Monday, June 26, 2006
Back to the Ol' (Pepper) Grind(er)
It was rather a nice change to get up at 7ish, have breakfast, read a little while, etc., before sauntering out the door to go to school. I had a loverly drive in, with minimal traffic, and got there about 15 minutes before class started. I hop out of the car in the parking lot and open the hatch to get my chef jacket and put it on (don't want it to get wrinkled in transit, do we?), and donned the rest of the bits and pieces (name tag, family pin, notebook, pens, et cetera, et cetera) of my uniform. I shouldered my backpack and strolled on into the building. I popped into the ladies room to put on my hat, and it dawned on me that I have forgotten my knife kit. Holy Mother of Julia Child!!! Surely, surely, surely, I put it in the car when I left home...surely. I walk rather rapidly back out of the building to my car, knowing in my deepest heart of hearts that the damn knife kit IS NOT IN MY CAR!!!
I'm just standing there looking at the empty hatchback, mind whirling, and trying to think about what I should do...should I hop back in the car and get my kit? It will take me an hour at least to run home, get kit, and hustle back. Should I suck it up and go tell Chef Regional that I forgot my kit and hope that he only takes points off of me? One of the other students who was in the Dining Room class with me pulled in and got out to get dressed. He yells over and asks me how I'm doing, and I guess I must have looked totally stricken, because he asks what's wrong. I tell him what a dumbass I am and that I forgot my kit. He laughs and says "today is YOUR lucky day," and hands me his kit from the trunk. I'm sort of flabbergasted by this, because I'm thinking he needs it for his class, but he says that he's taking Nutrition this quarter and doesn't need it for class. I am saved!!! Of course, I tell him that I am his slave for life, and anything he needs, I'll get/do...except for babies. Told him I don't do firstborns, spin straw to gold, or anything else remotely Rumplestiltskiny.
Wow--class size sure has shrunk! There are a total of 6 of us from our old Principles class: Mother Hen, Cutest Chicklet, My Favorite Partner in Crime (we're sooo on the same wavelength), Mr. Big Stuff, me and...wait for it...wait for it...Dimmer Switch! There's supposed to be one more person, but s/he hasn't shown up yet...not sure who it is.
Chef Regional started class by stating that it was a fun class, and then hits us with a practical test! (He has a very "interesting" idea of fun.) We have to make 2 mother sauces--Hollandaise and one we draw from a bain marie. Wouldn't you know it? I get "dirt" sauce...more commonly known as Espagnole. Still smarting from my disasterous version during the Principles class, I'm thinking Fate has dealt me yet another cruel blow today. Can it get any worse?
Surprisingly no. My Hollandaise is a little thin, and I knew it was because I added too much liquid when I revived my reduction. But it didn't scramble or break, and he didn't make me do it over like the rest of the class...everyone else had to make it again. Mr. Big Stuff had to make it 3 times, which was hilarious. My Espagnole was a tad bit thin, too, but he said it had good color and flavor. I was just so happy that it tasted like anything but dirt.
Mr. Big Stuff--remember He Who Avoids Washing Dishes Like the Plague?--got stuck on dish detail today. He finished his sauces first and had to go back and wash by himself for awhile. He has this tendency to just dump his pots and pans back at the dish pit without emptying the leftovers into the trash. Which is annoying as hell, because if you are washing dishes, you have to take time to scrape the pots. And it's always icky nasty stuff.
So, Big Stuff is washing dishes, scraping pots, and is just none too happy about it. He keeps saying stuff about how he doesn't feel well, which is funny because he was feeling just fine until he had to do a 3rd Hollandaise and wash dishes. He keeps flinging stuff around the dish pit and muttering under his breath. He really does need a dose of what team work is all about. He gets some assistance, because it was not intended for him to wash all of the dishes by himself, but it doesn't improve his attitude. The rest of us are cleaning the work tables, sweeping, and mopping, so it's not like he's doing all the class clean-up work. I've got squeegee duty behind a mopper, and Big Stuff comes wandering out front, abandoning dishes. He stands around just looking at us and muttering until Chef Regional walks back in the kitchen. Then, he grabs the squeegee from me and says he'll finish...just so that Chef Regional sees him doing work. Snort. It's going to be a "fun" quarter for sure.
Tonight I caught a couple of episodes of Hell's Kitchen. The Hell's Kitchen website touts Gordon Ramsey as a "world class chef," and while it's true that he's won a slew of awards and 3 Michelin stars, that doesn't necessarily make him a world class act, with emphasis on "class." His theatrics and antics in the kitchen would send Miss Manners into a coma. I realize that all that drama is what the networks look for in reality TV, but does he really have to be so demeaning? And nasty? Calling people "idiots" and "donkeys," with some very fugly adjectives in front of those terms of endearment is not what I expect of someone who's in the hospitality business. I'm truly suprised that the contestants haven't all banded together and revolted. Again, I ask you, is it wise to piss off people with large knives? Not that the contestants on the show are without their own annoying traits. They acted like a bunch of bratty children, can't seem to work as teams to save their lives, and they probably should be spanked and sent home without any supper. Although, if I had to spend any amount of time in the same room with Gordon Ramsey, I'd probably be bratty, too.
Tomorrow is my day off! I promise I really am going to clean the house this time and not surf the 'net all day. I've got a couple of recipes I want to try that I'll let you know how they turn out. One is a traditional Italian casserole recipe that The Man has been asking me to make for a couple of weeks, ever since his mom sent me a locally written cookbook from his hometown. It involves peppers and potatoes and layering...and an hour and a half baking time. I'm going to experiment with par cooking the potatoes and peppers to try and cut down on the oven time. I've also got a recipe for a chocolate cake that looks pretty simple yet pretty yummy.
Tonight, for dinner, I made some garlicky broiled shrimp and "that damned rice pilaf" (as it's become known in our household). That damned pilaf is pretty much a no-fail recipe for a good side dish, and I encourage you to give it a whirl. It's not complicated, it's not exotic, it's just simple and tasty.
Rice Pilaf (Professional Chef, 7th Edition)
7 oz Long-grain white rice
.75 oz Clarified butter or vegetable oil
.5 oz Onion, minced
14 fl oz Chicken stock, hot
1 Bay leaf
1 Thyme sprig
Salt, as needed
Pepper, as needed
Heat chicken stock over low heat until warmed through.
Heat butter or oil in heavy-gauge pot over medium heat. Add onion and sweat, stirring frequently, until translucent; about 5-6 minutes.
Add rice and sauté, stirring frequently, until coated with butter or oil and heated through. Add the heated stock to the rice. Bring to a simmer, stirring rice once or twice to prevent clumping or sticking to pot bottom.
Add bay leaf, thyme, S&P. Cover pot and place it in 350° oven or leave it over low heat on stovetop. (If you have an electric stove, I would recommend turning a second eye to LOW and moving the pot over to it after it comes to a simmer. This makes for a quicker lowering of the pot's temperature and more even cooking.)
Cook until grains are tender to the bite; about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Uncover, remove bay leaf and thyme, and using a fork, separate grains and release steam. Adjust seasoning with S&P to taste.