Part II – Did Actually Do Something Right? What a Night!!

Feelin Alright

Feelin' Alright

Wow, I am in a ‘crappy’ position. (I put crappy in quotes because I think it is a lame adjective, but I cannot think of another) My editor-in-chief a.k.a. my girlfriend left for a family trip today for three weeks!!!  So now I have no editor and barely recollect a story that is already two weeks old. She told me to post sooner, but I was trying to get all this other stuff done before she left. Plus more importantly, I had to do the frickin’ beer event. So, I hope you still care what happened and do not mind all the grammatical mistakes. I think the only person who will email me the list of errors is Nick….that’s right… callin’ him out and I haven’t even written a paragraph.

Where was I? That’s right, I just sitting down with Nick and Nate.

They arrived while I was ‘trying’ to put away all the food I prepared. I was still feeling the effects of a ridiculous hangover and could not figure out the refrigerator, they look so easy to use.  Nick looked a little worse for wear and he forgot his wallet, but he did bring the five baguettes.  I had met Nate once before, he is tall. Frankly, he is way too tall. I will forgive him. Do you know that tall people get paid more than short people? It’s a fact.  Just so you know, I balanced the tables of justice – I paid him barely anything, really.

Nick had the type of experience in the kitchen I had before going to culinary school.  His mother is a chef and he grew up watching her cook. He has great culinary instincts. I think if he wanted to work in a professional kitchen, it would be no problem.  I hear he has even done well in some cook-offs.  Between a culinary school grad and a food enthusiast (I have come to detest the word “foodie”) I think that there is only one major difference. Once you go to “Cooking College” you learn to stop asking, “How long until it’s done?”  Because: it is done when it is done, got it.  Otherwise, if you love food, if you know food, it’s all good.  I hate the recent arrogance that is now associated with food.

Time to cook. Nate, Nick, & I mumbled through the meeting. The meeting itself started with such high hopes – we were going to have our production list and make plate diagrams. Well, I had to rewrite the production list three times because it looked like a scrambled mess. Plus, each plate design chart looked like a lopsided circle with a trapezoid in the middle.  As I said before, it had been sometime since I have cooked professionally.  Luckily, I cooked most of the food on Friday.  I thought that we wouldn’t have enough to do on Saturday. I thought that we would be sitting around trading stories of bullshit waiting for the customers. As my girlfriend loves to point out, I am wrong, often.

The day of prep would be defined by the egg yolk ravioli and the effort Nate and Nick put into creating them. Like a typical head chef, I said I wanted something done, that did not mean I knew the human cost.  I have this great recipe for pasta which I have shared with you in a previous post. I wanted to incorporate the pasta in the dinner, and I thought I would make a pasta “carbonarra” (I guarantee that is spelled wrong) with lightly cured pork belly. I knew right off the bat that this could be mocked as a “DECONSTRUCTED” dish which I am doing.  I did not think I was creating a cure for cancer. It was not meant to be revolutionary, just delicious.  I have made this pasta countless times. I used to make it almost everyday when I worked at Hugo’s.  So, I asked Nate to make the ravioli. I thought it would be the most fun thing to tackle that day and he was nice enough to come out and help. I thought I was doing him a favor.

Egg Yolk Ravioli...Seems easy right?

Egg Yolk Ravioli...Seems easy right?

It must have been my hangover because right as we started the project there was trouble. I have worked with OO flour in the past. OO Flour has a higher protein content thus more gluten is formed when kneading the dough. I know that a lot of chefs use it in pasta doughs, so it’s only natural to assume that it would be fine for this recipe.  It is pointless to experiment the day of an event. Frankly, right as it started to come together you could tell that there was too much gluten. It didn’t feel right. I wanted to freak out and get pissed, but that is the beauty of a hangover. You do not have enough energy to get crazy.

When I have made the pasta before, I have always kneaded it by hand.  Well, I saw the dough hook in the Kitchen-Aid. Sadly, it was the Terminator: Rise of the Machines. It didn’t work properly. So, adjustment after adjustment was necessary.  I have to give Nate props because he kept at it, until it felt just right. Pasta dough should feel like a woman’s breast, a real breast, not the fake kind. Pasta making is great for people with fetishes. I guess liking a breast is not really a fetish, my bad.

I purchased a ravioli mold for the occasion, unfortunately the mold was too small to fit an egg yolk. Now, I am stuck with a ravioli mold and no pasta roller. It’s like having the amp and no guitar. Back to square one, making them by hand. This is not as easy, sure you can make circles of dough, but you got to worry about the yolk breaking throughout the entire process. Plus, the hardest part sealing them now had to be done by hand.

