After twelve years of primary and secondary education and four years of undergraduate study, it’s hard to break the habit of getting excited about summer. Even though it hasn’t meant a three-month-long vacation in a very (very) long time, I still love when the daylight lasts longer and the weather turns warm… aside from that horrid heat wave a few weeks ago. I didn’t think of it this way until Chef mentioned it, but getting past Memorial Day is indeed a bit of a milestone for the year.
Friday was a fun prep day for me. My pig’s head had been braising for almost 12 hours by the time I arrived… I was the first one in the kitchen because apparently it was a noon day and I missed the memo. No matter. I relished in the blissful silence and picked off the meaty goodness that had fallen off the skull bones. The braising liquid (essentially a court bouillon thickened with the collagen in the head meat) I reduced with some pig’s feet for added viscosity. I had allotted a lot of time to this process, as I do every time I know I’m trying something new (I ask a lot of questions and want to make sure I do things the right way, every step of the way).
It was my first time rolling up a torchon-style terrine, as I missed my last opportunity (the veal tongue) when Sous Chef J took it upon himself to “help” me by doing it for me. This time I made sure to ask him if he could teach me to do it so I could manage on my own. It was messy but fun. Passers-by kept sneaking tastes of the braised meat. SO GOOD. Tender, fatty, and simply delicious. As is the tradition in this kitchen, the prize pieces are the pair of eyeballs. I had already eaten one when Charcuterie Guy made his headcheese terrine, so I completed my rite of passage. We gave one to Fish Stage, who annoys us all by constantly eating everyone’s mise, and the other to Pizza Guy J who was helping me pick off the meat and had never eaten one before.
Service was pretty busy and very, very long. We all stayed late to help with a 25-top that had made a reservation at 10pm. Because after a twelve hour shift, we were SO HAPPY to stay an additional two hours and work. Haha. I was impressed that everyone was willing to stay and help; otherwise it would have been just the two unfortunate souls who happened to be assigned the Late Night shift that day. We were starting to feel that the party decided not to show up, and as soon as talk flew through the kitchen about calling it a day, the tickets rang in. Three long tickets worth of orders at 10:45pm. We all kicked it into high gear to get the food out as quickly as possible and go home. I ended up with five terrines and plated them all while the others teamed up to assemble eight or nine pizzas, saute seven orders of gnocchi, cook off four burgers, and more. We joked that all of us should be paid for the Late Night shift, but at least we were “paid” with a round of beers at the end of the night. I didn’t end up leaving until 11:50pm, but we were all in good spirits. I picked up Honey Bunny and we went out for a late dinner, so we kept the party going!
I woke up exhausted this morning, but at least it’s my Friday! I had a salmon terrine planned for today and I managed to shave some time off my personal record — it “only” took me an hour and 40 minutes. It was fortunate that I finished quickly as Singing Hot-Apps Guy was in desperate need of help. He had four and a half kilos of potatoes with which to make gnocchi in preparation for service and for a 40-top party on Sunday, and it was already 3pm. Fish Guy and I jumped in to help, mixing the dough, kneading giant balls of potato-y goodness, rolling out snakes like playing with Playdoh, cutting them into little pillows, and passing them over a gnocchi board for the iconic ridges. Between the three of us working at full speed, we finished in 30 minutes. TEN POUNDS of potatoes. I was impressed and Singing Hot-Apps Guy was very thankful.
Service today felt slower than yesterday, with the exception of a VIP 17-top (Chef’s friends). Everything had to be soigne, and Pastry Girl and I collaborated to create two meat & cheese platters (pictured above) for their starter. Chef seemed extra stressed out and it wasn’t until the end of the night that we realized it was his wife’s (or one of her friends?) birthday. No wonder! Pastry Girl told me that he was equally anxious/nervous a few years ago when word hit the kitchen that a renowned food blogger/critic was dining with us. Apparently he was so flustered that he cut his finger and had to continue service with his hand bleeding into a latex glove. (Appetizing, I know.) It’s strange to see our fearless leader in such a state.
Anyway, it’s my weekend now and I can’t wait to spend time with Honey Bunny. Here’s to another successful week!