Fine dining kitchens. Yeah, I guess a little part of me misses working in one. I have been out of a kitchen for three months now. I get a twinge of envy when I hear Seoyoung talking about a big push, or a really crazy dinner service at her new restaurant The London. I’m not saying I’m never going to go back into a kitchen. Most likely the contrary. I love the energy, the comraderie, and most of all the ingredients! I adore walking into a well-stocked pantry, shelves lined with every spice, vinegar and oil–all at your fingertips, begging to be incorporated into your next flitting food idea. And the chemicals–I’ve dabbled in their use in both restaurants where I’ve worked, but I would love to incorporate them more into my cooking.
So often I’ll see an entire dish composed solely on the idea of using chemicals. I recently worked an event where the final dish, the dessert course, was a conglomeration of ideas pulled together under the guise of being harmonious. But all that was harmonious was that the components had all been randomly concocted with various gums, and even a peristalsis machine, to create textures and beautiful presentation opportunities…but the flavors were all a bit underwhelming. It wasn’t a dessert that made your mouth quiver, or ache for another bite. Instead, it was a pretty plate, with many components and of course flavors, but I wasn’t yearning to rip a guest’s plate out from under them and inhale every last crumb. Technique sometimes is the priority, rather than the flavor.
Instead, I prefer those who use the techniques, and the machines, to accent a dish, rather than take the mainstage. Anyway, my point is that not being in a kitchen reinvigorates my need to learn how to use these materials properly. I think because I’ve stepped out of it for a bit, it’s a little easier for me to reevaluate my direction and where I’d like to go, and what I’d like to learn next. So, my mission will be to acquire some of these chemicals (like carageenan, agar agar, methylcellulose, maltodextrin and stablizers) and play with them in my own kitchen.
Today, on the other hand, I was in my mother’s kitchen. My mother’s kitchen that is undergoing a move-out. I had trouble finding a sheet tray, let alone any spices! But I had an idea, and loads of free time, so I got to playing. I first off began segmenting citrus fruits. If you’re a cook and have to do things on a daily basis, things can get mundane really, really fast. But there are a few tasks that are and remain quite fun, like concasseing tomatoes (pulling the skin off after they’ve been blanched). It’s as much fun as being in a pastry shop and getting to eat as many cheese danishes as possible! ‘Far fetched’ you say? Maybe I’m exaggerating, but not by much. And I love segmenting fruit even more than concasseing tomatoes!! There’s something so pretty in a fruit without its skin. Being able to see each cell without the white dress of its membrane is a satisfying sight. Anyone… Anyone agree? Okay, I’ll move on. I segmented a lemon, lime, a nectarine (yeah, I know it’s not a citrus fruit) and even a couple mandarins. Remind me never to attempt that again. Next time, I will secretly open a can of sweetened mandarins, and no one, except maybe those of you who read this, will ever know!! So I took these citrusy segments, layed them out, and after a few minutes of admiration, covered some in sugar, some in a mixture of sugar and chili, and all with a sprinkle of salt. I popped them into a 170 F oven and let them partially dehydrate for a few hours.
In the meantime, I seared off a piece of pork, grilled a comice pear, and made a sauce from the sake my friend brought over for dinner the night before. It’s not so much that I’m hungry. I guess you could say I’m slightly ancy being at home, without a means of transportation. I tried walking to the book store the other day and it took me 1 1/2 hours to get there. If you know me at all, you know that patience is one of those qualities I’m working on. Really! But the thought of that walk again just didn’t seem appealing, so I cooked all day instead. And I’m about to cook dinner for my mom in a few minutes…
But the pork was actually delicious (sometimes I surprise myself), and am hoping the dinner comes out as well. I think I’m going to try to use my little dehydrated citrus segments with steak. Perhaps odd, hopefully not. I will report later if it was a major disaster. Now if only I had some versa whip…!