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Archive for April, 2009

Knives and Fire Internship Day 8

April 29, 2009 Leave a comment

It was a light day in the prep kitchen. I made macaroni and cheese sets.

First I grated cheese (the types and proportions don’t actually matter) in the Robot Coupe. I then cut a pound of butter into 32nds. I put each pat into a small container, and added a tablespoon of flour to each. Then I put a large handful of cheese into each, and covered and labeled them, and put them away. That would be the cheese sauce – butter, flour, cheese. All it would need was milk, and that gets added during the cooking.

The cooked macaroni was mixed with roasted carrots and rutabagas, which I scooped into pint containers. In this case 33 of them – that’s how much we made. We’re not measuring, so that’s pretty good.

At that point, there wasn’t much else to do, so A had me chop a gallon’s worth of onions. As I was doing this, Chef came up and said I should go to the café. He also suggested I wear one of their caps, which actually covers my hair better than my pre-tied bandannas, so, fine. He wants some uniformity, but he would rather I wore my whites anyway.

He wanted me to go at 1PM, but I was ready to go at 12, so I went. There I met D, who is the café sous chef. I made a number of sandwiches (the fish sammy and the ELT) and a mac and cheese. And I did make a mistake on the line – using mayo, not mustard. *Shakes head*. But otherwise it went fine, and I’m getting better at shouting things out.

One thing that’s less fun – I have blisters. I have a constellation on my right forefinger, where I hold the knife. And I have two others that sprouted on my forefinger *tips*. I think they came from forcing sixty-odd covers on sixty-odd containers. Weird.

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Categories: cooking, internship

Knives and Fire Internship Day 7

April 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Today I did a little cooking, a lot of peeling and chopping, and made one very silly mistake.

First thing I did was make applesauce. As in one of the first things people learn to make, either at home or in home ec in school. I was told to peel and chop eight apple. I did what I’ve been doing – starting out doing things carefully, the way I was taught. And A comes and tells me, “You don’t need to be struggling like that.” And then she shows me how to do things – well, pretty much as I’d do them at home. In this case, it was take the peeled apple and just slice the fruit off the core, leaving a long, slender rectangle. Then rough chop the apple. Took me 1/4 of the time to do the final four as it did the first. I added two cinnamon sticks, a splash of lemon juice and water to the pot and let it cook. We discussed adding sugar, but decided to wait until the sauce was done.

Once the pot was on the stove, I peeled and finely chopped carrots until I nearly filled a gallon container. At this point, the applesauce was at the chunky-smooth stage. Chef said it was a bit watery, so I put it into a double strainer for a few minutes. He also said it needed about two tablespoons of sugar. This was for 8 apples, which ended up exactly a quart of sauce, so not a huge amount of sugar.

A wanted to use the carrots I’d peeled but not chopped for another dish, so she told me to wash out the applesauce pot and put in a flat (about 24) eggs. I was an idiot. She wanted to hard cook them. I *broke* them.

Not a waste – the eggs could be used to make other recipes, but oh, I was dumb!

I finished the time preparing daikons to be pickled. First I peeled a case full of the baseball bats. I’ve started to feel very proprietary of that peeler – the only one in the kitchen. Then Chef showed me how to cut them into two-inch long sticks. Later, after I got a fair amount cut, he showed how to cure them – he tossed them with about a quart of sugar and a cup of salt. I finished the case, tossed them on top of the ones already treated (and sweating), and added more sugar and salt. Tomorrow, we’ll drain the container and add in rice vinegar.

Categories: cooking, internship

Knives and Fire Internship Day 6

April 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Today was somewhat momentous (at least so far as I’m concerned.)

I started at 9AM in the prep kitchen, where first I started two pots of potatoes, and then peeled and chopped a dozen or so (okay, eleven) carrots, followed by peeling, seeding and chopping about ten cucumbers. These last will be made into a cucumber yogurt soup.

In what has become a tradition, I was more than halfway through before I realized I could do things better – instead of pushing the seeds off with my thumbs, I could use *fingers* and scoop out a larger amount faster.

After that, I was sent to the café where I filled some orders.

Yes. I *filled* orders. Which is completely AMAZING.

