Thursday, October 15, 2009

Resurrecting Five Things

I'm about two months into my new job and things are really good. I've even trained someone else on the station already, as my previous station partner moved onward and upward. I've been having a bit of difficulty shaping my work experience of late into words, so instead I thought I'd resurrect the Five Things I Learned This Week theme. To be fair, some of these have been culled from longer than a week ago, but let's just play pretend, okay?

1. Having a Forschner as a line knife is the way to go. I really don't know why it took me so long to catch onto this idea; you think having my Shun Elite 8-inch chef's knife dropped and tipped TWICE (both times not by me) would be enough to make me run to the store for a cheap-o line knife. Then about three months ago my friend Morgan and I won first place in a grill competition at a zinfandel event, and one of the prizes in our gift basket was a sizable gift certificate to Sur La Table. We finally got around to shopping at SLT last week, and while I don't exactly enjoy browsing the endless amounts of useless products or small-talking with the wide-eyed Food Network-philes cluttering the aisles, we had free money to blow. So along with some other goodies I picked up this handy little Santoku to keep on the line. Forschner makes a good quality product for a great price, and it's been an insanely wonderful difference--not having to babysit my knife, especially since my station is in a high-traffic area.

2. A helpful way to roast squash: Adding white wine and water to barely cover the bottom of your hotel pan before it goes in the oven keeps the squash skins from sticking and burning. Plus the white wine adds a nice aroma.

3. A mis-cooked terrine can go a very long way in family meal. A little baked ziti in earthenware dishes (consuelos?) never hurt anyone.

Baked ziti for family meal

I threw these together on a slow night one evening, and they did not suck. We snacked on the leftovers for a few days afterwards, and I made my way through a quart of it in my fridge at home. Also: Why use breadcrumbs when you can have buttery baguette croutons? I'm just sayin'.

4. Family meal can make or break a night. A good family meal goes beyond simply feeding everyone; it can bring home an awesome night, and bond the crew together in quiet revelry as we sit on the stairs and regain our energy. Alternately, a bad family meal can be downright disheartening, even demoralizing. It's hard to tuck into a half-thought-out pile of something-or-other and feel like you're ready and charged up to get back to the grind. I don't take the fact that we have family meal every single night for granted, and bad family meals have been very few and far between and usually occur under already-strained circumstances (insanely busy nights where everyone is buried); it's just that a little care and attention go a long way.

5. Wearing a button-up shirt and tie on the line is totally awesome. My current kitchen, like my previous one, is an open kitchen, and we've resurrected Tie-Day Fridays--basically the opposite of Casual Fridays. Seeing our entire line in button-up shirts and ties is both hilarious and swagger-affecting. You really move differently when wearing a sharp get-up, and it always puts a smile on my face.