Friday, March 10, 2006

Giving a piece of myself

Literally. This time, it happened to be a small triangular section of my fingernail and the tip of my pinky. Nothing quite says 'you need to hire me' like cutting yourself. Now, if you've ever handled a knife, you should be asking 'how in the fuck did you cut your pinky'. My response is...I don't know. It was my own fault really...I mean I'm dicing an onion not drinking Earl Grey. But the night picked up after that. It was my first time back in nearly a week and it felt good to have a hand in putting out good food again.

Aside from a little blood and me forgetting the anchovies on caesar salads, it was a good night overall. I love the feeling of teamwork; the correct orientation of everyone in a restaurant seamlessly putting out happy customer after happy customer. Speaking of happy customers, the local newspaper put out a really nice article on us yesterday. It can be seen here. The article focuses mostly on the service, but it's nice to see good press in any form.

My personal highlight of the night involved making the staff meal. I can't help but go to Thomas Keller's story in The French Laundry Cookbook, where he describes the staff meal. It's how he got started in the business, and look at him now.

About the staff meal. It generally involves taking something that you have left over, (little scraps of this, that sauce needs to get used up, these asparagus are going to waste if we don't use them) and putting it together in edible format. Personally, the most intimidating factor is knowing that the people eating these bits and pieces know food. They also realize that it's made from odds and ends, but regardless if it's haphazard or flat out bad, it's going to go noticed.

Looking over what I had to work with (ok...asking the head chef what i could use) I had some leftover shitake mushrooms from the night's special (potato and mustard seed encrusted tuna with carrot ginger broth, mushrooms, and pineapple curry aioli) to utilize. We also had a few odds and ends of house made spicy Italian sausage, and a few pieces of red bell pepper left over. Seeing I had Italian sausage, bell pepper, and mushrooms to use up, and furthermore not fully knowing what I could use and what I could not, I stuck with something safe: pasta.

I carmelized some julienned onions and the red peppers. Since the mushrooms were already cooked down, I added them just a touch before the garlic, to get some crust on them. This was followed by butter, mushroom stock to deglaze, and white wine. Once the moisture had reduced down and started to form a sauce, I added a handful of blue cheese crumbles to melt, followed by a touch of heavy cream, dried basil (it's all I had to work with and it's better than nothing), salt, and pepper. Once this reduced down to the consistency I was looking for, a taste left me looking for something a little more, something with a little sweetness and acidity - so I added a splash of balsamic vinegar. I tossed this on top of the penne, sprinkled a little asiago, parsley, let the starches of the pasta do it's magic, and served along side of the charbroiled sausages (this keeps a couple vegetarian staff we have happy) and some herbed olive oil.

There are no amounts listed, not a cup of this a tablespoon of that. I merely cooked with what I had, but it came out tasty nonetheless. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, and I enjoyed making it. Tonight I go back, and Fridays are very busy, so tomorrow morning when I am scheduled to go in again I'm sure I'll be tired. I still think I'm getting the better part of the deal.


At 8:16 PM, Blogger Johnny_One_Five said...

You are a the alpha 'food geek' in my book.

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Bistro said...

johnny on the spot.

Thanks. I think.


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