Pan Seared Salmon with Saffron Compound Butter

Mostly known as having the prestige of alumni such as Julia Child and Giada de Laurentus and, um…Kelis, Le Cordon Bleu is easily one of the most recognizable cooking schools in the world. Possibly in the Universe, though I haven’t personally scoped the cosmos to see if this is true.

Pan seared salmon with saffron compound butter

For five decades since its inception, the school had one location in Paris, France. After being bought out by Andre Cointreau of the Cointreau liquor empire, the school subsequently opened 35 locations in 5 different countries. While I appreciate the higher accessibility of LCB training, the charm of moving to Paris to cook French cuisine at the famed school is cheapened, if not totally lost by this sprawl.

Cheapened or not, I completely buy into capitalist ventures (I want all the pretty things!) and couldn’t come to Paris to learn about cuisine and NOT take a class at Le Cordon Bleu. Situated in the 15th arrondissement off of Rue Delhomme, I arrived at the blue and white building at 8:30AM on the dot after rushing across town via the slowest metro in the world. If nothing else can be said about me, I’m at the very least consistent at running late for everything.

Le Cordon Bleu ParisLe Cordon Bleu - Paris, France

The interior of Le Cordon Bleu is larger than it appears on the outside with its multi-levels of demonstration rooms bustling with employees and students in pristine white chefs coats. The walls are peppered with pictures of alumni, especially prominent are the holy shrines of Julia Child, and I halfway expected to turn the corner and find effigies in her honor. Across the main stairwell were pictures of current students and a promotional poster for the movie Sabrina.

I sauntered up to the receptionist, panting and sweating, and while trying to sputter out my limited French, something horrible happened. A tiny drop of spittle flew from my flapping lips and landed on his cheek.


Le Cordon Bleu - Paris, France

He stood frozen. I stood frozen. For a moment it was just the three of us: the receptionist, myself and my renegade spit, swathed in tension. He broke the silence by smiling and saying, “allons y, s’il vous plait,” and leading the way toward the practical room.

Then as we were walking toward the classroom I tripped on absolutely nothing and fell up the stairs. Because first impressions are really important to me.

Once in the class I was sat in the back of the room since I was late as video monitors and overheard demonstration mirrors were adjusted. There were about 20 different students from every corner of the globe. Everyone was impressed by the girl from Zambia and less so by my Floridian roots.

Le Cordon Bleu - Paris, France

I picked this particular class not only for the tender niçoise vegetables and Italian meringue French nougat dessert, but for the pan-fried sea bass. Since my apartment doesn’t have an oven, I dedicated myself to seeking out cooking courses where I could practice the cuisine here in my little apartment.

The chef showed the class how to clean the large fish, instructing us to use kitchen sheers to snip off the fins and then make diagonal cuts down from the gills to start the filleting process. Starting from the top front of the fish, the chef ran a small knife along the backbone separating the meat from the bone and then scraped the meat off until each side was perfectly filleted.

Le Cordon Bleu - Paris, France

And just as I geared myself up to learn how this traditionally trained French chef with numerous accolades would pan fry the sea bass, he plopped it onto a baking sheet and shoved it into the oven before I even knew what was happening. I’d been duped!

Suddenly I was sent reeling back to my days in college when a “friend” invited me to a student musical, which ended up being a performance art piece involving long bouts of awkward silence and absolutely no music beyond the occasional screaming from the performer. The show peaked with an interpretive dance depicting The Big Bang. I…don’t even know. If my trust issues began with that shitty performance, this sea bass incident just clinched them.


Pan seared salmon with saffron compound butter

[print_this]Recipe: Pan Seared Salmon with Saffron Compound Butter

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 5 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4


For the salmon:

  • l lb salmon with skin on
  • 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic with peel on, crushed
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the saffron compound butter:

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 black peppercorns, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp saffron powder
  • 1 star anise pod
  • salt to taste


To make the salmon:

  1. Prepare compound butter before cooking salmon (recipe below)
  2. Heat olive oil and butter over medium heat until the butter has melted and started to foam. Add garlic clove to the oil.
  3. Dry salmon and season only the flesh side with salt and pepper (do not season the skin) and place skin-side down, pressing down to keep the skin from shrinking and curling.
  4. Allow salmon to cook skin-side down until half of the fish has turned opaque, about two minutes.
  5. Flip over and cook the flesh side of the salmon for another minute or until the center cut no longer shows a dark pink and the fish flakes apart easily.
  6. Discard garlic, move salmon to plate and top with compound butter.

To make compound butter:

  1. Scrape a little bit of the star anise pod into the butter, making sure to not scrape too much so the flavor isn’t too powerful.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients in with the butter and mix well.
  3. Place butter into plastic wrap and mold into a tube about 1″ in diameter. Refrigerate until firm. Slice into coins and place on top of cooked salmon.



6 thoughts on “Pan Seared Salmon with Saffron Compound Butter

  1. Kerry! How awesome that you’re taking a class at Le Cordon Bleu. A dream of mine as well, but I dream of the full-scale degree at some point. Though considering hubby’s distaste for French things (French kissing excluded), I think I’ll end up at the school in London instead of Paris.

    Kudos to you for taking the initiative to follow your dreams. Glad to see things are going well for you still!


    • Thanks Cheri! I loved the class structure, it was really organized and open for questions and the chef was really jovial with everyone. The plus side of going to London is that you’ll have an English-speaking chef and won’t have to work with an interpreter, though I thought that was part of the fun of this class 🙂

      I say go for it!

      • Ahhhh but this is the fun part Kerry – I do speak French! I lived there for a year and a half… so I know my way around a French verb conjugation! 😀 This way, when people are speaking French around me here, I can surprise them just after I’ve caught them making fun of us silly Americans. “Mais bonjour – j’ai compris tous ce que vous avez dit!! Et je ne suis PAS un cochon!!” Haha. I kid!!

      • I could’ve used you on this trip! My French is TERRIBLE. I’ve forgotten most grammar and vocab, so I speak like a toddler. A 6’1″ toddler with a beard. I know the clerks appreciate me speaking French, but I think more so for the comedic factor than for my effort 🙂

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