Saturday, January 26, 2008

1,000 leaves and counting...

It was a day of herbs, herbs, and more herbs. Then some socco, rabbits and kohlrabi. The pasta machine is officially broken so luckily today I got a break from my friend, the tortellini.

Breakfast of champions
Leftover lentil soup with poached egg. Something experimental: a tangelo.

Task: Mince 2 quarts of shallots.
Notes: Don't laugh - this is has become my standard morning task at RestoX. To the anonymous chef from Munich - is everyone in restaurant kitchens sick of mincing shallots? If so, that means more shallots for me - I'm getting better and faster with practice.

Task: Julienne a quart of ginger.
Notes: Square off all the ginger pieces. Thin slice with mandoline (I don't understand why they don't use those nifty finger guards that come with the mandoline, but for fear of looking like a wuss I didn't ask. Luckily I got out of there with my 10 fingers intact). Layer ginger slices in a row, lengthwise, like fallen domino pieces. Cut julienne pieces across. I love how there's an organized and methodical process to even the most mundane jobs in restaurant kitchens. I will forever hear ChefX's quiet voice in my head when doing such tasks, "This ain't no rock concert."

Task: Slice (not chop!) a bunch of chives, parsley, and tarragon.
Notes: You combine these to create "fines herbs," a classic French herb blend used for flavoring and garnish. It's a very delicate herb combo, so it's added to foods right before serving - in RestoX's case, to the clam chowder.

In fine slicing these herbs, you realize why fine dining is what it is, and why it costs so much. My God, it took forever to get through these. As mentioned in a previous post, you never "chop" (gravity down) delicate herbs such as chives or tarragon. ChefX showed me how they do it at classic French restaurants - you slice with the backward motion of the knife rather than the forward. Adam does this exclusively and since he was the one who was supervising today, this is what I tried to do with the chives. Every time I tried to speed up, they came out chunky, so I had to do these super slow-mo. It must have taken an entire hour to get through the chives alone. It gives me brain cramps to think about it.

Next up was parsley. They
chiffonade the damn parsley at RestoX if you can imagine it. I mean, I like doing basil chiffonades but not parsley chiffonades, thank you very much. You must pick and stack up each and every freakin' parsley leaf carefully, then slice them into super-thin ribbons. It makes me want to curse thinking about this task.

Then there was the tarragon, which, much like the parsley, must be picked leaf-by-leaf, stacked, then backwards-sliced into squarish pieces.

One word on fines herbs: painful.

Task: Squeeze juice of 3 lemons and 3 limes.
Notes: This would have been a pretty fun and painless task had it not been for the double-insult cut on my index finger (I chopped right through my nail, twice, cooking at home. Haha! These days I think my knife is trying to kill me).

Task: Remove the flesh of 6 limes.
Notes: Cut off ends, then peel all around with knife making sure to remove the smallest sign of pith. V-cut into quarters to remove flesh. Cut pieces into 3 to be used as garnish for either a hamachi or mackerel dish.

Task: Julienne kohlrabi.
Notes: There's a system with these, too. Cut off the top and bottom ends, peel, slice in half, then thin-slice each half. Create vertical stacks of thin slices, then julienne.

Task: Remove meat off a pan of roasted rabbit.
Notes: They like rabbit at RestoX. It tastes much like chicken, but the texture is softer and more tender.

Task: Make socco.
Notes: I looked for a definition everywhere for these, but can't find it. If Goggle doesn't turn up any results, it must not really exist, right?

Socco in RestoX world is a savory crepe in which to roll some complicated meat concoction in. As far as I can remember, you sift together 2 cups of chickpea flour, 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 cup of cream, 2 tspn olive oil, salt and pepper. Combine all ingredients together, ladle onto hot frying pan, swoosh pan around to spread batter, and when cooked to just past golden, flip. Adam let me make these from start to finish. I love the cooking part. It was a long and tedious day, but when you stick around long enough there's always something new to be discovered.

End notes
The past 3 times I've been at RestoX, ChefX has been mysteriously M.I.A. And the rest of the crew seems just as confounded as I am about it. As much as I like working with Adam (he tries to teach me what he can), I wish ChefX was around more to tell me what I could be doing better. He really knows how to put someone up to a challenge. I really miss that.

On a positive note, Adam suggested I come back for another night of service soon so I can actually cook something. Does this mean I'm on my way to literally being a kitchen apprentice "by night?"