Posts tagged ‘pasta’

Oh, Snap!: How Long Has This Been Going On~

No time for a full entry! Look at this pretty picture!

I opened today. It was TOO. FREAKING. LONG.
I worked just about 13 hours I think. What the–?! But I think I managed to cover a lot of prep so that tomorrow wouldn’t be so bad… I hope. Fingers crossed.

I probably would’ve gotten out even later if not for the Knucklehead Brothers (and I mean this affectionately), Richard and Theo. I’ve actually become quite fond of them. Richard is eager to learn and always asks questions, and Theo’s going to be our intern in about a week, so he has no choice but to learn. They helped me out a good deal, and hopefully I gave them good advice and guidance about prepping. Richard rolled pasta today on his own (yay!) and I gave Theo a little tutorial about focaccia doughmaking. Let’s see how much information they’ve retained the next time I ask them to do these tasks….

I got home about an hour ago. I work tomorrow. So it’s off to shower and (hopefully) bed.

I leave you with this picture of what happens when you let me straighten up the walk-in. I just might color coordinate. Haha!

From left to right, we have: piquillo sauce, grapefruit segments, sliced orange on top of sliced persimmons, pickled onions, pistachio puree, eggplant-tahini puree, sunchoke puree, and lemon mascarpone. Mwahaha!

Tiny Steps, Huge Leaps, And Lots Of Progress

Holy crap, I just realized that this is the first anniversary of my becoming a line cook. Last year, March 3rd, I made a tiny announcement to the world… and now here I am. Damn, I’ve come a long way.

I’m glad I started this blog or else I would’ve forgotten this auspicious day entirely, but that in itself wouldn’t have been so bad either. To me, working is savoring each day, but also knowing that all the days blur into a collective. All same. All different. How zen. I told a stage today I’d been a line cook for “about 9 months” so the blurred days comment is quite apt. My sense of time is skewed!

I don’t want to get too maudlin but I’m just amazed at the changes in me and all around me in the year that’s gone by. I’m still timid and exasperatingly ultra-cautious (station 2, anyone?) but I can definitely tell that I’ve acquired a little moxie from working on the line. Is it too introspective to say that I am a reflection of the people who have and are working with me?

I have tried to imbue in myself:

  • Katie Furst’s vivaciousness
  • Dan Weiland’s friendliness
  • Justin Large’s wit and sagacity
  • John Anderes… uh, I try to do things opposite of him, but he had pretty sweet taste in music.

I want to be as awesome and reliable as Elliot, as fun and confident as Armanzo, a pillar like Jorge, and always try to lead by Koren’s example (though timid ultra-cautiousness tends to get in the way).

I opened today and I just had to take a picture of the pasta dough I was working. It’s one of the first things Justin Large taught me to make and I’ve had a special fondness for it ever since.

Cutting rolled dough into uniform sheets is always a thrill. It’s for that reason why I love to make pappardelle or pasta kerchiefs.

See those white speckles in the dough? Those are salt speckles. In my humble experience, a dough that’s rested long enough will develop those specks and is an indicator that it’s ready for rolling. It handled like a dream.

Thank you Justin Large for being my first (and so far only) kitchen Dad. Thank you kitchen brothers and sisters for enriching and educating me. Thank you Kitchen Gods for smiling on me more often than not.

I’m off Wednesday but back to work Thursday on Station 1. Fun times.

Oh, Snap!: Goodbye Pappardelle

Pappardelle is out, chitarra is in.
Here are some photo memories.

Cutting the rolled sheets.

Lined up and ready for service.

I’d like to think I make some damn pretty pasta.

Monday Opener

It was a bit of a surprise when I saw that I was scheduled to open on Monday since KO has been the Monday opener lately (and I’m usually on Station 3). That was cool though; I had the next day off. Yay!

The point of openers is to get prep (especially major prep) done for the day’s service. After setting up the line, my next order of operations was to start cooking anything that needed cooking. I was at a bit of a loss for a little while though, because I’d checked the prep list the night before and a lot of stuff was crossed off. I’m so hardwired on cooking major prep items first that when there aren’t really any around, I’m thrown out of sync.

In retrospect I could’ve gotten ahead on certain things, like spiced carrots (for the shoulder) or making the Amatriciana sauce, but I was too busy having my head up my ass at the time to remember them. And later on when they did come to mind, a little bit of laziness in the form of, “Eh, they have enough to last for the night. It can be made tomorrow” came into play >_< I shouldn't think like this from now on ._.

