Caveat — if you’re a total fan of the Cordon Bleu you should probably skip this post. I’m sure my expectations were too high, but the bottom line for me is that I was disappointed by both of the 1/2 day classes I took at the Cordon Bleu last month. The first class was perhaps the more disappointing. I tried suspending my judgement until I took the second class. Nope. My conclusion is that the classes I took weren’t worth the expense or my time and effort. <<Dommage>> as Meryl Streep playing Julia Child says in “Julie & Julia”.
Things began problematically. When I first saw our chef, he was bandaging his hand — having cut himself even before we started. That was followed by the unfortunate (for me) choice of having us prepare Bouillabaisse – “a traditional Provençal fish stew”. I’m not a fan of this dish. Notice the word “stew” and you might appreciate my disappointment. Stews, even French ones are not pretty or refined dishes. I tried to get over my initial disappointment and figured I’d learn something interesting. We began by making the soup base. There wasn’t anything new for me except that saffron is much less expensive in France than here in Palo Alto. Each student’s soup base got a really big pinch of beautiful saffron.
Bouillabaisse obviously contains fish. Our bouillabaisse was made with lots and lots of small and really hard to clean fish. The class was presented with two large pans of assorted small fish. Each fish needed to be cleaned. In addition to the Chef having cut his hand one of my fellow participants also required minor medical attention due to an encounter with one of the rather dull knives provided for us to use. I was beginning to see “rouge” everywhere. Cleaning lots and lots of little fish produces a fair amount of rouge, along with gris, noir and even some bleu.
I was hoping I could recover my composure by watching Julia Child make this dish. The French word for composure is <<sangfroid>> which translates literally to “cold blood” (“blood cold” actually, but that’s because the French like their adjectives after their nouns). I have her on the French Chef DVD seriesmaking a Bourride which is also a fish stew but in which she uses much larger fish. I can’t imagine cleaning any of the formidable creatures she had in front of her, but then Julia was the epitome of someone with <<sangfroid>>. Plus this was an older episode of her series and was filmed in black and white. There wasn’t any color at all, including any <<rouge>>.