May 29, 2007

Ah, Life

Once again, my real life has interfered with my Internet life. I have been cooking and eating up a storm, but alas have neglected to take any pictures or notes on what it is I have been doing. I do have some posts in mind, especially one about eggs, my "new" favorite ingredient. For now though, I'll describe my day yesterday.

-BBQ at our place. Post about homemade marshmallows soon (Forgot to take pictures then dropped a plateful of the finished product on the ground. So delicious, we ate the "floor s'mores" anyway).

-Walked up to the Mission for the fantastic I Madonnari festival, the annual chalk drawing event. Here are some pics that I snapped:

Definitely my favorite yearly event in SB, of which there are far too many. Honestly, do we really need a dog parade where people dress their dogs up like themselves? I thought not.

-After living next-door to the beach for the last 8 years, I finally went to my first beach bonfire. I like fire, I like the beach, all in all a great combination. I wanted to stay longer but being the delicate and modest version of ladyhood that I am, I needed to go home to use the toilet, and not some darkened corner of the beach. Dang bladder.

Eggs and marshmallows to follow.

May 21, 2007

And Then I Fell Off the Face of the Planet...

What I have been doing instead of blogging:

Celebrating the completion of my first year of school, one down, one to go. (Note the unintentionally placed, yet very meaningful and often used bottles of Excedrin). This semester was almost a total bust. After all of my free labor, lack of interesting classes (I honestly completed the final project for one of them in less than 30 minutes and I still got a 100%), I'm trying not to be bitter, its slow going. But I'm on summer vacation, my first in four years. Today is my first day off and I'm enjoying it by doing absolutely nothing.

Listening to ridiculous quantities of this and this (warning: sound)

Enjoying the beginning of summer (Cherries and peaches didn't make it long enough for a picture)

More content soon.

May 07, 2007

Down the Rabbit Hole

I know, I know, is this girl ever going to stop talking about this? Almost, I swear. If you're tired of this whole thing, you can just look at the pictures. I'm about to get verbose.

Yesterday was fantastic. I learned a good deal and I got my first real taste of what life behind the swinging doors is like. I think I'm going to like this cooking thing.

I arrived at 11, shortly after receiving the bad news that my parents weren't going to be able to make it due to unforeseen circumstances. I was really upset and spent a while trying not to be visibly so. After I got my head into it, I was able to let go and get down to business. I was stationed in the pastry department section again, after making myself familiar with it last Saturday when I helped out for a wine event. This time I actually got to cook though.

In the beginning of the day, people were being mellow, completing their tasks at a leisurely pace and visiting, seeing what other people were up to. I had two courses to put out and I was worried about time from the very beginning, so I tried to work quickly. Thank goodness, because as you shall see later, time was going to be of the essence for me.

First up, I began on my cake. Made the pistachio paste, learned how to put together the very fussy giant stand mixer and filled up my thirty individual cake cups. Into the oven they went. And this is how they came out:

Oh shit.

Totally unsalvageable. My previous emotionally fragile state makes a run for the surface. I fight back. Chef comes over takes a look and gently asks me how I feel about them.

"They're ugly."
"Let's unmold them and see how they look."

We try to take one out but it falls apart. Chef pops a bit in his mouth and likes how it tastes. At least they have that going for them.

"Would you be proud to serve this?"
"I wouldn't either. What do you want to do? We haven't printed the menus yet. ", implying that I can do something else or we can use something all ready produced.
"Start over."
"Do you have time to do that?"

But I've used the last of the corn syrup and need to wait until someone can run to the store and get more. Crap. Moving on.