I’ve worked in the café before. J and F have shown me how most of the sandwiches are made, and I’ve put grilled cheese and the salmon reuben through the panini machine, and even set up plates with the potato salad and the pickled vegetables. But the grilled cheese and the reubens are premade, ready to put in the panini machine.

This time I worked with Chef M, who wants me to know everything. At least, at first I did. I watched him scramble eggs for a sandwich, and I actually made the mac and cheese under his supervision. (The mac and cheese is rather clever. It’s all set up ahead of time – a pint container of macaroni and vegetables; a cup container of measured grated cheese, butter, salt and flour. The two containers are dumped into a saucepan and placed on the induction stove with a little whole milk. As the butter and cheese melt, it cooks the flour and the whole thing combines to make a cheese sauce in about five minutes. Then its put in a gratin dish and sprinkled with garlic bread crumbs.)

So, I put together an ELT, heated salmon cakes for two different orders, made another order (all by myself) of the mac and cheese (put on too much bread crumbs. I’ll know better next time.) And then F told me I’m making the next order all by myself. He so decreed.

What was the next order? Scrambled eggs and homefries. J made the toast, but I put the potatoes in the turbo oven (900°F) and I scrambled the eggs (three eggs, salt and pepper – no water, no milk) to the right degree – default is soft with no color (browning) on the eggs. Which they were when I plated them. In fact, I made a very pretty plate. I wasn’t as fast as I could be, but the eggs and the potatoes were done at about the same time, so what more could I ask?

I think I might actually learn this stuff. (Have to say – cooking for customers, working on the line? That does scare me.)

Categories: cooking, internship

Knives and Fire Internship Day 5

April 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Not very exciting on Friday. I diced onions, made potato salad and fried eggplant. Again.

I predicted this – I’m working in a café with a relatively small menu. I’m going to be making the same things over and over again. The conversations are interesting – I’m going to try an anisette (probably Arak) in my next fish chowder, for example – and while I made café food, I did watch Chef prep Shabbat dinner for 80, and that was fun.

I learned one valuable thing – vinegar on cutting boards. If you’re cutting a lot of onions, pour some white vinegar onto your cutting board, and spread it out. It cuts down on the crying. I’m guessing the vinegar reacts in some way with the sulfuric acid produced by the onions. It worked – I diced 14 onions and was just fine.

Categories: cooking, internship

Knives and Fire Internship Day 4

April 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Got there at 9:30. And there I did everyone’s *least* favorite job – making the eggplant. The café serves a sandwich called the ELT (breaded, fried eggplant, lettuce, tomato and herbed mayonnaise.) They don’t make the eggplant.

First, I rinsed and sliced fifteen eggplant (I’d guessed at half the full carton. Chef asked me to count them, and it turned out I’d left a dozen behind. Not really a problem.) The slices were seasoned with salt and pepper. Then they were dipped in flour (also seasoned)and dusted off (this means hit two slices of eggplant against each other *hard* until there’s only a bare coating of flour), egg (just eggs and a bit of water) and then panko crumbs that had been ground smaller in a Robot Coupe. This took about an hour. And I didn’t do it the way I was taught – one at a time, one hand for dry and one for wet. Nope. Dump a bunch slices into the hotel pan of flour, hit them together in pairs and dump them into the eggs, and then into the panko, and then onto a full sheet in a single layer, to be covered with a sheet of parchment paper and layered again.

And then I *cooked* them. Yes, I *finally* got to play with fire, after days of playing with just knives. Which means I took two large and heavy frying pans and put in a lot of oil and waited for it to heat up properly. This took a long time as well (and I had to keep an eye on some latkes at the same time.) And the oil burned in one pan and got foamy (too wet) in the other, so I had to do some switching. Oh, and they were good.

After I cleaned that up, I went on to knifework – I peeled some rutabagas – with a chef’s knife, not a paring knife or a peeler. That’s because they’re heavily waxed. Then I cut them into small chunks. Next I did the same with carrots, except I use a peeler. In both cases, the vegetables were mixed with oil, salt and pepper and roasted.

Oh – just note. Chef needed vinaigrette for something, and wanted A to make some, but she reminded him that we had two quarts left from the slaw. He tasted it and said it was fine for his use.

The vinaigrette that I’d made. Not to mention watching John the dishwasher take down the trays of veg mix and potato salad that I’d made. It’s…people are PAYING to eat food *I* made.

WOW. WOW. WOW.

