Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Putting the French into French cooking

The complexities of French cooking, via all seven classical French cuisine techniques, were explained in an intense, fast-moving demonstration today at the California Culinary Academy.

Chef Gilles Penot (left) of Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts School in Ottawa, Canada, was on the San Francisco campus , which is a Cordon Bleu affiliate school, for the demonstration.

In one hour and 45 minutes, Chef Gilles trussed a chicken for roasting, tournéed carrots and potatoes and cooked a meal as more than 30 novice students, including yours truly, sat in rapt attention.

Chef Gilles' heavy French accent made following his lesson more challenging, but it added a genuineness to the afternoon's activities. There was both a seriousness and a light-hearted happiness to him as he worked, an obvious manifestation of his love for le cuisine Francais.

His teaching involved a facile recitation of the proper French terminology interspersed with rapid-fire questions to students about why he was doing what he did or what he should do next.

In the allotted time, he showed the trussing, browning and roasting of the bird, glazing of the carrots and sauté of the potatoes, plus creation of a brown sauce from the chicken fat's flavors and a hearty-looking stock.

Bonus: In the class that followed, as we practiced our knife work, Chef Gilles showed me an efficient and effective way to hold the potato for tourné.

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