Next up, custard. I grate what seems like a small mountain of cheese but it's only a quarter of what I need. P comes over and rescues me and my mental health by risking her fingers and using a handle-less microplane. We grate side-by-side. Meanwhile, people are popping by and nabbing bits of fallen cake. It does taste good. Not so much on the looks though. Finally, all twenty ounces of the pecorino are prepped and I can whisk together the eggs and milk, making a quick calculation of how much manufacturing cream (40% butterfat) I need to add to the 2% milk so its as if whole milk was used. Brain melting; the small amount of high school algebra I retained leaves my head and I make something up. Custards get placed in the water bath and as I put them in the oven I make a quick prayer, godless heathen that I am, hoping they come out all right. One baking disaster is enough thank you.

One less thing to worry about.

It's inching ever closer to the 5 o'clock start and I am obviously now pressed for time. One of the kitchen assistants, bless his heart, takes over the task of peeling my fava beans, which I now realize I never would have been able to do. My buddy A, of duck fame, helps with the dicing of strawberries. One of my co-chefs de cuisine helps by mincing shallots. I get cracking on my compote; time continues to fly by and the corn syrup has yet to arrive. At that moment everyone is done with their prep and they are hanging out, chatting and looking like everything is under control. I am silently freaking out.

The fava bean salad comes together quickly after I abandon using the mandoline that was shredding my lemons. I end up slicing them by hand which isn't as haute cuisine as it ought to be, but for now, it will do. Cordon Bleu, I am not. It looks a like a bowl of springtime, and its one more thing that is ready to go. The cheese course is almost finished now except for the a la minute broiling and final decoration.

At 3:30 pm, Chef hands me a bottle of syrup and I start anew. Calculating that if I get the cake in the oven at 4, it will be out at 4:30p which will leave barely enough cooling time for the tasting for the front of house staff at 5. Cake goes in at 4:30, and comes out at 5:30, after people have all ready started arriving and after I begin to fear that there will be no dessert at all.

We all get a chance to present our final plating to the staff so they can describe the menu to the customers. They all seem to like everything. My dessert isn't ready yet, but after service begins, I prep a plate for them. Compliments are received that still make me blush. I take a deep breath and watch as the kitchen action picks up. My cohorts leap into service but since my courses are at end, I can relax a bit.
Evolution of lobster panna cotta. My favorite version has the antennae sticking out.

How to make Duo of Ahi

Bourride of Black Cod with Local Ridgeback Shrimp and the clearest fish fumet you'll ever see

Seared Duck Breast with Rhubarb-Tangerine Chutney, White Bean Puree and Watercress

<--finishing touches
final product--->

The Last Course: I am proud to serve this however.

By the end of the evening we've sold about 20 covers. We've prepped for thirty though. I wonder what will happen with the last of my custards and compote. By 9:30 service is more or less over and as the last student standing I stumble home into shower and then bed.

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May 04, 2007

Hurray! (Part II)


I'll give you the down and dirty (with pictures, no less) on Monday.

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May 01, 2007

The Importance of Being Humble

These are the phrases you will hear come out of my mouth most often from 7a-1p:

"Yes, Chef"
"No, Chef"
"Thank you, Chef"

I'm smack in the middle of my cafeteria session for school and I'm trying my hardest to not be resentful. However, I am paying them (tuition fees) so I can work for free for them while occasionally getting verbally abused. Extra bonus! I get to wake up at five every morning so I can leave my house by 6:15a and walk 1.5 miles to the bus stop. It's awesome.

Yesterday, I did what I hope will be the most disgusting thing I will ever do for school: make a giant vat of meat sauce consisting of, but not limited to, at least 15 lbs of ground meat which I had to drain the fat off of. I held my nose the entire time, the smell of ground meat makes me more than a little bit queasy. By the end, I felt like my whole body was coated in a thick layer of grease.

When I come home from school, especially if I had classes on top my free labor session, I crash on the couch and don't leave until absolutely necessary or M. Pants, whom I rarely see now, puts me to bed. I keep on telling myself that its only for the next two weeks and then I will be able to enjoy my first summer vacation in four years.

Two more weeks and I will be free. Two more weeks. Think good thoughts.

I hope that all of this will explain the radio silence on this station for a touch longer.