Thursday, October 7, 2010

On the Fly

Four onions perfectly sliced, tears streaming down my face, and then I am informed that the onions will be going into the Robot Coup (food processor) so it does not matter what they look like. Great news! I finish slicing the other four onions as quickly as possible. They are not as lovely as the first four, but have a decent half-moon shape. I find that the faster I chop, the less I cry! The onions are going into a Bravas sauce. At first we could not find the recipe and had to do it from memory. But, thankfully it was found on the bottom of a crumpled piece of paper in the recipe notebook. The recipe notebook holds all of the delicious secrets of the restaurant, but many times it is hard to locate a recipe because its been misplaced, has food all over it, or has never been written down.

Once I got my hands on the Bravas sauce recipe, I continued the prepping process. Bravas is a sweet and spicy Spanish sauce. I added olive oil to a very large pot and then cooked the onions down until they were translucent and slightly browned. Then I deglazed the pot with champagne vinegar and added some chopped garlic. After letting the garlic and onions simmer for 5 minutes I added red chili flake, cayenne pepper, and 4 dried ancho chiles. Ancho chiles are dried poblano peppers that are a brick red color and have relatively mild, fruity flavor with overtones of coffee, licorice, tobacco, and raisin. Once that had cooked another 5 minutes, I added the rest of the ingredients; sugar, white wine vinegar, bay leaves, and drained/peeled tomatoes. For the rest of the day this sat on the stove and simmered. Later tonight they will add salt and pepper and then run it through a food-mill.

Next I helped out with the egg salad. Being one the more popular items on the menu today, we needed some “on the fly”. (That means ASAP). I boiled the eggs by starting them in cold water, bringing that to a boil, and then turning the heat off and covering them for 13 minutes. Then we stick them in an ice bath to immediately stop the cooking process. Because the eggs they buy are so fresh, they can be very tricky to peel. I finished peeling and chopping the hard boiled eggs and then added them to the rest of the ingredients that had already been brought together. For lunch I had an egg salad sandwich. It was a little runny for my taste, but had great flavor especially with the very ripe tomato I added on top.

Before I knew it, it was already 1:30. I never know where the time goes when I’m working. I feel like I get there and 30 minutes later it is time to leave. I get in such a zone when I’m cooking, I can’t think about anything else, and I become so focused on what I am doing. If only I could be that way with the midterms I have this week! 1:30 is about the time the dinner shift staff comes in to prep. The two main chefs for the evening took turns giving me tasks to help prepare for evening service.

I started by making a sweet potato puree. So simple! Cube up sweet potatoes (we just got some huge ones in from a local farmer- they still had lots of dirt on them!). Then you boil the cubed sweet potatoes until soft and run through the Robot Coup to make it nice and smooth. I used the Robot Coup after that for the eggplant marinade. I’ve made this once before, it’s just olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, red chili flake, basil, parsley, and cilantro.

I finished off the day by prepping a mirepoix (a mixture of coarsely chopped onions, carrots, and celery used to flavor stocks and stews). The stock was used in a sweet potato soup. I pureed the soup in a blender and then tasted for flavor. After adding a generous amount of salt, it was delicious! Such a great fall flavor!

I have started collecting the menus from each service I work so that I will have a reference to the different foods I help prepare. Still working on getting recipes on the blog, but they are soon to come!

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