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Knives and Fire Internship Day 24

May 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Also – last day.

Both Chef and A thanked me for what I did yesterday, which was nice. Then – I put up a pot of potatoes for salad, and cut up a trayful already done. Then cut up some MONSTER onions. I mean, they were huge. Seven of them filled a gallon container – that usually takes a dozen. They were also very sweet – almost Vidalia like – and – yes, my knife was sharp, but still – not hard on the eyes. A was cutting celery for a tomato bisque, so she added a couple of handfuls, and I chopped a head of parsley to add.

My first day, it took me a long time and I got it all over the place. Today, on my last, I cut it up quickly and neatly. Yay.

We left the salad in the deep hotel pan we made it in.

Chef also had me start on what would be salmon cakes, using uncooked salmon from last night. This had been coated with bread crumbs mixed with garlic and herbs. I scraped off as much of the bread crumbs as I could, but I didn’t need to be perfect. Then I sauteéed a quart of onions in oil until they were soft and added the salmon. We put in some more oil and put the whole pan into an oven to finish cooking. Later, I’d take it out, and spread the salmon onto a tray to cool. Once cool, I covered it and put it in a reach-in to be processed tomorrow into cakes.

Then I pureéd the bisque. (Bisque – onions, celery sauteéed until soft, then fresh tomatoes, water (or veg broth) and arborio rice. This is cooked until the tomatoes collapse and the rice is done.) This was done in a heavy duty blender. Okay. Blenders and me – I own one. It was a wedding present, which means I got it 18 years ago. It’s still in the original packaging. Yeah – not using blenders much (other than a stick one I use fairly often.)

So. The soup is hot. Chef gives me instructions on how to use the blender – fill the top half-way. There are three controls – an on-off, a dial for the speed and another switch to go from variable to high. I’m to make sure it’s set on variable, with the dial on zero, when I turn the blender on. Then I turn the dial all the way up, and then switch to high. When it’s all smooth, first switch to variable, then dial all the way down, and then off.

Of course, the first time, I don’t turn the dial up before I switch to high. HOT soup all over my left hand. I rinse that off, but I’m a mess – soup on my face, on my jacket and apron, on my skirt. And my hand hurts a little, too, but not that badly. After that, I was fine and I got the pot down. This was seasoned with salt, pepper and some lemon juice. Really, really nice.

I cleaned that up, made grilled cheese sandwiches and then started the Thai tomatoes – washing and quartering tomatoes, and julienning onions. I got the onions sweated and add the tomatoes, and that was it.

I gave A a couple of big hugs. Unfortunately, they’re losing their beautiful kitchen (the prep kitchen is in the Art Institute of New York, which is closing), and they’re also cutting their budget, so he has to let people go. This means they couldn’t hire me.

Chef is giving me a letter of recommendation, however, and he wants to talk to the head of my school.

After that, I went to the café to say goodbye to F and J – and to get one last plate of my own grilled cheese sandwich and potato salad, plus F gave me a couple of strawberries. There were a lot leftover, so patrons were getting them with everything. (I have to say – they came out beautiful. I’m making ganache again.)

And that was it.

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Categories: cooking, internship

Knives and Fire Internship Day 23

May 26, 2009 Leave a comment

I knew it would be a long day, and I expected to be tired. I didn’t know it would be SO long – 10.5 hours or that I’d be this tired.

Yes. I got to the kitchen at 9AM and I left at 7:30PM. (I took a cab home.) And what did I do for that time? Mostly, zucchini. They were catering a party – the kitchen had extra chefs and everything, and were doing many many things they didn’t normally do.

The zucchini were to be hors d’oeuvres. I sliced them in half and then in medium thin slices, and then I sliced the slices in half – but only those of some size. Those were then breaded the same way as the eggplant. Except that first I had to grind panko VERY fine, like normal bread crumbs.

It took me HOURS to bread a gallon of slices – I wasn’t done until 2:30PM. By which time, the eggs were half flour. They’re smaller and have more surface area. I should have done the math.

Then I took a couple of hours to fry them. This was followed by making little sandwiches of them – the filling being a sweet and spicy red pepper relish. I made four and a half trays – not bad, considering that many were not usable *PLUS* everyone noshed on them. As in, walk past the tray, take one. Because they were yummy. The ones that weren’t usable? Consumed. GRIN.

I then speed-split a bunch of potatoes and mixed them with oil, salt and pepper to be baked. And then, I dipped strawberries in ganache. Which means I made ganache. I brought 6 cups of heavy cream to a boil, let it cool just slightly and poured it over dark chocolate pastilles (little disks. I don’t know how much – a box full?) As the pastilled melted, I stirred with a spatula. When the cream and chocolate combined full – ganache.

Then I rinsed strawberries, dipped them in the ganache and put them on a parchment paper lined tray.

Or seven.

I was in the middle of the seventh tray when I was finally told to leave.

Categories: cooking, internship

Knives and Fire Internship Day 23

May 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Not the most exciting day on record. I walked in and looked at the prep list. And there were the dreaded words, “Fry Eggplant”.

This time, I had plenty of ground panko, so I didn’t have to do that. A dozen or so eggplants cut, breaded and fried took me most of the time, and I filled the end by making potato salad. Which – well, they came to take the food down to the café just as I’d finished cutting the potatoes. So, I had five minutes to do the rest. Which was plenty of time. What was cool was – after I got things mixed, I noticed that I hadn’t put in enough oil. So I added more. At that point, Chef M tells me I should add more – and then he tasted it. And it was perfect. 🙂

The best thing, though? A decided she didn’t want to listen to the rap station, so she put on a jazz one. And they were having a Benny Goodman retrospective, playing episodes of the “Camel Caravan”, which featured “The Benny Goodman Trio.” Which was fine all by itself, but what really made it? The sponsor was Camel cigarettes, so we got all these 1938 Camel cigarette ads. Which led to lots of jokes about the ads themselves (three non-smokers in a kitchen, finding these hilarious.) And A showed her youth. She wondered if there ever could have been a time people could smoke on airplanes (we were talking about smokers using nicotine gum and patches to get through flights.)

