It’s 1am and I just got home from the restaurant. It was getting to the point where Honey Bunny sent me a text to check up on me because I was gone later than usual, even for a night when I had the Late Night shift. After working nonstop and at full-speed for fourteen hours straight, I am exhausted!
As I mentioned yesterday, I had a whole plan outlined for my week ahead. And I’m glad I did – it really helped me stay organized and on-task throughout the day. As soon as I got in, I dumped the mirepoix into a large rondeau (a wide, shallow round pot) and started sweating the vegetables for my veal tongue braise. While that was working, I went upstairs to get the meat grinder and set it up on my station. The duck pate had been marinating since Sunday in a proprietary blend of herbs, spices, and booze, and now I had to make and cook the actual terrines. While I passed the marinated goodness through the grinder, I had some diced back fat brining in a fragrant solution. Then I put together a batch of panada — a paste made from white bread, eggs, and cream. Similar to adding breadcrumbs to a meatball mixture, the panada acts as a binding agent for my duck pate. Everything goes into the giant commercial mixer in the Pastry Room along with some walnuts.
My next task was to line the terrine molds with plastic wrap and then layer gently with caul fat (which would become the outer layer of my duck pate). I packed the pate mixture in tightly (any holes would cause the terrine to oxidize from the inside and that’s just not cool). I was able to yield three full terrines and into the oven they went. For three hours. This gave me time to move on to other tasks, like buttering a chicken liver mousse terrine, cooking hard-boiled eggs for deviled eggs, and boiling some malt vinegar to pickle a new batch of cipollini onions for garnish. And set up my station ready for service before 4:30pm. Victory.
Service started off terribly slow. I seized this opportunity to prepare my potatoes for building a smoked salmon terrine the next day. As I peeled the yukon golds, I remembered what my initial preconceptions of staging would be like — free labor that would simply sit around and peel potatoes all day. I chuckled at my old self; it feels like it has been so long since I started on this journey. I took the peeled potatoes over to our industrial slicer in order to shave off perfect slices of uniform thickness. Still no (or very few) tickets came in.
Our cryovac (vacuum sealing) machine has been broken for a few days now, so I had to poach the potato slices instead of sous vide. The poaching method is a simpler technique but much easier to overcook the potatoes (as I ended up doing…). Luckily they were only slightly more tender than I wanted, and still very usable. I transferred them as quickly as I could to a sheet tray so I could let them chill in the walk-in overnight, but of course, this is when the tickets started flowing in. Luckily one of the dishwashers helped me by bringing the pan of potatoes to the freezer to stop the cooking while I managed my station as well as Pantry. The boys were getting hit hard and there were tickets where I had to make my dish as well as theirs in order to push that course out.
At one point, I went over to Hot-Apps to check on the status of a ticket, and Singing Hot-Apps Guy asked me to plate a few dishes for him. I was happy to help and he seemed so relieved! Again, I thought back to my first few days in the restaurant last August, when I didn’t really know anything and was of very little help (or at least, it felt that way).
Dinner Service transitioned into Late Night and I was immediately slammed with an order for a dozen deviled eggs. What the heck?! I thought they looked cute side-by-side so I took a picture.
When it seemed safe (ie: no tickets had come in for a while), I went to set up my veal tongue braise. I had rinsed the brining veal tongues earlier so I just had to transfer them to a metal 600 (that is, a 6-inch-deep metal pan), top with my braised vegetables and wine reduction I had made this morning, and cover with veal stock (or in this case, REM, a less concentrated stock). This is brought to a boil before I wrap the (very hot) pan in plastic wrap twenty times before placing in a 225 degree oven overnight. I was super proud of myself for doing it all on my own!
But then, around midnight when we were planning to break down and clean up for the day, Sous Chef S found a huge chunk of pork butt that I needed to dice up and store in the freezer. I swear the piece of meat was the size of a small pig — probably 30 pounds. It was bone-in as well, so it took me a while to work around the bones. He had to get his boning knife and cut around the bones. Eventually we got the job done, and Sous Chef S teased, “So…. are you still happy you made the decision to do Charcuterie?”
It IS a whole lot of work, and I hope that these nights of being the last person to leave the restaurant at 1am are few and far between. But I love this station. I love working on my own and relying on me, myself, and I to get things done and do them right. I love learning the very specialized skills and techniques that come with making charcuterie. And I can’t wait to master it. I recently read a website bio for a local chef and it proclaimed that she was the “Queen of Charcuterie.” Now that’s a title I wouldn’t mind carrying someday.
Here’s to another busy day ahead.