to the chicken broth you just made, I promise you, you will want to perfect your stock, and will be on the hunt for all the little details. If┬á you go no further on your stock quest, you will still kick any canned soup’s ass, and that in itself is worth twenty minutes of prep work.

Fond of Fond, and Bubble Brioche

But a twee brioche.

I have not baked in two weeks, since I started school, and it’s starting to get to me. At least I think it is. It could be the lack of alcohol and cigarettes I have consumed since I started school. Okay not lack, but severely decreased amount. Which is a good and a bad thing. Yay healthy, blah, blah, blah. Boo, I miss red wine. It gives me migraines, and I just can’t risk missing even one class. We cover such an array of things in one day. I think when you are already educated on what is being taught on any given day, it is even more important to be there. You pick up tips, get answers to things that you may have questioned before, but had 5 different competing answers to, or learn a new, better way to do something. Since you don’t have to spend every brain cell trying to learn┬á something foreign to you, you can look at the details of a technique or an ingredient. I never put a lid on my pot to sweat vegetables, but Chef did. I thought they would steam, not sweat, and would not release the water necessary to, I don’t know, sweat properly? Sounds ridiculous, but it did prompt the question. All those sciencey things that happen when you are cooking is really what “cooking” is. You, and hopefully your delicious, handicraft-action produces a reaction.┬á And the reaction is the must-be-there-browned-crunchy-garlic-breadcrumbs that go atop macaroni and cheese. Yes, I could get by if I missed a day, but I would miss all the fiddle-faddle. I would have missed Chef joking about how the 4 hour window in a Viagra commercial (It was before a 60 Minutes story about Jose Andres) is the same as the 4 hour window for your food to be in the danger zone (41*- 135*). In either case after four hours, you are in an emergency situation. There are some things that you just can’t learn from books. A sense of humor is one of them.

Daily knife work has pretty much ended, and we will be putting what we learned (or should have learned) into action, not spending time on just cuts. With hardly any practice in class, unless you are a natural, you will need to practice at home or put in some extra hours at school. We will be tested on cuts in the weeks to come, but I look forward to improving beyond a passing grade.

We started stocks on Friday (tasting and lecture only), tasting vegetable, veal (my favorite), and chicken stock, chicken, lobster, and beef base. Base is the jarred, or cubed stuff that is readily available and most of the time made from the same stuff you would make stock with, but it’s expensive, and can be loaded with MSG, and other additives. Check your labels before you buy. It is called a convenience product for a reason. It is not called house made with fresh, local ingredients and love product. Be cautious.

It will be stockfest soon enough, but for now I will give bubble brioche the stage. It was the first time I made brioche, and the last thing I baked the night before school started. If you don’t eat them all, make french toast the next day. You may never used sliced bread to make french toast again.

Bubble-Top Brioche

makes 12

  • 1/4 cup warm water (110┬░F to 115┬░F)
  • 1/4 cup warm whole milk (110┬░F to 115┬░F)
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast (measured from two 1/4-ounce envelopes)
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)

Combine 1/4 cup warm water and warm milk in bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Sprinkle yeast over and stir to moisten evenly. Let stand until yeast dissolves, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.

Add flour and salt to yeast mixture. Blend at medium-low speed until shaggy lumps form, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally, 1 to 2 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in sugar. Increase mixer speed to medium; beat until dough is smooth, about 3 minutes.

Reduce speed to low. Add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until blended after each addition, about 4 minutes (dough will be soft and silky). Increase speed to medium-high and beat until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and climbs paddle, 8 to 9 minutes.

Lightly butter large bowl. Scrape dough into bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, about 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes.

Gently deflate dough by lifting around edges, then letting dough fall back into bowl, turning bowl and repeating as needed. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and chill, deflating dough in same way every 30 minutes until dough stops rising, about 2 hours. Chill overnight. (At this point, use the dough to make 12 brioches, or 6 brioches and 1 tart, or 2 tarts.)

Butter 12 standard (1/3-cup) muffin cups. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces; cut each piece into thirds. Roll each small piece between palms into ball. Place 3 balls in each prepared cup (dough will fill cup). Place muffin pan in warm draft-free area; lay sheet of waxed paper over. Let dough rise until light and almost doubled (dough will rise 1/2 inch to 1 inch above top rim of muffin cups), 50 to 60 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400┬░F. Place muffin pan on rimmed baking sheet. Gently brush egg glaze over risen dough, being careful that glaze does not drip between dough and pan (which can prevent full expansion in oven). Bake brioches until golden brown, covering with foil if browning too quickly, about 20 minutes. Transfer pan to rack. Cool 10 minutes. Remove brioches from pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

by Dorie Greenspan
*These are great with butter, whipped cream cheese, and your favorite jam. Maple butter is especially good.

Tourne┬┤, Tour-yes!