All the while, Nick just powered through. He prepared the asparagus, pureed the kale, and started the perogi.  He worked so hard in the kitchen.  Both Nick and Nate are starters in my book.  It’s like if I were starting a baseball team, I would start with Johan Santana. A-Rod = A-Suck. That was a meaningless throw away line just so I can disparage the Yankees. Anyhow, they were great, I could not have done it without them.

I had to pull Nick off the perogis and ask him to help out Nate. I was starting to get antsy. It was taking a long time to make these ravioli.  I started asking Nate and Nick to stop. Just make the bare minimum, please! When they finish 21 pieces, I begged them to stop. They wanted to make extra. God bless them. They were right, even though I want to yell at them to finish, finish, finish, more people showed up. There were no left overs.

While they spent the afternoon perfecting the ravioli, I finished the perogis.   The filling was really good.  I was proud of it.

lamb perogi

lamb perogi - It had cured lamb belly, napa cabbage, carrots, shallots, butter, mustard, and spices.

Does any of this still make sense? Basically, three hours passed and I cooked some grub.  I did have one more intense fuck up. I made a monkfish torchon. I have made it many times. When I worked in Maine, it was very common to have access to monkfish liver. Let’s just say it didn’t work, and I found out an hour before service. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  It tasted foul, I mean like ass. Actually, I would probably have preferred ass. I nearly sent my staff to the hospital because I asked them to try it.  I was scared to taste it.

It was disappointing solely because I had spent hours searching for the Monkfish liver in New York.  The liver I did find might have been sitting out to long.  Once I pierced the outer membrane, it turned to liquid. I thought I could save it.  When looking for this rotten crap,  I actually listened to Nick, who told me to go to some fancy Japanese beef butcher.  The butcher shop looked so fucking fancy. A blank white cube of a shop that looked like an over sanitized 2001 Space Odyssey commissary with really great looking Waygu Beef.  Plus, the butcher was wearing a suit and tie. The Butcher looked at me and said in broken English, “This is beef, no fish, why you here?” I asked my self the same question. I was shocked because after trudging through Chinatown, calling all the fish markets in town, I found the liver at the Green Market.

It’s now 6:45 and the doors open in 15 minutes. Let me emphasize, everyone in the kitchen is getting along and were having fun. We take a few minutes to relax. I give them some chef coats to put on. We are ready, but deep down inside I am a wreck. This is the first time I have cooked for money in a while. I am wondering if anybody is going to like it. I was worried about the construction of the menu.  At the same time, I was super excited. I thought that this could be a great boost to my cooking confidence.  All this was swirling in my head and we have no idea how we are going to plate the dishes or what plates we are going to use.

Yet it all came together…it will be a night I remember for a long time.

Pate is so beautiful to me

Paté is so beautiful to me

Course 1: The Chicken Liver Terrine served with Candied Rhubarb, Rhubarb Jerky, Smoked Bourbon Aspic, Ver Jus Syrup, and Pink Peppercorns.

The Pate Plate

The Paté Plate

Can you believe after all that work nobody took a picture of the egg yolk ravioli? Idiot…I am referring to myself. So instead, I have decided to insert a scary picture of Nick, looking like a crazy mother f’er.  It looks like he is being seen through night vision goggles.

Nick - Be cool and nobody gets hurt

Nick - Be cool and nobody gets hurt

Action Picture – Lamb Belly Perogis – By the way, this is how I will always spell perogis. Do I care if I am wrong? No…

Perogi Action

Perogi Action

The Final Course

Finish Line

Finish Line

What you see here is the last course: Seafood Charcroute.  It is (SIDE A) – seared scallop, homemade tater tot, kale puree, and Pernod Beurre Blanc – (SIDE B) –  seafood sausage, pickle fennel, pernod beurre blanc – (MIDDLE) –  Tuna Belly Bacon with spicy olive oil.

2 Responses to “Part II – Did Actually Do Something Right? What a Night!!”

  1. 1 Ted June 23, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    I can now finally breathe again.

    I’ve been sleepless for weeks waiting for Part II of the cooking post.

  2. 2 J July 19, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    I love this post. You were amazing Theo! No chef has ever received a standing ovation before, but you did! And I am not surprised! Your dinner was amazing! YUM! We can’t wait to do it again!

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