This morning I went to the second day of the paella workshop, again bright and early at 9am. The difference is that I then had to work a full dinner service shift afterward instead of going out and drinking copious amounts of sangria with my friends. Ugh. It was a long, exhausting day (14 hours on my feet!) but one of the best days at the restaurant so far!
We ended up making three paellas today, for a total of five distinct paellas over two days. This time we made paella negra (squid ink paella), iberico secreto and butifarra paella (the famous Spanish pork meat and sausage), and verduras y conejo (seasonal vegetables and rabbit). The day was already off to a good start when I volunteered to break down the rabbits (whole ones, with even the head still attached!). It seemed I was the only one in our group (other than the chefs, of course) with any experience in rabbit butchery so I ended up guiding a few of the others to show them how to separate the offal (liver, heart, kidneys), front legs, back legs, and saddle/loin.
My favorite paella of the day was definitely the squid ink paella negra, but the most memorable moment was tasting secreto for the first time. Secreto (Spanish for “secret”) is so named because traditionally, butchers would save this special cut for themselves. It is a flat, rectangular cut just under the pork shoulder and it has amazing marbling. More importantly, the pork comes from iberico pigs, Spanish pigs that feed exclusively on acorns. This gives the meat and fat a distinctly nutty flavor and even the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids! Because the meat is so high quality, it is the only pork that is safe to eat medium-rare… and it tasted like a delicious, juicy steak. Life changing, as R&D Chef had said.
And speaking of R&D Chef… he had seen me make my chicken liver mousse yesterday and remarked that he really likes that stuff and wanted to try mine. However, he will be flying out before my presentation tomorrow and we were all so full today from devouring three paellas. But, since he was planning to have dinner at our restaurant, he and I asked Chef if I could send him some of my mousse on toast when he came in. She agreed and I did, and I was nervous because this is the first time I’ve made chicken liver mousse outside of the old restaurant. I made a small sample for the sous chefs to try as well, a quick preview. Sous Chef M teased me, “Are you happy with it? Is it something you are proud of?” and it made me a bit worried because while it is good for 100% chicken livers, I know it could be even better with foie gras. But after tasting it, their faces lit up. “This is fucking delicious,” Sous Chef M replied.
Later when I finally got home from work, R&D Chef befriended me on Facebook and what he said to me just completely made all of the extra time and effort over the past two days worthwhile. He said that he loves how passionate I am about food and cooking. And he said that my chicken liver mousse was “life changing,” “amazing,” “the best [he’s] ever had,” “perfectly cooked,” 100 times better than one that he had the other day at another restaurant.
I was smiling from ear to ear as I read those comments. It’s all about making people happy through food and when the positive feedback comes from a talented chef like him, it especially means so much to me. I excitedly shared the news with Honey Bunny and he seemed proud of me (or at least, happy to see me so happy)!
Anyway, time for some much-needed sleep. One more day until my weekend!