Bistros and Brasseries, the Final Day of Adventures in Culinary Land and a Tribute to My Mom

The large wooden doors closed behind me as I left The Culinary Institute of America. Cool drops of rain pelted down from the gray skies, bouncing off my umbrella ………. the day seeming to mimic the way I felt walking through those doors for the final time this week. Though my brain was bursting with a plethora of new knowledge and inspiration, my heart was sad to know that this was the culmination of a wonderful adventure…………..
…………. I spent the last week pursuing a dream; studying French cooking at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. You can read more about it in my previous four posts, but I’ll sum it up by saying that this has been one of the highlights of my life. My first glimpses of the incredibly beautiful, chateau-like exterior of the campus nestled high on the wooded hillside overlooking the Hudson River took my breath away and the passing week did not disappoint in any sense.

We spent our final day focusing on the Bistro and Brasserie style of cooking that France is so well known for. We learned that the two terms are generally used interchangeably and have come to represent food that’s simple, affordable, casual and fresh. Although I learned a ton each day this week, this probably was my favorite day as these recipes are ones I will tend to prepare on an everyday basis.

I loved my personal assignment; a delicious salad Frisée aux Lardons (Frisée Salad w/ Crispy Bacon) and Steak Frites (Pan-Seared Steak with French Fries), a selection you’ll find on just about every bistro/brasserie menu in Paris. I tried to document some of my recipe preparation with photos along with other pictures of our final day’s experience.

Thanks for sharing this amazing adventure with me. Your enthusiastic responses have made it even more fun! I hope I can go back one day as I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. There are a bunch of other Boot Camps I’d love to attend as well as a myriad of wonderful continuing education classes. If you’d like to see what the Culinary Institute has to offer, check it out here. I can assure you that you’ll not be disappointed!

Oh, and one last thing. My mom passed away about a year and a half ago. She raised six children pretty much on her own, as my dad died when I was nine. She was quite the gal; you can read more about her here. Due to the fact that she was a widow for so many years, I never expected that there would be an inheritance. This past spring however, after her house sold, we all received a small check. I was surprised and decided, rather than purchasing something of temporary worth, to do something special with it, in her memory. I wanted it to be something that would not only be meaningful and memorable for me but also for Scott as she thought the world of him ……….. from day one! (That wasn’t the case with all the boys I brought home 🙂 ) With Scott’s love for photography and my passion for cooking, these learning adventures we’ve been on for the last week seemed to be exactly what I had in mind for my unexpected treasure. They’ve proved to be way beyond what we could have imagined so we just want to say …………….. THANKS MOM! We love you!!

P.S. Be sure to check back as Scott will be sharing his photography workshop experience at The Institute of Culinary Education, located in the heart of New York City. He’s learned all kinds of wonderful tips and tricks and has been inspired to new levels ………….. I can’t wait to see all his new techniques!

My Mise en Place tray for my Steak Frites
…….. and for my delicious salad. Everything in it’s place before you start to cook. We also learned to do all the prep before you start cooking; chopping onions, celery, carrots, etc., mincing garlic, washing lettuce, measuring liquids, trimming meats, etc. When you get ready to actually cook, it all comes together like clockwork!
My frisée soaking in cold water before a whirl in the salad spinner.
Holy cow, have you ever seen a spinner like this? I think you could probably take a swim in it after you’ve spun your greens!
My lardons getting all golden and crispy. Lardons are simply thick cut cubes of bacon that are slowly rendered to make them crisp and delicious.
We cooked our fries the French way, once to blanch them and then the final cooking to a golden perfection. They were delicious and disappeared like hot cakes!
I cheated and ask Chef Bruno to arrange my plate. I wanted to see his presentation and I thought it was beautiful!
We had a wonderful pasta-making demonstration by Chef Bruno. He honestly had the dough made in less than 2 minutes!
It needs to have just the right moisture level.
He showed us how to turn it out without making a schweinerei.
Rolling it thinner and thinner ……. 
What a cool trick this was; he attached the two ends of the pasta dough ……..
…………… which made it much easier to work with. You don’t have to keep putting the dough back into the machine.
You do have to be a bit of a gymnast though …….
oh, and speaking of the gym, there’s no need to go if your making pasta Chef Bruno-style!
Three sheets all read to be sliced.
Oh my, this pasta was better than anything you could buy in a store!
Can you guess what these are?
Frog legs! I was glad when my cooking partner, Kenneth said that he was hoping to make the frog legs. I pretended that  I was being gracious to let him have that privilege but I’ll share with you that I really didn’t want to be touching a zillion of those slimy little leggies! 🙂
We learned the trick to make them plump and tender; a soak in cold water and a short cooking time.
This is Christina, one of our helpers each day. I am sad that I didn’t get to learn how she can make a mountain of dirty dishes disappear in no time flat! Maybe it has something to do with her beautiful smile………….
Our culinary team along with our fearless leader, Chef Bruno. I loved meeting all of you, you made the week even more fun! Au revoir, till we meet again!


