Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Start to Finish

Catering is really taking off at the National. Almost every time I work they have an order to fix. It is truly amazing how they can handle regular lunch and dinner service and also finish such large orders. I guess it helps that they have me there! I started today by roasting off cherry tomatoes. I sliced them in half and then doused them in olive oil, sugar, salt, and pepper. I was surprised that I needed to use sugar, but it brought out their natural sweet flavors.

Next I made the marinated olives. They serve these as a simple appetizer. The olives sit in the marinade until serving, so that they absorb all of the diverse flavors like the orange zest, chili flake, and crushed garlic. They lose that original harsh metallic taste from the canned brine and become completely enhanced with these aromatic flavors.

By noon, lunch was pretty crazy. Orders kept coming in, everyone wanting the newest menu item: shrimp salad, and the special: turkey burger. I changed gears, and helped them out. They needed vinaigrettes, so I made those. Very very simple. For the lemon vinaigrette, you zest 1 lemon, juice 3 lemons and combine in a squeeze bottle (this helps dress salads quickly). Then fill the bottle ¾ of the way with olive oil, and ¼ of the way with champagne vinegar. Shake and serve! The sherry vinaigrette is a bit more complicated, but not too bad. We make a lot of this stuff, so I started by grabbing a bucket. Then put 1 quart of sherry vinegar and 4 quarts of EVOO. Then sliced up 4 lemons, grabbed a bunch of thyme, and chopped a shallot. You let that sit and
then funnel it into squeeze bottles.

After finishing the vins, they needed me to chop shrimp for the salad and make bruschetta. The bruschetta changes all the time. Today’s bruschetta involved yellow onions and red bell peppers cooked down until beautifully caramelized and soft. Once those were all sliced, I grilled off some ginormous chicken breasts. These things were huge! If I had to wait for them to completely cook through on the grill it probably would have taken close to an hour! Luckily, we finish them off by roasting them in an oven.

I finished out my day by making flatbread. I had to make two different kinds because they were using a special kind at the catering event. The flatbread for the event is a Sicilian flatbread that is flat and hard. I brushed it with olive oil and popped in the oven to give it a more enhanced flavor. Then I rolled out our normal flatbreads that we serve with hummus and also use for pizzetes.

Before I went to work this morning, I harvested some of my basil. I brought it to work for the other staff members to take home and cook. It made me really think about how cool it is what we do with all of the ingredients. Something that comes out of the ground can be completely transformed into a delicious item on our dinner plate. That’s why I love this job, I get to be a part of the process that converts something ordinary into something extraordinary.

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