As per my usual, pathetic day off routine, I spent the day:
- Having multiple naps in various places around the flat
- Eating an assortment of sammiches
- Consuming 2 litres of coffee
- Watching episode after episode of insert this weeks selected series available on Netflix here while drifting in and out of consciousness
- Manically cleaning at 2 am in order to feel as though I’ve accomplished something before returning to bed
Edie Falco kept staring at me with her hypodermic needle, I tried to avoid the show for weeks, but I eventually just decided what the hell.
If you don’t know about Nurse Jackie it’s similar to Showtime’s other programs where the main character is totally relatable, at-the-core good people who have strong values, who constantly make mistakes and are generally misunderstood.
Talking about tv is not really my thing, except Jackie reminded me too much of myself, but also of many chefs. While I don’t relate to her drug habit or the being in love with two men simultaneously and trying to stay with both storyline, she is passionate about her work. She does her job, no nonsense, is hard on people who fuck up or who cut corners, she makes mistakes but does a fair job of covering them up, and she’s got an intern who follows her around in pink scrubs being ridiculous.
I’ve admitted that I can have a bit of a temper when I’m in the kitchen. I’ve stated clearly this is because I take pastrying seriously and it infuriates me when people keep me from doing my job properly and to my standards. So I’m a bit of a bitch with servers because they don’t understand that desserts sitting unfetched on a passe can become both warm and cold at the same time (a scientific non-miracle I’m sure the Adria brothers were trying to rectify). And I hate it when people put garlic in the oven with anything pastry related because for some reason pastry likes to absorb all the flavours. Or how destroyed I am inside when someone who doesn’t understand how delicate a baking sponge is within the first ten minutes opens the door and causes the cake to sink.
Through the kitchens I’ve been in during my UK stint I have learned to at least speak up about it rather than stomp around like a child, though I can’t say that I come off very nice. But really, eating is supposed to be a nice experience, kitchens are about getting shit done. I was about to say something lame like “there’s no nice in kitchen” but all the letters are totally there so I’ll have to come up with something later.
This week has been a bit trying. A lot of people have quit. And we have a number of newbies in the kitchen with us to help out while we serve over 200 people a day on emergency, no-sleep, no-days off, grumpy chefs staff.
I am the bread slicer.
I would be lying if I said that I’m okay with this. In all honesty, as much as I dislike tooting my own horn (but if I had one, it would be one of those old-timey car horns, aaahoooogauh), I firmly believe that I am more useful to the brigade, even outside of pastrying, than Bread Slicer.
Problem is, I’ve attempted to train two people this week on bread (yes, I did indeed just use the word train in reference to slicing bread) AND THEY COULDN’T DO IT. Sure, the bread was sliced. I’ll give them that. But everything I do in the kitchen I do because I’ve tried other ways and it hasn’t worked. I have methods that are efficient and ideal. I’m not being specific about anything because I’m an ass, I’m way too methodical for that which is why when I teach I always explain the WHY after the HOW. But it seems as though even during the how I just sound like the teacher in Peanuts (wahwahwahwahhh). Tonight I had to tell the guy if he kept slicing it wrong he was going to have to eat all he couldn’t send out, and that amounted to a good deal of bread. Jesus.
The commis I had who walked out on Tuesday (not because of me, I promise) would do the opposite of what I would tell her.
“Can I plate a cheesecake for you?”
“Please,” (see? I can be nice).
“Is this okay?”
At this point I see that she’s put the cheesecake in the centre of the plate. Check.
She has put Blueberry compote on it. Check.
The compote is on the tip of the cheesecake. MINUS ONE MILLION POINTS.
Have you ever been served something with compote falling off the tip? No, because it goes in the centre. Cause it looks normal like that. And this compote placement is not her pushing culinary boundaries. It’s her not noticing the difference between two things: my plates, which look like the work of a coherent professional, and her plates, which are reminiscent of…a child scribbling on a wall in crayon.
Shitty incoherent, confusing chocolate strokes across a plate with no thought about the placement of the dessert components or the shape of the plate? SHIT.
Balls of ice cream with fingerprints and the surface texture of cotton candy and the size of a bulls testicle? DO IT AGAIN.
Trapizium brownies?! YOU’RE KILLING ME.
