When I arrive home, my Le Cordon Bleu day is still continuing, I’m just changing locations. My bike ride home is quick as it’s all downhill in this direction. I get home before my husband and four teenagers so I have a few moments to unpack and set up.
My first task is my uniforms. Somehow, during the morning kitchen portion, I manage to splatter, drip or just spray food items on my white jacket each day. We are issued two so I can change and wear a clean jacket in the afternoon to the demonstration room. But when I get home, a liberal application of stain remover is needed–and in a hurry, so the wine or tomato bits don’t permanently set.
Then it’s another hour or two of transcribing my notes. Some write their notes in bullet form, and others who are skilled enough draw diagrams and pictures. Mine are mostly half-formed sentences with arrows leading to various thoughts.
Each night I struggle with my notes, sorting out the information for each dish. Because Chef is preparing three dishes simultaneously, my notes read something like: sauté the onions, prepare the pastry cream and marinade the fish. That’s when I can turn to my photos and verify: yes, the fish was indeed stuffed with mushrooms, not pastry cream, and the onions were for the sauce.
If I still have questions, I will usually turn to Julia Childs’ books and then to any number of books on sauces and technique that I had the foresight to bring with me last year. It’s also during this time I can look at a video from YouTube if I need further clarification. And sometimes, just for fun, I’ll search the internet with the recipe typed in French, and follow along a video demonstration in a language I’m not fluent in, but feel a rush of excitement whenever they use a term I recognize.
Other nights, when the technique is new or very difficult, I might even give it a trial run. One evening we had omelettes for dinner because I wanted to work on my newly-learned-but-not-yet-perfected flipping technique. Another night I wanted to work on deep frying and getting my choux batter to puff (this is batter used to make puff pastries). I made Potatoes Dauphine, a combination of mashed potatoes mixed with choux (cream puff batter) and deep fried to a delicious golden crunch. After multiple attempts, I succeeded in almost cooking them properly. I haven’t had any complaints from my kids though. I guess it just shows that if you deep fry it, everyone will love it!
By now it’s usually about 8:00 PM and my husband and children have arrived home from work and their various extra-curricular activities. Now is the time to share our day’s adventures. Dinner is served with the food I made at school and maybe a side salad and bread.
Once in a while, when my kitchen practical didn’t go so well, a little take-out is needed, but mostly, what I cook at Le Cordon Bleu is what we eat. For my family and me, many of these foods are new. Some, like the quail, are tastes we haven’t had before. But it’s become a family adventure. We have all begun to join in the fun of trying new flavors and understanding why it was prepared a certain way. It’s fun to compare them to other dishes and express what we liked or didn’t like. But some are learning too quickly and becoming too sophisticated with their palettes. For instance, my daughter does not like mushrooms. Last week when I brought home a dish with very small mushrooms in the stuffing, she stopped halfway through her meal and announced, “There are mushrooms in the stuffing.” I asked her how she knew, because they were so small and almost impossible to see. She simply replied, “Mom, I can taste them!” Oh well, what can you do?
By the time dinner is finished, I’m done too! It’s been a long day of concentrating on food and now all I want to do is spend time with my husband and my children.