27 Jan Three Weeks & I Still Have Ten Fingers
The first three weeks in most schools are usually all about chilling, meeting people, orientation, but for an accelerated course like the Intensive cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu, ‘chill’ only has one meaning! First class and I was busy trimming fins and pulling out gills. So the past 2 weeks here have been really crazy and I have been trying to catch up on all the technical skills and terms before the fear of exams hits!
The highlights of these two weeks are hard to pin down but I’ll try to summarize here –
- Cooking a rabbit – THE most dreaded practical. Since the first class, I have been praying for this rabbit class to somehow disappear or miraculously fly by. But I guess, it was fated. For the practical, we were each given a whole rabbit and expected to first behead it, then remove the legs, shoulders, ribs and the innards, one by one. And then to cook ALL of this.
Thankfully the head wasn’t used, but the heart, liver, kidneys, basically everything else formed part of the meal. For most, this might be ok but I once had a pet rabbit, so this was pretty traumatizing an experience. The worst part was having to squeeze out the blood from the heart. My fingers trembled in horror while I consoled myself repeating, “Just a raisin, squeeze it like a raisin”. Oh well, strangely for someone who had never seen a cooked rabbit before, my mustard lapin turned out great according to the Chef! Phew, done and dusted, hope I never have to do this again, EVER!
- Learning ‘Sabayon’ – An important French technique of making egg based sauces like hollandaise and bearnaise. I am a huge fan of eggs Benedict, it’s my go-to brunch dish and have been on the prowl for the best eggs Benedict in Singapore for 5 years now! But after learning the perfect poached egg and hollandaise here, I don’t think I am ever going to order this at a restaurant! Time to find some new brunch love. 😉
- Farmers’ Market Visit – One of the mornings was reserved for a tour of one of the farmers’ market in the area and understanding the art of selecting the finest ingredients. We were like excited kids running around the whole place marvelling at the awesome stuff that we could find from veal tongue to whole rabbits and exotic flowers to gourmet finds like canned foie, pure vanilla powder, miniature vegetables, strange smelling cheeses etc. It was like the best candy store ever. After the visit, we had a cold brunch at L’Argumant, just around the corner where we enjoyed sumptuous cold platter and wine at 11am! God bless the French for their wine love!
- Launch of a new Beaujolais wine at LCB, winter garden – We usually never read the bulletin board so obviously missed the news about this launch party. So it was a great surprise after one of our practicals, when we came to winter garden as usual, to sample our patisserie students’ work of the day, and whoa! The whole place was packed with our wine students in suits, table laid out with different kinds of cheese and cold cuts. Our school head and other staff were all present to participate in the launch of a brand new Beaujolais wine that was being introduced first to Le Cordon Bleu! What an honor! For most of us who were used to skipping lunch, this was a treat. Chef Poupard, gave a little introduction about the history and origin of the stuff we were going to try. It was pretty cool, loved the cheese tasting but I concluded that, unfortunately I’m not a big fan of the Beaujolais wine. :/
- Turning – This word, ‘Turn’ will never mean the same. In classic French cooking, vegetable turning is a crucial skill that chefs must master. It is a way to trim a vegetable from 7 sides such that every piece is uniform, with smooth edges and looks like this.
Back in the day, when chefs were starting out they would spend hours each day just turning vegetables! As easy as it might have looked when they did it, it was crazy hard when we tried. But it was something we couldn’t escape from – turned vegetables accompanied almost half of the dishes as a side! We were turning everything, from potatoes to carrots to zucchini to turnips.
All in all, three mighty weeks with loads of cooking went by way too fast and the final week is approaching, bringing in all the anxiety of the upcoming exams! We still do not know exactly what could be on our exam, although a little birdie told us it might be roast chicken and mustard rabbit on the menu! Nooo rabbit please God! *Jitters*