Meatless Mondays coming to you all today. Every Monday, our school tries to either honor vegetarians or give our protein a break at the slaughterhouse, not quite sure which. However, for whatever reason it may be, we do not serve meat or poultry on Mondays. So, for todays menu, it was pretty much mushroom lasagna, pesto pasta, baked ziti, eggplant stew over coconut rice, salad, and fruit. Doesn’t sound too hard, right? But, boy did time crunch down on us today leaving us with not even a second to take a break and break off that Kit-Kat bar. Being that I was assigned sous-chef today, I was in charge of the eggplant stew and coconut rice. Preparing food in HUGE bulks is not fun when it comes to measuring out the exact quantities for the recipe. I have completely forgotten how many ounces are in a pound and how many kilograms make up a pound. It is all just too much. Why didn’t my second grade teacher warn me to make an extra photocopy of the measurement conversions and keep in my back pocket for 17 years down the road? My lord. Well, I also somehow forgot how to use the scale/ was just over the whole thing when I realized I was weighing out 96 grams instead of 96 ounces! Huge difference there! Once, I finally got it right- only took me about a good 25 minutes, I was able to begin my dish.
Well, I had to chop up eggplant into bite size pieces (chef thought mine were a little too large). Then chop up the peppers into bite size pieces, as well. Then came the 8 heads of garlic having to peel and chop them up really fine. Say what!?! You are probably thinking. Woman, 8 heads of garlic to be peeled? Ha uh yeah! I was thinking to myself, someone has to have invented already peeled garlic for these situations. So then, why in the world have we not invested in it? Chef said because the garlic tastes differently and isn’t as good. The chef told me to take a bowl, put the garlic in it. Grab another bowl, trap the garlic in it and shake it realllly really hard so the peels will come off.
So, like chef ordered I went into the stairwell because apparently shaking the garlic like a maraca in the bowl gets pretty loud. Let me rewind a little here, I forgot to mention that also on the fifth floor there is a room that companies rent out to host parties in, so that the ICC (International Culinary Center) catering team can do all the food. Well, today there was an event and I was using the stairwell that most of the guests will be walking through. Now, I am in the stairwell shaking away, some peels go on the floor, but I continue. Then I remember that I am sick and probably shouldn’t be exerting as much effort as I am, so I decided to stop and go back in to peel my garlic the regular old fashion way. Well, as I am about to open the door, I lose my grip on the garlic bowl and out spills ALL 60 garlic heads. AHHHHHHHHH! You have got to be kidding! There is no way I am starting from square one and I need to hurry up before the catering people find out it was me who made a hot mess ALL over the stairs. Well, my luck ran out and one of the catering people entered the stairwell as I was picking up the last of the garlics. I thought I would be in trouble, but he said he would go get the broom to sweep up the peels! I was more worried about Chef John getting on my behind than anything else. Carlos is so funny. He says that I am like a horse and chef just whips me into shape/ doesn’t let me breathe for one minute. Carlos speaks the truth.
Now back to my eggplant stew. The onions are sweating; I add the garlic (after they were all finally peeled). Then went the eggplant, peppers, ginger, pepper, salt, etc. I let that all sweat out and then add the water. We were supposed to use vegetable stock, but we didn’t have any- oh well. In went two huge cans of tomatoes. Half way through, I realized that I never cut the green peppers, so I run back to my station and cut up half of them to throw into the stew because I don’t have time to do the other half. Chef helped me get the rice going and in the meantime I am seasoning the stew like crazy. I even decide to add some sugar into it to help sweeten the taste. I added coconut to the rice and then when the stew was ready I poured it on top.
For the rest of the afternoon, I was on stocks duty (chicken and veal). I made the veal stock and strained the chicken stock. I wanted to remember how to make them since the last time I did was three months ago in level 1. Stock making equals heaving lifting. Chef’s goal is to make me stronger because I can’t lift jack squat. He expects me to lift these cambro’s filled with stock which is the funniest joke I’ve ever heard since the last funny joke I heard. He told me that I can’t tell people in the kitchen that I am not strong. Well, hello look at me- isn’t it obvious!? I’ve become friendly with the dishwasher, so he helped me carry the load and load the sink with ice to cool down the stocks. Thank the lord I had him to help because heavy lifting will NEVER be my middle name like ricotta cheese or chocolate pudding.