Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A School of Fish

One important lesson to learn in the kitchen is to be flexible and ready for anything. Whether you’re slammed with orders, run out hot plates or need to improvise on a recipe, it’s all about going with the flow and making things work – like swimming with the current. Monday night, lots of classmates were MIA and we were understaffed for some of the stations. The Entremetier station only had one person on it and Chef asked for volunteers to step up to the plate and fill other roles. Having made both fish dishes I was happy to help my buddy Marcella out on vegetarian dishes.

Marcella and I had some immediate thoughts about what we’d like to prepare, seared polenta, with sautéed wild mushrooms flambéed with sherry, a quenelle of mascarpone cheese, candied walnuts and freshly chopped herbs. Our second dish was harder to imagine so I went to the kitchen’s storeroom and asked the stewards for whatever vegetable they had an overabundance of…and out came broccoli rabe.

Now broccoli rabe is not my favorite vegetable, but I was open to raising the bar and making it delicious. We decided to blanch the rabe and then shock it in ice water to preserve the color. Upon ordering, I would sauté the broccoli rabe with some blended oil, salt and pepper, then plate the crisp vegetable in a nest with a dressed salad of grape tomatoes, shaved fennel, thinly sliced red onion and roasted garlic. Finished with a drizzle of garlic-infused oil and 8 year old balsamic the dish looked vibrant. That night the vegetarian dishes were quite popular and the orders kept us busy for most of the night. I guess there’s a healthy market for broccoli rabe – a surprise!

With trepidation, I watched the team on the Saucier station, probably the busiest and fastest-paced position in the kitchen. Starting Wednesday it’s my turn to get behind the grill and sear up some of the meat courses featured on L’Ecole’s prix fixe menu. I’m sweating just thinking about it.

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