Bourdain’s Kitchen Basics: Session 3

By Karen

The grand finale of Anthony Bourdain’s cooking classes hosted by Sur La Table was all about protein:

  • Poulet Roti (roast chicken) with Herb Butter *
  • Steak au Poivre (seared steak with peppercorn pan sauce) *
  • Boeuf Bourguignon (beef stewed in red wine) *
  • Bourride (fish stew with aioli) *

(From Les Halles Cookbook, chicken page 181, herb butter 259, steak 130, bourguignon 202, bourride 114, aioli 257)

Interestingly enough, there was none of Bourdain’s favorite — pork.

Since we didn’t have time to complete all the dishes, our instructor, whom I’m calling Sue, had already started a pot of boeuf bourguignon and had 2 chickens roasting, although we replicated the recipes for practice.

Sue did her preliminary run-through and it was, as always, too much information. As I felt the now-familiar panic rising, I realized it wasn’t over my cooking skills, but a bad flashback to biology class. I had managed to dodge dissection duty in high school and switched to chemistry in college when I heard they were disassembling cats.

The dishes I wanted to avoid were the chicken and fish. If you’re a regular reader, you know I have a raw-chicken-skin phobia.

So my first choice was the bourguignon, but that group came together fast and I ended up on the fish stew crew.

It turned out to be the night’s gross-out dish on every level.

Sue had managed to snag us a sizable fish “frame,” which is every bit of the fish you would choke on, including the head, with its glassy, accusing stare.

The frame “sweated” in a Dutch oven while we chopped vegetables (fennel AGAIN). I diced carrots like a bumbling amateur and stuffed herbs into a little bag for the bouquet garni.

At our table, a newcomer had knife skills and other slick foodie moves. Then a woman whipped out a camera and snapped the poor fish skeleton staring up from the pot. Why?

While the frame boiled, the eyeballs turned into white balloons and camera girl ATE one. She said it had a hard center, so she must have chewed it, too.

Our lone male teammate cranked the food mill, a messy, pointless attempt to squeeze moisture from the frame. A pile of pulverized yuck ended up in the broth and had to be strained.

Feeling hungry yet?

Last week’s chicken stock reappeared, but I never saw it finished before it went into the peppercorn sauce.

The boeuf bourguignon was tasty, although a bowl of beef and carrots does nothing for me. The chicken was a little dry, but white meat does that. The steak was peppery, but pleasantly not overcooked.

Our fish stew was slightly overcooked globs of monkfish swimming in yellowish grease. That broth made a nasty, stinky mess for virtually no payoff. Sue told us it never goes over well.

For the first time, I realized that Sue seemed to measure the class’s success by how much we ate. Mistake, I think.

After I’ve slaved over a dish, the last thing I want to do is turn right around and eat it. And in none of these classes did we end up with any combination that constituted a “meal,” so I’d suspect anyone who cleaned the plate of having eating issues.

Tomorrow I’ll share conclusions about my attempt to learn kitchen basics from Anthony Bourdain and whether I’m turning into a foodie.

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2 Responses to Bourdain’s Kitchen Basics: Session 3

  1. Imabear says:

    The fish sounds incredibly gross. I can imagine the smell. Yuck. And the woman who ate the eye – not someone I’d want to hang out with. I don’t know if my stomach could have held out through the entire lesson. Kudos to you for managing it.

  2. catsworking says:

    Imabear, the fish didn’t smell bad. It had onions, carrots, tomato, and FENNEL in it, so the fishiness wasn’t overpowering. I happened not to be looking when that woman popped the eyeball into her mouth. I was looking at the frame fish’s empty eye socket, wondering how anybody (Sue) could just pop something’s eye out like that, especially when it looked all diseased. THAT was gross.

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