On Monday, I recovered from my 80 hour week. The restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
On Tuesday, I woke up to my woman first. I kissed her goodbye to drive home. I took care of some much needed (kcl) knife sharpening, catching up with family, and laundry. Then I went to work (on my day off) to learn how to make speck, shoulder ham, lonzo, lardo, coppa, dry cured salami and pepperoncini as well as fresh sausages. We rendered some lard. We broke down bones for stock. We saved the ears, the cheeks, the jowl, the tenderloins and the skin for use for service.
Then I came home. Three cooks, we came together to braise some cabbage, glaze some baby broccoli with Turkish wild pistachios, sear some venison tenderloins in Daisy’s butter (yes, it’s a single cow butter), and make a sauce from venison scraps, sherry and dried shiitake and wood ear mushrooms. We also found some roasted eggplant puree in the fridge and finished it with some aged asiago. A little bit of merlot and some IPA’s to polish.
No dessert. Just a soothing orange flavored hookah hit.
Then I talked to her again to end the day. The fifteen hour workday felt like a breeze today after that amazing weekend. It’s a pretty good life.
However, this busy schedule means very little time for posts, especially since I have a non-disclosure agreement in place with my employer…
I’m working on some kvass, mustard, nato, and wild fermentation experiment setups but it might take a couple weeks. Bear with me.
This was a question on my homework for today for my high volume production class. Here’s my answer:
Vegetables are fantastic. They are versatile, pack tons of flavor, reflect the bounty of the season, have great textural interest, and they are gorgeous to look at. Both nutritious and delicious.
They can show a chef’s finesse and culinary skills more than grilling off a hunk of meat.
Using meat as a main component on a plate is an act that our food system has bought into but not necessarily the right thing. It’s not sustainable and it’s also a modern invention that is not healthy for the individual consumer or our planet.
This question should read: Why do we need so much meat on our menus?
Let’s see what I get in response. I’m pretty sure chefs don’t read our homework anyway.
Thank you for the compliment! I have to say, it’s been a great ride. Once you set yourself on your desired path, your friends and family support you to no end.
It took a lot of soul-searching to finally realize all I wanted to do was to cook!
I know I had you at bacon!
As I’m becoming more and more interested in vegetable cookery (as opposed to all the hunks of protein the common foodie lusts after), I feel as though I’m losing touch with the rest of the world. Here is quick article from the Economist that proposes vegetable promoting apps as one solution to the childhood obesity epidemic in the US.
More and more I’m thinking of an omnivorous cuisine where proteins are used as sources of flavor rather than the main event in a dish. A vegetarian diet, whose disposition is one of environmental consciousness, can potentially disregard the what a region has to offer, which in my opinion (I have no empirical proof beyond qualitative data) has more value to the environment than strict adherence to a paradigm that isn’t in touch with the local ecology. If you’re living on a pasture, you’ll be eating grains, vegetables, dairy products, and a small amount of protein in the form of meat. If you live near the shore or on an island, you eat fish.
Of course, if you’re trying to structure a cuisine that revolves around vegetables and uses meat to develop flavor, one of the first ingredients you explore is bacon.
Bacon is often regarded as the gateway meat for vegetarians, as though the goal is to convince vegeterians to eat more meat and not omnivores to eat less meat. This NPR/Salt article makes this point and the reference is all over the web as well.
I look at it a little differently. I think bacon is the gateway vegetable. It’s a way to help people understand how versatile vegetables can be. When was the last time you had brussel sprouts, kale or green beans without bacon? Here are a couple silly vegetable and bacon recipes from bacontoday — I’m sure you can find a vegetable you don’t like on its own but would try with bacon.
A WIRED / Food Network data summary (no statistical methodology was applied) of 49,733 recipes and 906,539 comments put out that recipes with bacon in them get better rating over recipes that don’t.
Maybe we could cook vegetables with bacon for kids to help fight obesity. I’m serious, you don’t have to use a whole pork belly to put flavor into vegetables. An ounce of bacon can give flavor to 6 oz of vegetables. Bacon or not, children won’t eat vegetables unless parents know how to cook them. The long term solution is not to throw more apps to the problem but to reconnect with the farmer, the land and the ritual of cooking and feeding our families, and sharing a meal with them.
