Saturday, February 28, 2009

My Lesson In Burn Treatment

On Thursday, I had a late afternoon cuisine practical of seared steaks, celery root flan and turned potatoes sauteed in goose fat.  I was really excited about the steaks and had planned my plating perfectly.  For the flan, we cooked it in a water bath and removed it right before starting on the meat.  I had just taken the flan out of the oven and had a million things going and for one reason or another needed to move the pan.  Since I wasn't thinking, I grabbed the handle without my towel and am still regretting it.  Then, instead of going to the first aid kit, I tried to finish the rest of class without treating the horrific burn.  Huge mistake.  My hand is still blistered and I couldn't go to my next practical on Friday.  

My wonderful classmates noticed how badly I was doing and helped me with everything, from cleaning my station to helping with my "chef's assistant" duties.  Above are pictures of the hand and a one of the chef's platings.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Fattest Tuesday Ever

Yesterday was Fat Tuesday and the chefs at Le Cordon Bleu were in the celebrating mood.  They made all sorts of fried pastries and a mountain of crepes.  I also had two very tasty practicals; in pastry we made passionfruit-raspberry mousse cakes and in cuisine we made cassoulet with sausages and duck leg confit.  It was all delicious, but I left my creations at school to avoid having to schlep everything on the metro.  
After all that, a bunch of us went out to dinner at Odori, a wonderful Korean barbeque place near La Motte-Picquet.  It was a veritable feast, with lots of bibimbap and kimchi.  Since being in Paris, Korean has become one of my favorite cuisines.  All of us at school need regular breaks from the French fare.  
Today, during a cuisine practical, we made bacon-wrapped monkfish, braised artichoke hearts and a cauliflower gratin in Mornay sauce  It was my first time working with monkfish, which was very exciting.  I also got a chance to try out my new ring molds and the chef was very pleased.  

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Refuge Des Fondue

After a great Friday at school, Katherine and Austin and I decided to go to Refuges des Fondue for dinner and wine.  Located in Montmartre, this place is very popular with study abroaders.  The waiters are loveably rude and there are only 2 long tables.  When you get there, you think there won't be any room but the waiters have people smush together and make half of your party climb over the tables into the booth.  Then he brings everyone Kir cocktails and a plate of antipasto.  You can choose either red wine or white wine, both served in glass baby bottles.  Not only is it totally fun to drink out of a baby bottle, but it prevents the inevitable spilling that occurs when people climb over the tables. Then comes the tasty fondue; either meat and potatoes in oil or crusty baguette in cheese.  Writing on the walls in strongly encouraged.  

I love making fondue at home, Whole Foods has a great selection of cheese that are perfect for fondue, and there is usually a helpful cheese expert.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Eating Tuna By The Kilo

Today we had by far the most modern cuisine dish we have created at school. We made puff pastry crackers (putting a baking sheet on top of the pastry keeps it from puffing), marinated tuna and made a delicious tomato, confited garlic, olive and onion garnish. The results were amazing and this is a dish that I cannot wait to make at home.

Tomorrow we make stuffed rabbit and a strawberry "treasure" cake. Not as good at the tuna, but I'm still very excited.

My Favorite Homeless Man

After having a wonderful day at school, I had an even better surprise. Usually, whenever I go to Champion (a supermarket by my apartment), I see the same homeless man and I buy him an extra baguette or sandwich, or sometimes I would give him something I made at school. For the past month, he has been absent and I have sort of missed our little ritual. Today on my way home from school, I saw him all dressed up and on his way somewhere, looking very cleaned up. He saw me and gave me a HUGE smile and thumbs up. I think he must have found somewhere to live and that's why I haven't seen him at our regular spot.

So uplifting!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Student Dinner and a Potluck Valentine's

On Friday night, Le Cordon Bleu hosted the Intermediate class dinner at the famous Fouquets on the Champs Elysees.  The food was tasty, although I can see how it must me hard serving food to 150 people at the same time, let alone culinary students and chefs.  Before the dinner, there was a champagne reception.  I was in heaven.
Last night, for Valentine's Day, my friend Sasha had everyone to her house for a potluck dinner.  She gave everyone instructions to bring something red.  I brought red wine and cheese with red jams (I'm never in much of a cooking mood after a week of school).  We feasted on risotto with red wine reduction, spaghetti and meatballs, sangria, chocolate-covered strawberries, cherry pie and sugared beet ice cream.  

Above are pictures of some of us before the dinner, and one of the 2 chefs in charge of Intermediate; Chef Trachant and Chef Thivet.  

Pictures From My Apartment

Since today was the first sunny day in a while, I decided to take a few pictures of the view from my apartment.  If you look very closely, you can see the tip top of the Eiffel Tower!  Also, a view down my never-ending stairwell, a shot of Invalides, and Katherine and I grabbing a crepe a few blocks away.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Foie Gras and Truffles

Today I had 3 demos, which involved about 9 hours of sitting in the same room but it was worth it because they were all fantastic.  In cuisine we learned how to prepare an appetizer of foie gras and pig's trotters, then a main course of stuffed cabbage and a delicious apple flan dessert.  Then in pastry demo, we worked on savory petit fours; mini-pizzettes, pate rolls, cheese straws, and all sorts of little treats.  Then we had an amazing guest chef from Le Doyen, a 3-star restaurant here in Paris.  When the translator passed out the recipes, I was hugely disappointed.  Spaghetti with cream sauce and ham???  Sweetbreads with cream???  A coffee pudding??? I almost left before the demo even started.  I am so glad I didn't.  The "spaghetti" was handmade and the most delicious I've ever tasted.  The chef delicately lined a rectangular mold with it, then filled it with ham, a tasty chicken mousse.  Then he reached under the counter and pulled out a HUGE bowl of black truffles.  The entire class squealed in delight.  "I'm sure we don't get to each taste one," said a friend sitting next to me.  Sure enough, we each got to taste a decent sized chunk of truffle.  (Side note- they run about 600 Euro per kilo).  All of the other courses he whipped up were amazing as well.  

