Today was thankfully a fairly light prep day for me. At least, it was until Chef asked me to break down a whole pork leg to use the meat for salumi. Not just any pig — it was the hind leg of a Gloucester spot boar. As I lugged the easily 30-40 pound monstrosity to my station, I knew this was going to be a daunting task. After all, my butchery experience is limited to breaking down chickens (though I’ll admit, I’m pretty proud of my ability to do at least that). Luckily, Chef didn’t say anything other than to use a boning knife rather than a chef’s knife. I figured that it was largely because we plan to grind up the meat anyway, so my butchery doesn’t have to be pretty or clean. It was great practice. Here’s the before:
And I was proud of the “after” so I took a photo of that too (scroll down). It wasn’t until I was more than halfway done cutting away the meat that I was able to identify exactly what I was working with. “Leg” is a generic term, but I soon recognized the femur (thigh bone), joints, and tibia and fibula (calf bones). I know it may sound a little macabre but I really enjoyed the butchery; it’s a great way to work hands-on and get familiar with the ingredients and products you will later create dishes with. After the leg, Chef dropped off a whole bone-in pork shoulder for me to break down as well. That one is less pretty.
When I walked in today, the first thing Chef said to me was “What makes pho taste like pho?” I know we are having a lamb belly “pho” dish on tomorrow’s special dinner menu, so I told him about the use of star anise and charred fresh ginger and he seemed satisfied with my answer. Later I overheard him telling the full story. He had come in to the restaurant and Sous Chef J told him that he had started the lamb pho broth but that it didn’t taste quite right. “So I asked her,” Chef continued, gesturing to me, “and bam! It tastes f*cking great now!” Yay! I was elated. Someone teased him in response, “Why didn’t you just Google it?” to which he replied “We have a perfectly good Vietnamese person right here!” haha
Anyway, I’m looking forward to the special menu tomorrow (Wednesday), although unfortunately, we are ALSO serving our regular dinner menu. That’s going to be chaotic!
PS: Happy Birthday, Dad! :)