We have been working on this soup for a few days. Chef says it’s “easy” as long as you follow precise instructions. Alright, let’s see if that’s possible!
Each day, before we go into the kitchen, we watch a three-hour demonstration of our lesson. Chef not only shows us the techniques for the recipe we will be preparing, but also complementary techniques on other dishes. Many days, it’s a gourmet tasting that includes dessert.
The demonstration room is large enough for all 24 enrolled students, and we listen and watch for 180 magic-filled minutes. Today will be the Consommé, French Onion Soupe and Marseille-Style Fish Soupe. Two of these, the French Onion and the Marseille are regional soupes, which is why they are spelled with an e. Chef also tells me that Intermediate will be filled with the recipes of regional French Cuisine. Oh — I really can’t wait!!!!
Consommé is a particularly-loved soup in Europe. It’s fat free, silky smooth, delicious warm or cold and the chief characteristic is that it is to be clear.
We start by making veal stock, letting it simmer for about eight hours. Then we “clarify” the broth by adding ground veal, vegetables and egg white. (Aren’t those the ingredients for meatloaf??) As I watch Chef add this meat mixture to absorb the fat and all the impurities that were making it cloudy, it’s like watching a talented magician up close. My brain has just been told that adding these items will make the soup clear, and I see it happening before my eyes, but I can’t wrap my head around the idea. How does this happen? Why doesn’t it turn into some terrible-tasting scrambled eggs or broth meatballs?
I realize it’s all in the technique. Adding these items to a cold stock, letting it gently warm up–but not boil–really does clarify my soup. In fact, it was one of my highest marks of the session. Looks like today, I too can perform party tricks!
Just as exciting as watching the cloudy stock turn clear was making the French Onion Soupe made with veal consomme. I’ve never had a more delicious soup in my life. It was rich and smooth and so full of flavor. Chef says there are as many recipes for French Onion Soupe as there are chefs. I think I’ve found the basis of mine. I imagine some cold winter in the future making gallons and gallons of consommé and inviting friends over to decide which french onion soupe recipe is the best. We could have French Onion Soupe tastings and also decide which wine is best. Ah, the future is exciting, and it’s only the second week of class!
Next up, the Marseille-Style Fish Soupe. Hmm, not Bouillabaisse (the only non-chowder soup I know) but made with a variety of flavorful fish. I learn that the key characteristic is the Rouille. This is a paste of boiled potato, egg yolks and the best of Provence: olive oil, garlic and red chili. The paste turns a beautiful orange color, reminding me of the warmth and hue of a sunset. Ah, with one taste of this beautiful soupe, my daydreams leave the winter-scape where I was making French Onion Soupe and settle on the beach, any beach, in the South of France where I can sip white wine and taste Marsaille-Style French Soupe with Rouille.
And I reflect that this is why I’m taking Le Cordon Bleu. It’s traveling through time and place. These recipes are as ancient as the people, and the regions as diverse as can be, from the glacial peaks of the Alps to the beaches of Normandy and Nice. Together, it’s a tribute to the beautiful bounty God has given us.