Desperately wanting to try Le Doyen...

Attached are pictures of chef's pasta creation, as well as my Plaiser cake from yesterday, which chef called "a complete catastrophe"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

American Saturday Night, French Monday Night

After a long week, a few of us decided to go bowling on Saturday night.  Someone found open lanes near Montparnasse and made a reservation.  To make the night completely American, we went to Joe Allen beforehand, a fantastic place in the 1st that serves the best burgers in Paris.  Both dinner and bowling were fabulous.  The bowling alley was hysterical, filled with French teenagers singing along to American songs they didn't understand.  Joe Allen was delicious, we even had a minor celeb spotting.  (So minor in fact that I don't recall the starlet's name.)  
Yesterday, as a treat after getting our mid-term grades, my friend and I went to the highly recommended Chez Janou in the trendy Marais.  Chez Janou is famous for its selection of Pastis.  The place was packed, especially for a Monday night.  We waited a bit at the bar, where the friendly bartender brought us yummy snacks and my new favorite, Campari and OJ.  Everyone in the restaurant looked like a cast member from Gossip Girl and everyone was having a ball.  We had a delicious Provencal-style dinner and will have to return soon.  We made the tragic mistake of filling up on starters and entrees and didn't save room for the "unlimited" chocolate mousse. Apparently, when you order it, the waitress brings a HUGE bowl to your table and you help yourself to as much as you want.  

Dreaming of chocolate mousse...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Heavenly Chocolate, Cod with Beer Sauce

Yesterday was a very long but rewarding day.  First in cuisine practical, we pan fried cod (with the skin on) and served it with braised cabbage and onions and a beer jus vinaigrette.  When blanching purple cabbage, you have to add vinegar to the water or it will turn blue, something I didn't know before this class.  The cod was a little difficult; it had a tendency to break apart when I tried to flip it in the pan, but one of my little portions turned out ok.  We also got to use the deep fryer to make some tiny onion rings.  Unfortunately, we all shared flour and milk for battering, so I couldn't use any tricks like beer batter or seasoned flour.  
In pastry, we made the "Heavenly Chocolate" which is a daquoise biscuit cake, topped with a crunchy chocolate hazelnut paste, then alternating layers of milk chocolate discs and milk chocolate mousse.  We used a new technique to make mousse; just making a light ganache then whipping it up, putting it on an ice bath for 20 second intervals.  The chocolate discs required a lot of patient tempering.   I finished my cake a little early so I had a lot of time to play around with decorations and even snuck in a little white chocolate drizzling.  
After 2 practicals, we had a demo for braised rooster, marinated in wine and served with a sauce that is thickened with blood....

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

If You Lick Your Fingers, You Fail Today

Today was wonderful.  I had a pastry practical; dark chocolates.  We worked on tempering, which went very well this time.  Chef says that tempering is easier with dark chocolate.  Our class was very relaxed and we all had a blast chatting while we worked.  The chef got a little mad about some repeated finger-licking and screamed that the next person to lick their fingers would fail for the day.  He left for a few minutes and when he came back, one of my classmates had of course sampled and accidentally gotten chocolate all over his face.  The chef had a field day tricking him into smearing more chocolate on his face.  Luckily, he didn't get the promised zero for the day.
We made the typical chocolate truffles; ganache formed into balls, dipped in dark chocolate and then rolled in cocoa powder.  They get their name because they look like the savory truffles, the wonderful fungi delicacy I love in pasta.  I had a little trouble because my ganache had lumps, so when I piped it into rounds, the pastry tip got clogged a few times.  Our other treat was marzipan mixed with coffee and rum, then covered in cut into squares and dipped in dark chocolate.  These were delicious, and I got to work on my dunking technique.  The trick is to drop the candy in chocolate, then use a fork to remove it.  You then gently tap the fork on the edge of a bowl and scrape the bottom of the fork on the edge.  These last steps get rid of any air bubbles and extra chocolate.  After that, you ease the chocolate off the fork and onto parchment.  I covered mine with walnuts, and made some leftover bits into a ball, a nod to bourbon balls. The chef loved it and called it my signature creation.  I think I lost all credibility when I made a bit of a cocoa powder mess rolling my truffles.  All in all, a great day

Nibbling BonBons...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

First Successful French Joke!

Recently, the digicode to get into the front door of my apartment changed.  Not shockingly, my landlord decided to forget to tell me the change so I was stuck outside the building, weighed down with parcels until a friendly neighbor, perhaps with a more considerate landlord let me in.  As a thank you, I gave my new neighbor friend one of the cakes I had made in class.  About a week later, I let a girl with a similar situation into the building ( I guess she had been on vacation).  As we stumbled through a conversation by the mailboxes, she recounted the story to another woman in the building.  I was trying very hard to understand their French, and I picked up on the woman saying that the man who owns the building must have forgotten to let everyone know about the change.  The women rolled their eyes about his error and I quickly jumped in with, "Ahh les hommes, c'est typique."  The women hooted with laughter about my little joke and I beamed that these French women had accepted me.

Hooray for small victories!