Tuesday, October 5, 2010

To use a recipe or not to use a recipe?

When I arrive in the morning at The National, it’s almost second nature what I begin to do. After I wash my hands, get an apron, and grab a towel I know to check with the lunch line and get a list of ingredients to prep. So, that’s just how things went down, I got my list and got started. I prepped the chicken salad base which I almost did without looking at the recipe. 1 quart yogurt (strained), 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 cups mayo, 2 tablespoons thyme, 1 teaspoon red chili flake, 2 teaspoons coriander, 2 cups packed basil chopped, ½ cup capers chopped, and one onion chopped. BUT, I should have looked at the recipe more carefully because I chopped up a yellow onion instead of red, luckily that didn’t make too much of a difference. I decided after that mistake I better keep reading the recipes closely! I am so ready to be able to just throw ingredients in a bowl and it taste great, but I haven’t exactly graduated to that level.

After I decided to stick with recipes, I was thrown into the fire! They requested I make a spicy remoulade sauce, and there is no recipe. I was given a ramikin of the current sauce and told to recreate it. All of a sudden I was on Top Chef and the pressure was on! I tasted and retasted until I felt like I had a decent idea of what needed to go into the sauce. I started with mayonnaise, then added gherkin pickles, shallots, garlic, lemon juice, parsley, paprika, and cayenne. I kept tasting and finally realized it needed Dijon mustard and salt and pepper. If I have learned anything from Food Network and other cooking shows it is always to season your food! And yet I still forgot salt and pepper, gotta work on that! I mixed and tasted and added and mixed until I finally felt like I had it right. I let the other chefs taste, and sure enough I had done it! All I had to do was add a little more cayenne, which is a very spicy ingredient I think I was a little afraid of! But by the time I had finished I was proud of my sauce. The remoulade was used in the fried soft shell crab special, served on a bed of bulgar wheat and topped with a cabbage-apple slaw. Very good!

I quarted up the remoulade and then cut grilled corn off the corn and quarted that as well. I was then given the task of working on the catering menu. I began by cubing butternut squash. When working with butternut squash, it is important to wear gloves because the squash will dry out your hands. Once I had cut into 3 very large butternut squashes and gotten quite aggressive with my knife skills, I was informed that all of the prep for the catering had already been done. But, my hard work was not a waste because the squash would be used to make Butternut Squash Soup for tomorrow.

My afternoon wrapped up with me rolling out flatbreads, making marinated olives, slicing orange supremes, and then helping with the eggplant bruschetta. This stuff is out of this world. You cook the cubed eggplant with tons of herbs and spices (even cocoa!). Then it is all reduced in balsamic vinegar. The final product is cooled and then tops a piece of crusty bread with buffalo mozzarella, so tasty! That is one recipe I need to get.

For lunch today, I was a little bit healthier and made a yummy spinach salad with chanterelles, tomatoes, grilled corn, and chicken in a sherry vinaigrette. But then, I was forced to help clean out the freezer and eat an ice cream sandwich. Oh the prices you pay.

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