Breathe. Okay, I just had to get that out. I feel a bit bad about talking about commis on the interwebs but do you know how many times I’ve said “You’re a big boy (or girl, whatever), you can do it yourself,” or “Do you want me to wipe your ass for you, too?” in the last two months…
The one positive thing that happened at work this week was that, mysteriously, we had only 20 people booked on Monday, so I had time to test out a dish I’ve been thinking about for weeks.
Everyone loves a crumble. It’s so delicious and comforting. You get your fruit, which is healthy, and something like an oatmeal cookie on top but all broken up so you don’t have to exert any efforts, and it’s usually served a la mode, you know, cause vanilla ice cream adds richness that makes it seem like a dessert and not breakfast, and helps keep your mouth from burning when you shove it down your gullet at light speed cause your mom made it and she’s the best.
The only downside with the crumble is aesthetically it is… not so good. You serve it one of two ways: slopped on a plate from a pan, or in some kind of vessel that’s probably just a soufflee dish, which I think are about as boring and ugly as you can get when it comes to crockery.
I mulled over how to make a crumble look pretty and finally came to the conclusion that you can do it if you turn it inside out a bit.
Inside-out Apple-Berry Crumble
As Michel Roux’s Pastry book has been a more aesthetically pleasing companion on my section than my commis, I’ve spent a good deal of time with it so I’ve pinched some (all but the crumble) recipes from him. Makes like 8 servings.
400g whipping cream
40g Icing sugar
1 gelatin leaf
2 eggs, 6 yolks
Seeds of 1 vanilla pod
Make a sabayon of the eggs, yolks, and sugar by whisking vigourously over boiling water bath until ribbony or 60C. Add bloomed gelatine, then whisk to cool to body temp. Whip cream with icing sugar and vanilla, then fold mixture into the sabayon until no longer streaky. Pour onto a try and spread flat, I left it about 1.5” thick. Give the tray a tap and throw it into the freezer.
Pink Lady Puree
I used pink lady apples because they were in abundance, even though Roux suggests Cox (is this…Canadian? dunno). Turns out I was over the moon with how the pink lady apples cooked up.
500g Apples, chopped roughly (about 4)
1/2 one lemon
Throw em all together, bring to a boil, and cook on low until the apples turn to mush. Puree and sieve.
200g caster sugar
Boil water and sugar, add apples and lemon, then simmer for 10 min. Apples will be on the verge of becoming translucent, but still white with a bit of firmness near the peel.
45g Brown Sugar
Pinch sea salt
Mix all together till crumbly and delicious. Bake on a tray at 180C/350F for ten minutes or until a desired golden brown.
Cut your frozen parfait however you like. The deal is when you eat at Grandma’s you are eating for comfort. When you go to a restaurant I think you should eat for experience, and that means eating something you wouldn’t make yourself because it isn’t your style. Cut the parfait to suit your style. It could be trapezium if you desire, I don’t care. Mine is circular.
At this point, I take the crumbled crumble mix and add it to the parfait with the cutter still on it so it doesn’t get all crumbly on the sides cause that’s messy and I don’t care for messy dessert. Unless it’s an Eton Mess, but even then it should be nice, not armageddon in a bowl. Anyway, put the parfait back in the freezer. This is to be added RIGHT BEFORE SERVICE. Mainly because if you are relying on someone else to get it to the table for you they will absolutely fuck it up for you.
Have your chosen crockery slightly warm.
Now, this might get complicated but just breathe and remember you’re an adult: figure out how to best (this is based on your kitchen and equipment, not mine) heat the puree, the apples (separately!) and (please) some honey or simple syrup to toss your berries in (this warms them without cooking them so they taste fresh, and gives them a nice shine — makeup for fruits).
Put them on the plate in a nice way!
Finish with parfait and, perhaps, some micro herbs. I’m not trying to be trendy, but I honestly cannot stand pastry garnish like tuiles and brandy snaps and I suck at chocolate so no chocolate deco… I like micro herbs and flowers on a dessert, it’s just my style, and I only do it if the flavours are compatable. Note I didn’t use micro basil.
So that’s it. This was awesome, exactly what I wanted it to be.
Now I get to go back to taking frozen shit out of a box.