Flavor Perception and Heightened Sense of Awareness, at the same time as The Culinary’s newspaper, La Papillote
On a sunny Friday afternoon late September, one nasturtium flower took me to hot summer days in Istanbul when I used to play marbles all day and chow down as much of the nectar from honey suckles as I could. That’s until I started making money playing marbles and would buy fried mussel sandwiches a couple times a day but that’s another story…
When I leave my A la Carte class, I walk across Roth Hall out the doors, through Anton Plaza to my campus job. I pick up a flower or a leaf along the way to snack on — from the nasturtium plant, which is used fairly enthusiastically at the restaurant where I work on weekends.
The flavor of the leaves is both peppery like arugula and spicy like mustard greens. But the leaves also pack citrus-like flavors similar to watercress. It has a high vitamin C content and it is incidentally in the same family as a tuber that I discovered while in Cuenca, Ecuador. It was one of my first posts on this blog. The tuber’s name is mashua. The seed pods are consumed in a similar fashion to capers as well. So, yes, incredible plant.
The flower is usually a garnish or a component in a cold dish. Sometimes it’s stuffed, tempura-battered and deep fried akin to a squash blossom. You get a hint of sugar if you’re lucky, depending on ecological factors. Now, hold that thought.
When Thomas Keller visited the CIA campus, the one thing that stuck with me was his emphasis on a heightened sense of awareness and the perspective that this leads to creativity. In other words, if you pay attention to how things work, you can think through leveraging their strengths or actualizing their potential. Then Grant Achatz explained how he created a themed dish reminiscing memories from his childhood and creating new perceptions pivoting from those experiences – this best manifests itself in his pheasant with shallot, cider, and burning oak leaves dish.
Now, we’re going to lean in just as Chef Keller might ask us to. Look at the little extension behind nasturtium’s ovary that has evolved precisely for pollinators with a proboscis (i.e. butterflies, moths). Remember that honeysuckle from your childhood and the wines that you frequented every so often. It’s a different structure from the nectar pocket in honeysuckles but it serves the same purpose of driving the symbiotic relationship with its pollinators. Schools that dabble in evolutionary biology would have touched upon the concept of convergent evolution. Similar structures with similar functions in different species of different lineages (e.g. flight with wings in bats, birds and insects). You can take a brief look at the concept here. Honey suckles and nasturtium solve the same problem in different ways but they appease your taste buds in a similar manner.
The next time you walk by a nasturtium flower, pluck it, turn it around and eat only this extension. Because that little extension does what a lot of chefs try to do as Grant Achatz emphasized in his speech on Keller Day — hinge on an experience or a memory in your past and elevate it to another level.
I find myself more and more turning to nature to find inspiration.
Lean in to nature, your back yard, your hike trail, your farmers market, your herb gardens… They have much to teach.
This monarch helped me realize today that lemon verbena leaves lose most of their fragrant oils and fragrance once the plant goes to flower (at Culinary Institute Of America)
This is a question on my 2nd term practical at the Culinary Institute of America — the course material should be equivalent to a first year college. At least they have a sense of humor.
44. 75% of 75 is….
e) It is a trick question.
Front page on the school newspaper, baby! This one was about the weekend I cooked with the Societe Culinaire
I have the role of a group leader in my class at the CIA. Though the administration makes an attempt to glorify the position and though I take the role seriously, it's no more than the role of an administrative liaison.
You hear interesting things every once in a while. Anonymous has a history of tardiness and no-call / no-shows. After I finished the work with four hardworking colleagues in the ice room of the fish fabrication class, here is the conversation that took place between myself and anonymous.
(Oblivious to the reality of the moment as the ice team walks into the room) I think you should go ahead and put me on ice a couple times more before the end of class. I want to contribute more. Anonymous:
Of course, do you want to jump on now?They need one last push. Sayat:
But I don't have my apron with me. Anonymous:
You don't need your apron, you're going to wipe some surfaces and dump old ice down the drain. I take full responsibility. Sayat:
I can't get my chef coat fishy. Anonymous:
Because fish smells bad. Anonymous:
I turned around and walked away aware of the danger that I posed to anonymous's mental and physical well being.
Anonymous was absent the next morning. He missed the biggest ice day and short-changed his entire team. No call -- no show. I had a talk with him and put him on ice for the remaining of class.
He showed up each day on time and ready but each day he made a point to negotiate that extra day of ice with me. I received six text messages pleading with me about ice duty.
Each time, I walked away.