31 thoughts on “Bistros and Brasseries, the Final Day of Adventures in Culinary Land and a Tribute to My Mom”

  • oh chris, that’s a meaningful and beautiful way to honour your mother. Very glad that i’ve followed you thru your experience in CIA and oh, that frog legs, we have lots and lots of them over here!

  • I just caught up with your big adventure. I am so glad you shared this with us all. I think everyone would have liked to have been in your shoes this week. And, what a wonderful and touching homage to your mother.

  • Hi, thanks you for sharing all the wonderful pictures. Glad to see that you had an enjoyable time in the play school 🙂

    The frog legs sure look delicious, I like to stir fry with garlic, ginger, spring onion and oyster sauce.

    Have a nice week ahead, regards.

  • I love your photos, Chris – it’s so fun to get an inside look at your experience (that fresh pasta – pure heaven!). I love that you used your mother’s gift this way. What an amazing way to honor her memory!

  • Oh Chris, I got so teary reading about your mother. That’s the highest tribute you could ever make to her – allowing her to help you to realize your dream. What would any mother want more than that? nothing.

    That pasta looks amazing! I’m not fond of playing with frog legs either but they’re quite tasty. 🙂

  • I’m getting all choked up reading your tribute to your mom and thinking about your cIA experience- thanks so much for sharing it was so enjoyable to follow along- I think I might bring Chef Bruno home in my suitcase,lol!

  • What a wonderful, wonderful way to use your inheritance. I’m sure Mom would be SO happy! P.S. I’m glad my hubby doesn’t know about mise en place…he’d never let me cook or bake any other way b/c he has to go to the store so often for me in the middle of a recipe when I realize I’m out of___! I guess it wouldn’t hurt to start, huh? lol)

  • What a fantastic experience!!! A lifetime of memories in one week. And such a wonderful way to honor your dear mother…I know she’s smiling down and you from Heaven.

  • It was a lovely lovely trip and thank you so much for sharing it with us Chris, I just loved the all week. Such an interesting adventure. I agree that this was the best way to remember and honor your mother in a way, doing things you both really love. I cant wait for Scotts experience at the workskhops, I’m sure it’s going to be another exciting post.
    Hugs and Kisses my friend

  • I have loved reading about your experience. I hope you will continue to share the techniques you learned while you were there. I am anxious to hear your husbands account.

    When I saw those frog legs I was thrilled. Someone gave me some frog legs when my children were in grade school. They and their friends were so grossed out. They kept making yuck noises. I said that was ok, they did not have to eat them since they were not for kids, only adults could eat them since only an adult had such a sophisticated palate. When I stepped away to put a load of clothes is the washer and dryer, I came back and they were all gone. They had eaten our dinner and I had to find something else for the adults. From time to time they would ask when was I going to make those things again. Thanks for triggering that unexpected memory. It made me smile. Oh, did you try them? They taste like chicken only better. lol

  • I’m so happy for you and your hubby that you followed your dreams! I also believe that your Mom was watching over you with a great big smile on her face! Have a safe trip home and I’ll be reading all about both your experiences to come!

  • I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your CIA experience – thanks so much for letting us be part of it. And what a great tribute to your mom! I value experience over things, so you did exactly what I would have done with an unexpected windfall. Such a great series of posts – thank you so much.

  • What a wonderful way to honor your Mother – by doing something that you love. You will always hold the memory of this week close to your heart as you hold your Mother’s love close to your heart. She must have been quite a gal.

  • How wonderful! I hope you share more of these tips! Treating yourself to a culinary class or two will make your Mom proud, for sure, in her heavenly place, blessing your efforts and your loving memories.

  • I have loved followed your daily updates. The CIA sounds gorgeous and you have inspired me to consider a class some day, though I might have to go to the California one as it is closer to my home : ) And I look forward to the mouse’s sharing of his experience.

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