Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Smoke House

There’s a moment every day where I day dream about food, what to make, ingredients to buy, dinners to plan, recipes to look for…and working the canapé station only fuels that dialogue in my head. Making canapés at the restaurant allows us to create and experiment with food and flavors.

For part of the day, Ashley, my team partner and I were texting back and forth discussing what we would make for that evening. She wanted to bake apples then we talked about poaching them in port that then evolved into poaching melon-balled apples or pears in mulled wine then covering them in a goat cheese mixture and toasted spicy walnuts – like a truffle. Then I thought we could reduce the mulled wine to make a syrup. The creative back and forth is something I really enjoy and building on ideas makes the whole experience more interesting.

With an idea in my head I jaunted down to school. In the kitchen I spoke to Chef and wanted to check in about anything that needed to be used that evening. He immediately sent me upstairs to the fourth floor to fetch two very large sheet trays of trout that had brined for two days. I figured our apple truffle will have to wait for another day.

Chef instructed me to cold smoke the trout and use it for our canapé – he left us to think about how we would present it and we started to brainstorm about different ideas. I love a good food challenge – how can we make smoked trout presentable and more delicious? It’s something that was hard to get excited about – not my favorite thing.

I thought we could serve it on a potato gaufrette – a crisscrossed slice that would be deep fried and Spencer wanted to make an apple/radish slaw to top it. Chef buzzed around our station, he liked the gaufrette idea and suggested using sweet potato instead. With two whole sheet pans of trout to smoke I took charge of that task since we had SO much fish I had to smoke it in batches. Each time I would open the smoker I would be blasted with grey smoke that would fill part of the kitchen with a woodsy aroma of wood chips. My eyes would water and burn a bit from the blast.

We flaked the trout, placed a small amount on the sweet potato chip and added a bit of the tiny julienne of apple and radish – looking at it we knew it was missing something. I suggested making a lime aioli with fresh lime juice and garlic. Ashley liked the idea and she went ahead and started the mayonnaise. On the plate Spencer swirled the aioli with a decorative flare and we added some of the mixture to the trout. For an ingredient that none of us liked the canapé turned out to be an attractive little bite – and by the end of the night I could have passed as a smoked trout the way I smelled!

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