It’s red mullet season in Istanbul and these respectable fish in the first photo were so bright and beautiful that I thought I was snorkeling right next to them. I went to the Istanbul fish market (wholesale market in Yenikapi) for the first time this week.
On my explorations in India and Thailand, I followed a simple formula to get the most out of the local food culture.
- Read about the cuisine
- Visit markets; understand the season, the land and the bounty.
- Eat street food wherever you see it
- Eat where the ”people” eat
- Eat at fine dining establishments
- Read about the cuisine
I found that the second step is undisputably the most essential one. I always helped my mother with her shopping growing up but I had not paid a visit to the markets with a trained eye.
I absolutely loved the Balik Hali (the wholesale fish market) in Yenikapi!
I parted from good friends at about midnight after a good (not great) dinner at Karakoy Lokantasi (a respectable establishment) and hookah in Tophane. I walked up to Taksim and walked the Red streets of Istiklal until about 1 AM. There is always something happening there and it’s always interesting to talk to the people on the street.
I got a haircut and a straight razor shave and hopped into the shuttle right after — yes, you can get a haircut in Istanbul at 1 AM. I missed the point where I had to get off and walked back about six miles. Amazing walk by the water, half of it in the rain, listening to NPR’s The Splendid Table.
Well, I got to the Balik Hali at about 2:30 AM. It was buzzing with excitement. Almost literally. Instead of bees they had seagulls flocking all around in an unobtrusive way, waiting their turn at the pick.
Boats were loading off their catch, fishermen were setting up their humble displays of not so humble fish, and procurement specialists were lining up around the displays. Cuddlefish (calamari), sand sharks, monk fish (Tr: Fener), mullets, leer fish (akya), turbot, John Dory (Tr: Dulger), scallops. needlefish (Tr: Zargana)… What a beautiful scene.
The market buzzed for about two hours after 2:30 and then it led to a calmness. Everyone was tired and ready for bed, including myself.
I had great educational conversations — especially the one about Muhammad’s thumbprint on John Dory. Very entertaining. And convincing.
A most successful reconnaissance mission! Also, I think fish are the most beautiful of all proteins. There, I said it!
I am planning a trip to the Bronx fish market. Anyone familiar with the process? I learned so much when I visited the markets in Bangkok and Istanbul. I certainly can’t pass on the Bronx market!
Deductive logic-if cheese smells like pheromones, can one fall in love w/cheese? I just did: Bobolink cave-ripened cheddar. Mmm look at that bloom
So — I ended up with those two scars when I spilled bacon grease off a sheet tray onto the sleeves of my coat. You know what the best part was, I smelled like bacon all day.
The Culinary, Hyde Park, NY
My drive to my previous job took about 30 minutes on a good day. It started invariably with a cup of coffee from Little Amps Coffee Roasters in Harrisburg and ended in Strinestown at the largest dry grocery warehouse in the world, a giant building 20 stories high that stretches the highway for a good three quarters of a mile. I can’t say that the sunrise over the steam clouds of Three Mile Island wasn’t awe inspiring but it wasn’t wholesome per se.
I woke up to a light drizzle this morning. With the first sip of coffee of the day, I opened my arms and embraced the smell of lavender and rain with a giant hug.
I said hello to the chickens and the cows, picked a couple berries along the way and put on my whites. I work on charcuterie projects all day!
Beef medallion with sauce chasseur (En.: Hunter sauce), broccoli rabe, beer battered onion rings and potato au gratin.
I had the privilege of having one of the best chefs at the CIA as my fundamental skills instructor. Chef Xavier Le Roux ran La Pavillion in NYC in its heyday, one of the best restaurants in the US at the time. His principle mantra is: Discipline. Consistency. Success (very similar in fact to that of my chef in Harrisburg, PA— Chef Quiqui).
Perhaps the most important thing he’s instilled in me and my entire team is the pride one takes in his craft. The satisfaction we saw on his face day in and day out after his demonstrations will stick with me forever. He’s a humble man — moves with purpose, respects his customers, his craft, his colleagues and the ingredients he works with.
No gimmicks, no showmanship.
If you asked me the most profound thing I experienced at the CIA my first term here, I will say shaking hands with Chef Le Roux on the last day of fundamental skills class.
The term culminated in the last day of class for me. I served a well seasoned, properly cooked, hot plate of food with a medium rare beef medallion, a golden brown potato au gratin, hunter sauce at perfect thin nappe consistency, and crispy onion rings.
Today we started meat identification and fabrication class!