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Knives and Fire Internship Day 3

April 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Today, I came in at 10AM. Which is a HUMAN hour.

I peeled and sliced a dozen onions. I did so by slicing off the stem and root, removing the skin and then slicing (a bit thin and then a bit thick – ah, well. I’m learning. Next time…) from stem to root. These would be caramelized as a topping for sandwiches.

Then I made the pierogies. These are the roasted cauliflower/potato/cheddar cheese pierogies served on braised collard greens. The potatoes and the cauliflower were already cooked (the cauliflower had been roasted until the edges were brown and crispy.) So, I squished a bunch of cooked redskin potatoes, and mixed them with the cauliflower and shredded cheese and salt and pepper. These were ground (in batches) in a Robot Coupe – a heavy duty food processor – until it was just short of mashed potato. (Pronounced RObo Cou, btw.) Then I made the pierogies.

We used wonton skins. I put about a tablespoon of mixture in the middle of the skin, wet the edge all the way around and then pinched it together. My first few were not very good – in fact, Chef M stepped in to show me better, and thought that I used too much water, although A told him the dough itself was very wet. Still, I paid attention, and decided that the best way to regulate the amount of water was to wet only half the circle.

This worked beautifully, and my final two thirds looked increasingly better. And then I cleaned up.

A decided I’d help her make the pizza dough, but first we had to put away the braised collard greens. Which I’d never had before. These are braised in vinegar and pickling spices for 4 hours and, OH MY GOODNESS. Not cabbagy, and VERY flavorful. (The pierogies would be served over the greens.) And then the gallon containers had to be labeled and stored, and there wasn’t room in that reach-in fridge, so we had to take the caramelized onions and the cardamon rice pudding, which were in flat pans, and move them to containers. Which made the room.

Then, using a huge mixer, we made a double recipe of pizza dough (used ten pounds of bread flour.) I helped with my math skillz, because A doesn’t like numbers. I also added the salt and water to to the mixer. We made a nice dough, too. Then, using a scale and a pastry scraper, I measured the dough into 5 oz units, which A showed me (twice. Sigh.) how to make into neat balls. We put one dozen on each tray, sprayed each doughball with a circle of Pam and covered the trays with wrap. These were then placed in the fridge.

Then I helped A scrub the worktables and stove. And that was that for the day.

Categories: cooking, internship

Knives and Fire Internship Day 2

April 20, 2009 Leave a comment

This time, I started in the prep kitchen at 9:30AM. I began taking three bags of garbanzos and placing them in a gallon container, which I then filled with water. Next, I got five cucumbers and seven carrots, and rinsing them off. I peeled the carrots and A showed me how she wanted them – carrots cut into sixths lengthwise and then sliced. When they were done, I moved to the cukes – unpeeled – and cut them into larger chunks. This was for a salad (a marinated tofu salad), so chewability was a factor. Then I went through a gallon of green beans, discarding the bad ones and “picking the good ones” – snipping off the stem ends with my fingernails. This, btw, is very possible through a pair of gloves. These were then cut into 1.5″ lengths. All the veggies were then combined in a huge bowl and placed in quart containers labeled “tofu salad” and refrigerated.

Meanwhile, A made cupcakes and M chopped onions and celery and cooked and quartered potatoes. While A cut up a pineapple, I chopped tarragon and dill (much neater than I did the parsley on Friday.) And then I made potato salad. This salad is interesting – no mayo and no vinegar. It was redskin potatoes boiled and quartered (and still warm), combined with oil, salt, pepper, the onions, celery, tarragon and dill. We were a bit short of herbs, so we were careful with those. And it was REALLY good.

A showed me how to do the first batch, but I did the next two by myself, using up the potatoes and filling up four gallon containers. And she didn’t even taste the last batch – she said she trusted me.

Why no vinegar or mayo? Because these potatoes serve double duty – side for the sandwiches, but they can also be put in the convection oven and turned into home fries.

Then I helped her stuff the cupcakes with peanut butter and was sent “across the street” to the caf´ to help there. I learned to portion out the potato salad and pickled vegetables (and helped repackage a huge container of those pickles to gallon ones),and how to cook the premade sandwiches on the panini machine. And where the takeout boxes were and how to take tickets. Chef wants me to learn how to work the line.

Categories: cooking, internship