Monday, November 15, 2010

My Endless Love...

     My husband brought a pumpkin pie home last night, and I knew right then and there, it was the official kick-off to the holiday season. Incidentally, pumpkin pie is otherwise naked without Cool Whip. I enjoy real whipped cream, don't get me wrong, but when you grow up with pumpkin pie and Cool Whip, there is nobody that will tell you otherwise. Being a chef, there is a big misnomer that we all have caviar's tastes. That is not necessarily true, just because you drive a Mercedes at work, does not mean that you drive one at home. To tell you the truth, I can't stand fois gras, I think it is wretched, not to mention the lengths they go to bring it to your table.
     What I like to eat, does not a chef make. I have seen some truly disgusting things, that people call delicacies. One particular memory is about making lobster stock. We used to get frozen flat cases of lobster bodies and shells, you know, the stuff we throw away when eating lobster. Well, we would thaw it, and then the Executive Chef would show us a nifty way of getting all the flavor out of the shells, by throwing it in the Hobart mixer with the paddle attachment and mixing the heck out of it. On a warm summer day, that smell would glue itself to the inside of your nose. Lobster is forever ruined for me.
     I took meat cutting in Culinary school, and to be honest all I remember is that my fingers were always frozen. Meat Cutting took place in a refrigerated room, and being a freshman, our job was to pump out the number one meat item: chicken. I can not tell you how many chickens, I broke down. It was freezing in there and add cold chicken to the equation it was terrible. I knew from that moment on, I would never be a butcher. At the end of our class, hoses came out and hot water mixed with the cold chicken, and I decided then I would be a vegetarian, that lasted through my time at Johnson and Wales University.
     However, culinary school was not all doom and gloom. I entered Baking and Pastry arts. I was in heaven. When I walked into the practical kitchen, there were big plastic buckets on the table. I am curious, I had to know what inside, in those buckets were BUTTER CREAM, all different kinds and flavors. This class truly made up for Meat cutting. My Instructor was once involved with Calise and Sons Bakery and he knew how to make a croissant. He was gifted.
     My favorite instructor hands down was Chef Quicho, he specialized in Garde Mange. It is with a heavy heart, I tell you that he passed away in August of 2007. What a man he was, he inspired, he encouraged, he loved what he did and it showed. I was so honored, to have been in his classes. I was blessed.
     I am sure Johnson and Wales has changed tremendously, the only chefs that are there still are there are Chef Frank Terranova, he came my last year at Johnson and Wales, he was a cool cat, I remember he wore red Dansko clogs. Chef Vic Calise, he was my freshman year baking and pastry arts instructor, he really knew the inner chemistry of a croissant. Chef Torres, he was the man I saw at 5:30 am, over in McNulty Hall for Institutional Cooking, where we made ungodly amounts of food, and all before noon. Chef O'Palenick was the Ice Sculpture chef, sadly I never had him, but he is still involved in Ice Sculptures. Chef Chiaro, he was the afternoon half of my Institutional training at McNulty hall. Chef Kender, I was absolutely terrified of her, she was a "I take no crap kinda chef", and I pity any newborn chef that has to go into her kitchen to ask for a mop. She had red hair and I remember that the toque, intensified the fact that I was scared to death of her. She shared a door with another Asian chef, a friend of my beloved Chef Quicho. I went into his kitchen, once to use the fryolater, and I had not properly dried my Parisian potatoes...I was made a spectacle and I much rather have been there looking for a mop.
     My time at Johnson and Wales, was an experience that I am very proud of. I survived some pretty scary individuals. I remember standing at attention in my Sauce and Skills class for Chef McKenna. He lined us up everyday. Our Chef jackets had to be pressed, no facial hair for the men, side towels clean, aprons pressed, and absolutely no perfume, makeup, aftershave, hair gel, or jewelry. We all stood there together frozen waiting for inspection to end.  If you were sent home, that was an automatic grade deduction, and I am not kidding you. You miss one class, your A is as good as a B, period. They prepared you for the real world.
    I ate really wonderful Italian food while I was in Culinary school, and I was always in search of the perfect meatball.  What follows is my perfect meatball.

2 pounds of meatball mix(this includes pork, veal and beef)
11/2 cups fresh bread crumbs(white bread)
1/2 cup fresh parsley chopped
1 large onion, processed
24 cloves of garlic, processed
2 ozs olive oil
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 tsps butcher grind black pepper
8 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan
salt to taste

In a food processor, mill the onions and garlic with the olive oil until fine. In a large bowl, add the gound meat with the onion mixture, add the eggs, heavy cream, dried basil, parsley, black pepper, salt and Parmesan and mix well. Add the bread crumbs, if the meatballs seem a little soft add some more bread crumbs. Roll into balls, slightly smaller than an egg. Cook on a greased cookie sheet in a 350F oven for about 45 minutes and then enjoy.

What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child? Lin Yutang


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