Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Prep Work

Most of my responsibilities at The National consist of prepping ingredients or making components that will be used in other dishes. Some of their recipes are simple, but many are complex and require multiple steps and elements. Preparing these items in advance helps make for a smooth service.

I started off making more lemon vinaigrette. It was difficult to get the proportions just right. The recipe requires ¼ acid to ¾ olive oil. The acid consists of lemon juice, lemon zest, and white wine vinaigrette. Then I made croutons by cutting bread into cubes, and then coating them in olive oil with a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and parsley. They baked in the oven until golden brown. These are used as a garnish on top of the chicken noodle soup.

My next few tasks were a bit more complex. I had to make a green tomato sesame jam. I seeded and chopped tomatoes and then added sugar, minced ginger, nutmeg, cumin, and salt. We cooked this low and slow until it formed a thick jam like sauce. Then I got to work on rubbing meat. I helped finish making the rub for lamb ribs and then coated them thoroughly. We put the rub on the meat while the rub was hot so the meat would absorb most of the flavor. Then I rubbed down bacon slabs in garlic, salt, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick rub. We put the rubbed bacon in plastic bags so that the juices and flavors would continue to sink into the meat.

Another method The National uses to make service more efficient is to blanch vegetables that will be used in their dishes. This means that you cook the vegetables for a short time and then shock them in an ice bath to immediately stop the cooking process. This way the veggies are slightly cooked, but maintain a nice crunch. I practiced this method with haricot verts (string green beans) and then snap peas.

I finished off my day by boiling beets (you cook them in just water for about an hour or until tender). Once a knife could slide right through them, I used a towel to rub off the skin. It’s pretty simple to do, then I cut them up and put them in quarts.

Although prep work may seem simple and unnecessary, it is essential for a restaurant. Once an order comes in, the food must be prepared as fast as possible. If an ingredient is not available or a component is not ready, the kitchen can get behind and cause the restaurant to be in the weeds. Making sure everything is ready helps us to make delicious meals that draw in customers from all over, including Jennifer Aniston.

Yes, Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd ate at my restaurant this past Friday night. Jennifer drank Grey Goose on the rocks and then had pinot noir. She ordered a salad and the chicken. AMAZING!

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