The tourne┬┤ cut and I are in the midst of a compromise. I have committed to practice until my little fingers cramp, and the tourne ┬┤will at least behave during my final in four weeks, so I do not embarrass myself.┬á Above is my first attempt on some zucchini before it was demoed in class. Ignore that bold bottom one, he’s in a time out for not cooperating. We have done about an hour’s worth of knife cuts each day, sometimes less. An hour of knife time to me is like 5 1/2 minutes. Before I know it, it’s time to start cleaning up, and all I have to show is a piece of zucchini the size of a large olive, with pointy ends (no good!), and a bowl full of whittled potato scraps. God it’s fun.

Last night sealed the deal that I must conquer the tourne┬┤. It has been the only cut that has entered my dreams. It was as if I was running in a mouse wheel, except the wheel was my hand, curve-cutting an endless potato (like opening up a peanut butter jar). It was potato purgatory, and I must get to tourne ┬┤heaven.

My cooking has been limited at home, except for a stir-fry, sausage sandwiches, and the above saut├ęed shallot and cheese scrambled eggs with garlic-saut├ęed zucchini, bacon, and toast, which was by all means fabulous, especially after getting home close to midnight. I leave at 5 in the evening, get home at 10:30 at night, and sleep from 8 in the morning until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, which might sound weird, but it is my favorite sleeping schedule. I’ve tried others, and it’s just the one for me. Needless to say, baking will not be happening during the week, along with anything else that takes longer than 20 minutes to prepare.┬á Tonight I ate the weight of my head in steak. Things like steak let me spend an extra half hour with Jim, and when I only see him for a couple of hours a day, a half hour is precious. I do miss cooking every night, but for a while it will be quicker, but still quality meals. And maybe some Taco Bell before I finish my sanitation class and can no longer stomach to eat there. I will miss you Mexican pizza. You too taco supreme.

A Girl and Her Kismet

Actual fortunes from actual New Year's Day.


The first week of the new year has been precious enough to last me through the rest of it. The years of living in a money pit (while a great movie with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, not mine, thank goodness), overdrafting weekly, locking ourselves out of the house three times in one month, having the bus pass us by after a long, cold, rainy night, hearing about countless others vacations and new cars, while we have to remind ourselves that walking to the store gives us exercise, deciding if we need cat litter or flour and sugar, are behind us. They aren’t necessarily not in front of us also, but for now, the world doesn’t seem to be single-handedly against us. We still have that litter/ flour decision to make, but I’ve adapted.

We started the new year out with lobster, and oven crisp potato chips, and a game of dominoes that some gin may have impeded on. I made my first brioche (I know, really? First?), and baked for 100 the day before culinary school started. It was a strangely therapeutic beginning to an otherwise nervous situation.

My first week of school has passed, but will never be true history. I will never forget Chef saying, “cattywapus”, or drying my first metal bowl with my new classmate. I realize even though we are all in this class together, we are all experiencing things in a completely different way. Some people don’t come from the obsessive world of food, reading blogs, books, and food sites all day. Some people don’t know what Vichyssoise is. And that is fine by me. In a pre-Le Cordon Bleu-world I may have judged that lack of knowledge. Not because I know everything, but because if I know it, everyone else must. Right? Wrong! Cooking is a never-ending learning process, and that tends to scare me sometimes. I am having a favorite reading light shined on what I know, which is more than I realize. I feel I am getting more out of class because of what I already know, be it books or chefs mentioned, not knife cuts, and food-borne illnesses. You pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down? Embrace and acknowledge the things you know, don’t deprecate them, but realize you and everyone else can’t know everything. It’s like when you think of all the books you would like to read, and then think of how many books you can realistically read, given you live a normal life span. Scary! Overwhelming. On average you will only have four couches in your lifetime. Maybe less!

I am coming to grips with not knowing everything, and for those who know me personally, they know what a challenge that is for me. I can learn what makes me comfortable, and happy, and keeps me alive. And then a little more. And with you all as my witnesses, buy as many couches as I can financially afford, to appreciate for the rest of my time as a couch-sitting-human.


I am highlighting the sauce here, we all know what lobster looks like. Hopefully ­čÖé If you don't already have this book, go get James Patterson's book Sauces (2008 edition) Go!

Slice potato, brush with olive oil, season before and after cooking, *390 until brown and crisp. 10-15 min.

Okay, don’t be scared, but below is dipping butter. Don’t think, just eat it. I finely chopped and added: a sprig of Rosemary, a small handful of fresh Oregano, and 2 cloves of garlic, added a pinch of crushed red pepper and nutmeg, salt and pepper into some butter and melted it over low heat while the potato slices were cooking. You can strain out the herbs, but why? I like a friendly slap of flavor once in a while.

“I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active – not more happy – nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago.”
ÔÇö Edgar Allan Poe