During a recent catering assignment, my kitchen duties included everything from prep and production, to service and plating. Bracing for a 900 guest event, the kitchen was buzzing with energy and anticipation of an interesting night. Having only served a max of 300 in the past, I was very excited for a evening of this magnitude. With the little chef's blister on the inside of my pointer finger, which has [by this time] satisfyingly turned into a callous, I was ready for julienne, small dice, and anything else that was thrown my way...or so I thought!
After successfully chopping mache, parsley, and thyme, assembling goat cheese balls, and plating 300 ladles of vegetables and chicken, I was feeling great about the event. Unfortunately, my shift wasn't over yet.
When all dies down and the waiters are impatiently waiting for the guests to finish dessert and coffee, the kitchen is responsible for preparations for the following day. Aside from julienning mushrooms and marinating fruit, one of my tasks was to cube 80 pounds of chicken breast. Sounds like an easy task? Yeah! I thought so! Luckily, 2 others were also recurited for this extraordinary feat. As we hacked away at the slimy project, all were completely exhausted and watching the clock. "Another breast please", I mumbled, as my hands felt like anvils, attached to my wrists. Toward the end of the evening, my knife's sharpness was beginning to dwindle and the cubing required a lot more force. I kept feeling a sharp pain over my little [or so I thought] callous, but since gloves and chicken goo were covering my anvils, I couldnt see where the pain was coming from. In actuality, the result of this fun little project is noted in the photo above; a huge blister, the size of a dime, over my little pleasant callous...impossible you say? See for yourself. By the way, does anyone have an industrial sander I could borrow?
Below is an alternative to my childhood staple (serves 4):
1/4 cup shallots
2 oz olive oil
1 cup buckwheat groats
2.5 cups water
1 large cucumber-small dice
1 cup fresh tomatoes-small dice
1/2 cup parsley-finely chopped
1/2 cup mint-finely chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese-crumbled
1.5 cups olive oil
3/4 cups lemon juice-fresh squeezed
1.In a medium sauce pan, on medium heat, sweat shallots in olive oil (~5-7 minutes).
2. Add groats to pot and toss (~30 seconds, until coated).
3. Add water, season, and bring to a boil; turn the heat down and simmer until all water is absorbed and groats are tender (approximately 12 minutes); strain if necessary; allow to cool.
4. In a bowl, combine cooked groats, cucumber, tomatoes, parsley, and mint.
5. Season and top with feta cheese.
1. Whisk all ingredients; toss with above salad.
1/2 cup olive oil-divided
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
5 medium size pears-sliced thin and cored
1/4 t cayenne pepper
4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
3 T goat cheese
1/4 cup almond slivers-toasted
1/4 cup parsley-chopped
1/4 cup chives-chopped
1. Mix 1/4 cup olive oil and balsamic vinegar and marinate pears in mixture for 10 minutes.
2. Place pears on baking sheet (sprayed with cooking spray).
3. Season pears with salt, pepper, and cayenne and roast in the oven at 400F until soft (approximately 10-12 minutes).
4. Butterfly, pound, and cut chicken breasts in half (attempting to resemble a pear shape).
5. Season chicken breasts and brown on both sides, in 1/4 cup olive oil, until cooked through.
6. Top each chicken breast with one pear slice.
7. Place 1 teaspoon of goat cheese in the center of each pear.
8. Place ~4 almond slivers into the center of the goat cheese.
9. Garnish the plate with parsley and chives.
¼ lb Andouille sausage
¼ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
8 skinless duck breasts
2 oz canola oil
1 medium shallot-small dice
6 oz white wine
16 oz chicken stock
1 oz chopped parsley
1. Cut Andouille into small dice and cook until brown; mix with breadcrumbs.
2. Season duck breasts and brown on both sides in canola oil; remove and reserve.
3. Add shallot to pan and cook for 30 sec.; deglaze pan with white wine and reduce au sec.
4. Add 8 oz of chicken stock to pan.
5. Toss duck breasts in Andouille mixture and return to pan; top off duck with remainder of Andouille mixture.
6. Bake at 375F until duck is cooked through (approximately 15 min); place on rack.
7. Deglaze pan with white wine.
8. Add remainder of chicken stock and reduce by 1/3rd on stove top;
9. Top with parsley.
8 small, yellow sweet peppers-tops trimmed and reserved; ribs removed and discarded
2 medium carrots-small dice
1 medium onion-small dice
1 oz olive oil
1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
15 oz ricotta cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 t zested ginger
8 oz chicken stock
1. Cook onions in olive oil, until they turn light brown; add carrots and sweet peppers; when cooked through, season, remove, and reserve.
2. In a bowl, combine breadcrumbs, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, and ginger; season.
3. Combine cheese mixture with vegetable mixture and spoon into peppers.
4. Braise peppers in chicken stock, in a large rondeau, until tender when pierced with a fork (approximately 20 min).
2 medium shallots-small dice
2 oz olive oil
2 cups Kasha (aka buckwheat grains)
1.5 t zested ginger
4 cups water
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups snow peas
1. In a saucepan, sweat shallot in olive oil; add Kasha and ginger and toss until incorporated.
2. Add water; bring to a boil and turn to a simmer; add red pepper flakes.
3. Cook until Kasha absorbs all of the water (approximately 15 min); season.
4. Blanch snow peas and strain; cut on a diagonal in ¼ in pieces.
5. Combine snow peas with kasha.