Monday, January 30, 2012

Le Cordon Bleu

This past Saturday I attended a cooking class at the California Culinary Academy (CCA) in San Francisco with my husband Chris and our oldest son, Christopher.  The weather in the City by the Bay was absolutely gorgeous! There were hundreds of sailboats on the water and the sky was blue and clear! 
My husband Chris turned 50 last November and the family’s gift to him was six Master Chef Cooking Classes taught by Le Cordon Bleu Chefs.  Chris loves to cook and does the majority of the cooking in our home.  (You can read about his love of cooking here.) Chris thought it would be fun to have Chris and I attend the class as well, so we also enrolled.
At the CCA there are a variety of classes to choose from. For his first class Chris picked: Culinary 101 – Basic Cooking Techniques.  It was a hands-on course and we were taught basic cooking techniques including sauté, poach, fry, grill and pan roast.  Even though we have all been cooking for a long time, it was nice to be taught the “right” way to do these things.  We received aprons that we got to take home with us and certificates of completion.  The class was three hours and we had an awesome instructor  - Chef Alan Calhoun.

We learned a lot about salt and the proper way to salt and season your food.  We tasted red, black, kosher and Punjabi salt. Most of us do not salt enough when we are cooking. We should salt before, during and after the cooking process to make sure the food is seasoned properly.  For example: when boiling water to blanch vegetables or boil pasta, the water should “taste like the ocean” and believe me, when we salted the water to blanch green beans, Chris added probably ¼ cup of kosher salt to the water and it really did taste like the ocean. And when the beans had been blanched and removed from the water you could really taste the salt and it gave a great fresh flavor to the green bean!
The class had 16 people in attendance and we worked in groups of four to prepare the meal.  Chris and I prepared green beans with bacon, onion and red bell pepper.  Christopher was in the Pork group. His group made the best pork shoulder with cipollini onions roasted in wine and honey – oh my goodness was it good!
Be prepared - I was TOTALLY camera happy!
Chris, Chef Calhoun, Christopher

 Getting started and reviewing our recipes.

I learned how to core a red bell pepper without waste and to julienne the pepper.  We learned how to cut half an onion in a fan shape so all the pieces are the same size.  We learned the best way to slice bacon so it cooks evenly and also if you cut green beans diagonally they look more elegant and sexy. We used Blue Lake Green Beans, which are more economical and have a better flavor than Haricot Vert (French green beans that are long and thin).  We learned to blanch the beans in boiling, salted water until they are crisp tender and then shock them in ice water to stop the cooking (this is something that Chris already does.)  We fried the bacon pieces and then used some of the bacon fat to sauté the peppers and onions (and seasoned with the salt and pepper) and then added the green beans to heat through and salted again just before serving. I know this sounds like a lot of salt, but they were absolutely delicious and not too salty at all.
The boys peeling and chopping their onions

My green beans and my bell pepper all cored
Christopher learned the different parts of the pig and how to remove the membrane on the back of the ribs so they cook better, are more tender and easier to eat.  His group seasoned the pork with salt, pepper and a bit of olive oil and roasted them in the oven.  The cipollini onions were cook with wine and honey and were delicious and sweet.  The onions and sauce were poured over the pork.  We also had marinated, grilled flank steak, scalloped potatoes with cream, butter and Gruyere cheese, roasted potatoes with garlic and parsley and for dessert Poached apples in Port with cinnamon and topped with crème fraiche and gingersnap crumbles.  Can you say “stuffed to the gills!”  The meal was absolutely delicious!

Chef Calhoun discussing the different areas of the pig and showing how to remove the tough part of the ribs. 

  Blanched green beans ready to be shocked and bacon! Can you say YUMMO!

The couple on the right are Bridget and Brady - they cooked with Chris and I and were a fun couple. 

Finished green beans with onions and peppers and the scalloped potatoes getting their sauce and cheese and ready for the oven.
 We also learned how to do a few garnishes.  This is Chris making carrot flowers.

These are the garnishes Chef Alan made. The potato is supposed to be a mushroom but it wouldn't stand up. The swan is made from an apple.
Finished potatoes and grilled flank steak
Finished Pork Roast with Cipollini Onions roasted in honey and wine and the Oven Roasted Potatoes with garlic and parsley!

Poached apples in Port with Cinnamon and topped with Creme' Fraiche and Gingersnaps

We had a great time; learned a lot, tasted a lot, ate a lot and pretty much were in a food coma by the time the day was over.   We had so much fun we are planning on doing it again.  The next class Chris wants to take is “Taste of Italy” where will learn to make tomato sauce and pasta from scratch. Doesn’t that sound delicious!
Bon Appetit'!


  1. Love all the pics. I am so glad he loves his birthday gift and that you get to love it too!!
    Happy cooking!!

  2. Sounds like fun and very informative too. I think the taste of Italy class sounds great!

  3. My mouth is watering.....yum!!! Looks like you guys had a great time! Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Looks like a wonderful time was had by all!! Hi,I'm Snoodles from Lilypadquilting, and I wanted to make sure you could get a message from me, if you win my giveaway....your profile is currently set to show "no reply blogger" if I try to reply to your comment. I just wanted to let you know!! Good luck in the giveaway!

  5. what a neat gift, I bet you really enjoyed your day!