Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Off The Shelf: The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry

Escape for a few hours into the life of a student at Le Cordon Bleu school of cooking in Paris. Imagine yourself sitting in on the morning's demonstrations, taking careful notes so as not to miss anything. Relax in your easy chair as you read of the intense, nerve-wracking practicals that take place every afternoon following the demonstrations.

By reading The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn, you can vicariously experience what it is like to quit your job, move to Paris, and attend the famous Le Cordon Bleu school. Flinn makes the book an easy and enjoyable read as she describes the school, the food, and life in Paris, all the time weaving in her own personal life.

Each chapter ends with an appropriate recipe for that chapter, recipes such as: Golden Onion and Roasted Tomato Quiche, Beef Braised in Red Wine, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Chicken in Wine and Thyme, and Banana and Nutella Crepes.

I chose to try the Spaghetti Bolognaise de Sharon, brought by a classmate of Flinn's (Sharon) to a student gathering. Sharon learned the recipe while in an Italian cooking class in Israel. The results were delicious!!! I decided the leftovers would make a perfect shepherd's pie or would be delicious served over hot biscuits.

(The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry)

2 large onions, chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 bottle (750ml) dry red wine
4 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. Italian herbs

1 cup heavy cream
salt & pepper
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley or basil (optional)
1 pound spaghetti, cooked and drained
Parmesan, grated

In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or saute pan, cook the onions in olive oil over medium heat until softened. Stir in the garlic, add the beef, and stir until the meat cooks through and separates into crumbly pieces. Add the wine and turn the heat up so that the wine bubbles continuously. Reduce by about half. Skim off any gray foam. Add the tomato paste and stir.

Cover and turn the heat down to very low, and cook for a minimum of two hours and up to four hours. Stir from time to time, scraping the bottom to ensure nothing sticks to it or burns.

Shortly before serving, stir in the cream and Italian herbs. Taste, and then add salt and pepper. Let simmer uncovered another ten minutes. Taste again, adjusting seasonings as necessary, and stir in the parsley. Serve with pasta, sprinkled with Parmesan.

Serves 6-8.


  1. Thanks for this recipe. I might make this tonight, though I don't have heavy cream. Would it work without, do you think?

  2. You can definately make this recipe without cream -- it will just have a bit more of an "acidic bite" to it and won't be so smooth. Sourcream will also work if you don't have heavy cream -- or half and half. But, it's worth making even if you have no dairy products to add to it.

  3. This looks great! Just a quick connection---at our culinary center where I work, our culinary director, Chef Sharon Van Meter was the first woman to graduate from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. I doubt she is the same "Sharon" mentioned but just kind of funny.

  4. I am right at the end of the book, myself, and was enticed by many of the recipes... and this was the one I was planning to try first. I am glad to hear it tastes great. :D

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