Saturday, August 30, 2008

Waste Not, Want Not

A valuable lesson in the professional kitchen is to never waste anything. Food is so expensive and most new restaurants never make it past the first year usually failing from financial mismanagement. Scraps and bones can go into making stocks, reinforcing sauces and even making garnishes.

Our vegetarian entrées utilized everything extra that we had from the past few nights. Chef marched out the walk-in refrigerator with a large hotel pan filled with extra vegetables, dressings, sauces, and left over risotto. We brainstormed quickly about what we could use and Chef decided that we would make risotto croquets that we would plate with red and yellow pepper sauces sautéed spinach and a garnish of fried basil and tomato skins.

Our other dish would be an Arugula salad with shaved baby carrots, fennel, red onion tossed with a lemon vinaigrette and decorated with orange segments, pea shoots and a beet dressing. I went ahead and used the beets we had from the other night which were still vibrant, fresh and delicious. Some peeled ginger, diced beets, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper went into the Vita-Prep blender and I pureed the ingredients while I slowly added some blended olive oil until an emulsion bound the dressing together. The dressing was an opulent magenta color with a fantastic and balanced flavor.

We played with the sauces and dressed white plates with some designs – this part of plating is always fun and a lot more difficult that it appears. At 8:oo pm service begins at the restaurant and the roll of orders come in starting with canapés. My team eagerly awaits to respond to a vegetarian order in lieu of the fish or beef course.

Orders slowly came in and dishes were fired – our petite salad presented itself quite beautifully. I carefully dressed the Arugula, fennel, onion and carrots with the vinaigrette in a separate bowl, Ashley perfected a swirl design on the plate with the beet dressing. I perched the salad on top of the design and arranged orange segments around it. The trickiest part was adjusting the pea shoots to stand in the middle of the dish to give it dramatic height.

Our risotto croquets were deep-fried to order and perched on a bed of sautéed spinach that was surrounded by the red and yellow pepper sauces. A few crisp leaves of translucent fried basil and tomato skin finished the look.

At the end of the night, we cleaned up and packed up our knife packs looking forward to the long weekend. Chef wished us a happy holiday weekend and reminded us about our big project coming up.

After changing into regular clothes, a few of us wanted an end of the week cocktail and decided to go to our current watering hole on Crosby Street in SoHo. “ñ” bar serves tapas and Spanish wines and is just steps away from school. I had a lip for a good Rioja and choose a full-bodied wine which was very satisfying. Marcela, her husband Pablo, Rodrigo, Tim, Stephanie, Michele, Luis and I unwound from the day and decompressed from the past week. It was great to catch up on news, gossip and stories from the kitchen. We laughed and chatted until most of us ran out of steam. My bed was beckoning me and I was ready to answer the call.

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