One of the big ticket items I did make that day was the pasta. We've changed the pappardelle back to chitarra. My prep cook's heart is a little saddened at this change because I love making pappardelle (I'll have to have a photo entry to that sometime soon) but as a line cook, I'm happier because it was a bit of a pain to cook. In the past there was a pot of water to cook the pappardelle to order, which I'm sure was SO fun :/ And then we started par-cooking the pasta sheets but even after oiling them they stuck together. So the chitarra is really better, prep-wise and presentation-wise. After rolling sheets, you just run them through the cutter attachment. And on the pick-up, there's less of a worry of overcooking the pasta and having it fall apart on you when you're plating it out.
Anyway, I rolled and cooked all the pasta. There were two fish tubs worth, so hopefully I saved Tuesday's opener some hassle.

Speaking of pappardelle, since it was no longer on the menu, the remaining bit was consigned to the comida corner. And when I open, I try to make sure I feed Jorge, our butcher (and my best friend at avec haha), and Manuel, our day-cleaner/dishwasher. These two are definitely among avec's hardest working staff and I want to see them taken care of. When I was a kitchen slave prep cook and worked under an opener, I really appreciated it when I was fed because avec doesn’t do staff meals. On top of that, Jorge comes in to work at 4am and Manny’s in at 9am, and aside from coffee, it’s not like they can make their own food. Lunch break? Yeah right. So I’ve made it one of my priorities to make sure to feed them because I remember what it’s like to not be fed and be hungry for hours. And the sting of indignation of being hungry and then seeing a certain opener eating something he made for himself.

Anyway, I cooked off the leftover pappardelle in a tomato cream sauce with kale/spinach, chopped up chorizo (from some leftover dates), and a small handful of the menu’s “ravioli filling” (pork neck meat with grated pecorino).

Katie (who was on 1 that night) came in early and had some, saying it was good. Yay! Jorge liked it. He had two helpings. Double yay!

As opener, I also made the daily antipasto that day. Other line cooks probably don’t think much of it, but I thought it was another big step in my line cook life, having made up an antipasto of my own. The last time I opened and had to make an antipasto, I copped out and remade some more of the antipasto from the night before, which was marinated kale with roasted beets. Freakin’ delicious and definitely sells, but a cop-out nonetheless. This time, the previous night’s antipasto was farro, white aspargus, roasted broccoli, and pomegranate seeds. Delicious and all, but I knew that it was a remade batch from Saturday and I was NOT going to sell the same kind of antipasto for the fourth day in a row.

Tada! It’s red quinoa with shaved fennel, roasted butternut squash and carrots, parsley, with sherry vinaigrette. I hope no one hated it, and I hope at least a good amount of it sold. (You can never tell with certain antipasti.)

Anyway, that was my opener. Who knows when the next one will be, but hopefully it will be relatively stress-free and I’ll make more awesome comida!

Oh yeah, I also wanted to report that on Saturday my Wusthof knife came back! How it happened, no one knows, but Elliot found it in his box. Yay! Ironically, when I went to make pasta, my cheap Edward Don knife that I use for pasta production went missing :/

The Last Huzzah

Today is like the last time I’ll ever have a set off-day, like I did when I was just a prep cook. I start tomorrow at 4PM. Whooooaaaaa…. O_O

Actually, I guess officially my last set off day was Sunday, but today I was helping old sous chef/current chef de cuisine of Big Star Justin in an event. It was a school presentation that tied in with their school lunches. Justin, Paul Kahan (the ruler of us all), Koren, and a bunch of other chefs are in a program called Pilot Light that aims to improve school lunches. So while Team Paul & Justin (plus Helper Betty) were teaching second graders about noodles and its ties to the Chinese and Chinatown (the kids had learned about neighborhoods last week), they were also teaching the kids on a deeper level to think about where this food (and in a sense, ANY food) comes from. In the noodle’s case, wheat: where it comes from, how it gets made, what becomes of it. And then as a reinforcement, they got to eat it (along with other chefs’ educational contributions) in an optional school lunch. It was pretty amazing. Or should I say, it is freakin’ awesomely amazing. Not only are Paul Kahan and Justin Large really good speakers (they were warm, personable, engaging and funny) they gave a really good lesson from which even I learned a few new things. And they brought it back to the school lunch improvement agenda, getting the children excited about noodles and vegetables.

