Just for a moment yesterday, I imagined myself as a student at Le Cordon Bleu. Then I saw the otherwise jovial chef almost lose it when one of his assistants inadvertently threw out the jus for the roast chicken he'd been working on for the two hours previous. In that moment, I decided that I was just where I needed to be: sitting comfortably in a desk watching a demonstration of incredible cooking with no illusions that I would ever be able to pull off such a meal.
The Cordon Bleu cooking school certainly knows where the money is: putting on cooking demonstrations for well-heeled tourists and expatriates eager to get an inside glimpse of the métier of a French chef. For two hours, my friends and I scribbled notes as the chef prepared a holiday meal. The first course was a terrine of vegetables and foie gras, served with a delicate salad of herbs and vinaigrette. For the main course, it was a roasted chicken with boudin blanc (white sausage) and a chestnut garnish. And the dessert was a buche, the traditional Yule log, but rather than chocolate, this one was flavored with mango and raspberry. He kept half a dozen pans going at once, tossing off saucepans and utensils to an assistant to wash, and used a blender, mixer, and food processor with abandon. The instructions were enigmatic: the dacquoise for the buche was done when it was soft but hard, the amount of boudin blanc to incorporate depends upon what else you have on the menu, add enough water to rinse out the pan. But the results were delicious.
Pressé de foie gras aux légumes fondants
Poulet de Bresse rôti, petits boudin blancs et marrons au jus
Bûche à la mangue et à la framboise