After Chef and I stopped laughing, we talked about riding in planes with “smoking sections”, which were a joke given the way the air circulates.

Categories: cooking, internship

Knives and Fire Internship Day 22

May 21, 2009 1 comment

Today was different. I knew Chef M and A would not be here, and that I’d be working with the sous chef D. Which was fine.

I got to the prep kitchen late – I’d missed the express bus and had to take the trains. It didn’t matter – the kitchen was locked. So, I went across the street to the café, thinking that D would be there. Nope. In fact, almost no one was there (not too surprising – the cafeé opens for brunch at 10AM and it was just past 9.) Turns out, D wasn’t expected until eleven. Meanwhile, things were very slow, so they didn’t need me to do anything (I suspect I’m more trouble than help anyway, but it was true – they never had more than one table at a time.)

At eleven, they called D again. And he was stuck in traffic. So, eventually, I got a bagel and some coffee (I got the very last of the regular and, in fact, filled it in with decaf, and told F, the cashier. We make our coffee using thermal containers (coffee drips there directly). I took the empty one off, put it correctly (nozzle hanging off) on the counter, took the fresh one and put it in place.) And then D showed up. He did some inventory, got his own coffee and a bottle of vitamin water, and we went across the street. This was at 12:20. Yeah.

He told me to set up a station, so after I got into my coat and apron, I got out a cutting board and knife. And then he told me to pick beans – to top and tail string beans. Okay. He started cuttting onions, and then another young guy came in, and he and his friend chatted as they demolished half a bag of them – friend had to keep changing gloves because he had to wipe his eyes. He didn’t take my advice about the vinegar, but D sharpened his knife, and that helped a lot.

I finished the green beans, and then started filleting tomatoes – I cut off the top (and any soft spots or other nastiness) and quartered them. Then I sliced off the seeds, leaving a layer of pulp over skin. This was julienned.

That done, I cut laffa bread. Laffa bread is a form of pita – in this case, very large and usually cooked on the side of a round over, or tambour. We’re using this instead of baking pizza crusts. The idea was that I’d cut around an 8″ diameter cardboard cake base, and cut or tear apart the resulting ring to be made into pita chips.

I dulled three chef knives doing this. Then I started using a serrated steak knife. And that worked beautifully and quickly. The second bag went very quickly. D wrapped large stacks of pita with plastic as I cut, and then I tore apart the rings and put them into a 5 gallon tub. Then I cleaned up and left. At 4:15PM.

Categories: cooking, internship

Knives and Fire Internship Day 21

May 20, 2009 Leave a comment

I began by making potato salad, eighthing potatoes and stealing A’s herbs to mix it all up. I set aside some potatoes for the pierogie mix. This combined, in the Robot Coupe, yesterday’s roasted cauliflower, the potatoes and shredded cheddar and gruyere cheeses. I also added some herbs, and salt and pepper. This was processed until just short of “mashed”.

I covered and labeled that and chilled it.

Then. I made potato pancakes. Or, as I call them, latkes. I washed and shredded a dozen russet potatoes, using the shredding blade of the Robot Coupe. I used the same thing to, well, liquify three onions. Next time, I hand grate. We had shredded carrots on hand. Then I added eggs, flour, salt and pepper and herbs. When I started frying them, I realized I needed more potatoes (already shredded) and flour to hold them together.

(I shredded the potatoes into a bowl of water. When it came time to use them, I squeezed the water, and a fair amount of the starch, out.)

These pancakes were larger than the ones I’m used to – I make thin ones with lacy edges. These are burger sized and shaped. I had to get used to that. These were cooked until brown on both sides and then finished in the oven. They came out *good* – Chef liked them and everything.

I work tomorrow.

Categories: cooking, internship

Knives and Fire Internship Day 20

May 19, 2009 Leave a comment

Today, I did mac and cheese sets.

That means I started by mixing cut-up carrots with salt, pepper and oil, putting them on a sheet tray lined with parchment and roasting them. During which time I cut up three heads of cauliflower, mixed that with salt, pepper and oil, and put it on the same tray and parchment arrangement. The carrots were already cooling.

Then I peeled three rutabagas (with a chef’s knife), diced them, etc. By which time the cauliflower was done. While the rutabagas cooked, I grated gruyere and parmesan cheese, mixed them with grated cheddar cheese, and did the cheese sets with butter and flour, and then used the cooled cauliflower and carrots (the rutabaga needed more cooking) to mix with the macaroni.

I get blisters from putting the lids on the deli containers. It’s very silly.

And then I made grilled cheese sandwiches (slicing gruyere on the slicing machine.) I made fifteen, it was 2PM. I left. (Okay, I put the rutabaga away and helped A on a couple of her projects.)

Categories: cooking, internship

Knives and Fire Internship Day 19

May 18, 2009 1 comment

Chef M was off today, so we mostly did prep. In fact, all I did today was chop onions and peppers – many of both. A made potato salad as well, and Potwasher M made the yucca fries.

I left before 1PM. (Oh, and I had to stand all the way to Manhattan on the express bus. Ah, well.)

Categories: cooking, internship