Today’s menu was (comprised of the chefs’ educationally edible contributions): pork stew with polenta (though everyone was calling them grits since I guess the third graders had been learning about corn or something), cooked carrots, buckwheat noodle salad, and apple strudel. YUM! Versus regular school lunch of “taco”, steamed corn, and some fresh fruit. I have no qualms about steamed corn and fruit but until I took a closer look at the wrapper, I had no idea it was even a taco. I actually thought it was a honey bun or a doughnut. Actually it was some quasi-taco pocket that was actually just warmed up in a huge warming contraption. Yeah, warmed.
If you’re like me, you’re probably vaguely aware but not totally knowledgeable on present day school lunches. You could say Lunch Lady Doris is still there, but she doesn’t cook anything she serves anymore. She just warms up what state contracted caterers made and hands them out. They’re already portioned and sealed in plastic and you just rip it open and eat it. It’s basically airline food. But this makes airline food look gourmet. At least I knew what I was eating all those years ago on that Air Korea flight. Cos I sure didn’t recognize that taco even if someone had smacked me in the face with it. As Justin had said, “It may as well be Soylent Green.”
And that also reminds me, the school kitchen was TINY O_O;;; Since schools don’t cook lunch anymore in the conventional sense, they’ve shrunk the kitchen down to the size of a large classroom. When I walked in, I just kept looking around expecting there to be more. There wasn’t a fridge anymore to hold food, but a freezer for all the pre-cooked, pre-portioned stuff that they’d load onto a tray and put in the warmer O_O;;

But other than that, the in-school demonstration and lunchtime was FUN! I played my part during Paul’s and Justin’s lesson by showing the kids how to hand make pasta dough, rolling and cutting noodles, and talking a little about my Chinese heritage. And the kids were really smart. Not only were there huge signs hung up about composition writing (I sure as hell don’t remember writing compositions when I was a second grader. In fact, I think I was continuing through a phonics workbook >_>;;;), Justin once showed me their lesson plan and they were learning economics. Not “social studies”, but ECONOMICS. I don’t think I even knew that word when I was their age. So when one little girl raised her hand and asked if wheat grew in Libya, we were all pretty stunned. The US and European air strikes were still fresh in my mind since I saw the front page of the New York Times, but where does a 7-year-old learn about Libya?!?! (And yes, Libya does grow wheat as well as barley plus dates, olives, peanuts and soybeans. Thanks Wikipedia!)

And now I can check off one of my life goals: Become A Lunch Lady For a Day lol. Not that it was intense like standing in front of a 700° oven slinging dates, but it was a controlled wave of kids and we had to get out food fast for them since they don’t have too much time to eat it and then go out for recess. So we assembly-line portioned food and handed it out, and then got to reap the rewards by seeing their smiling faces while eating and some of them even wanted seconds. YESSS! I may not enjoy the idea of having kids of my own, but I can’t help but smile when after each lunch period was over, 100 kids would line up and just before they left to play, they yell “THANK YOU!!!!!” cos they really enjoyed their food.

There was a hairy moment when we found out we didn’t have much cooked carrot left, and what was a veggie side eventually became a carrot garnish for the pork stew +_+;;;
“What the-” I started to say when the plate was passed to me to portion, but Justin cut me off with a wry smile: “Don’t say it. We know.” I don’t know if Chef Erick thought kids wouldn’t like carrots, or he grossly underestimated how much kids would eat, or he left half the carrots in his car, but the fact is there were no more carrots, he’d left early, and he apparently didn’t want to take his 2-inch half hotel pan with him. Justin decided to take it with him back to Big Star. “Hell, I’m not gonna pass up free kitchen equipment.” Damn! I was just about to claim it for Avec but was just a heartbeat too late.

Anyway, I hope when Pilot Light does another school lunch installment, Chefs Paul and Justin (or even Koren) invite me back cos that was really enjoyable. It’s awesome seeing happy kids learn something. It’s fun to see professionals gab and pal around. It’s fun to hear Paul and Justin (and Koren and Publican-employee Sam) talk industry (or in Koren and Sam’s case, memories of Newport, Rhode Island).
And now, I need to take a much needed nap because I’ve been up since 6:30AM…. Nighty night.