Sunday, November 28, 2010

I'm On A Bus!

I've traveled quite a bit the past few weeks and with that have found the best possible way to make myself the most unattractive bus seat partner in the history of the world. I would like to share with you some of my findings.

1. sit in the isle seat; no one wants to climb over you
2. eat something! loud, crackly, greasy, and wafting with many smells
3. act like your sleeping; preferably with your mouth open and cue the drool
4. have all of your stuff strewn about the two seats in a frenzied mess (not a problem for me)
5. the more stuff the merrier
6. read the paper and open it up to an annoying wing spread
7. find a spot in the very front or the very back. The middle is a dangerous and popular place.
If it doesn't work out for you, always be polite and welcoming to your new riding buddy, as it is sometimes you who has to pick your poison.

I also find it really interesting to watch people during their search and try to understand their shopping behavior for the best bus partner. Are they looking for someone good looking? Are they looking for someone at a similar age? Are they looking for someone to engage in conversation with or someone that they are sure they won't have to speak with? In any case, its a two-way street for me. I love having my seat to myself, but I love meeting new people and figuring out why we are headed in the same direction.

Lastly, if I could find some capital, I would totally open a high-end bus line with the amazing genius of Mr. John Herbert. Who knows, maybe we could cook food on it? "Dine and Ride" "The Dining Car" "Culinary Tours," I really think I'm onto something here. Suggestions welcome. 

Since this blog is about food and not about buses, I'll get to the meat, as they say. (Do they say that??) Or in this case, the parsnip puree. A creamy, and sweeter sister option to a mashed potato, parsnip puree is a nice switch from the norm and tastes of the fall season. You could also call this a root vegetable puree, as I like to add rutabaga and two or three potatoes to achieve a certain viscosity. I've tried this puree a few different times, and the best way is to boil AND roast the vegetables. Boiling will help achieve a softness and the roasting will help to pull out all the natural sweetness. Easy, peasy.

5-7 medium sized parsnips
1 large or 2 small rutabagas
2-3 Yukon Gold potatoes
2 sprigs of sage
3 sprigs of thyme
1Tbls extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup heavy cream
1stick of unsalted butter, separated (a little more to taste if needed)
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Turn your oven on to 375 degrees and start boiling water in a large pot. Peel the parsnips and be sure to cut around the fibrous heart in the middle. You don't have to worry about it as much at the skinnier bottom of the parsnip, so cut it in half first and then cut around the heart of the thicker top of the parsnip. Discard the hearts. Cut the parsnips into large cubes. Peel potatoes and cut into cubes of similar size. Do the same with the rutabaga. Remember to salt the water liberally. Add the cubed vegetables to the boiling water. Boil for 3 minutes. Drain the veggies and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with the olive oil, 1/2 stick of butter cut into large pieces, and a little salt and pepper (use white pepper if the speckle of the black pepper bothers you). In a baking dish add the sprigs of herbs whole and top them with the root vegetables. Cover with foil and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the foil, stir and cook for 10 more minutes uncovered. Remove the herb sprigs and transfer veggies to a food processor. Add the cream and the nutmeg and another 1/2 stick of butter in pieces. Puree until very smooth. Add more cream and butter to taste if necessary. Adjust seasoning. Serve immediately. If you wanted to be fancy, a drizzle of chive oil on the top for color or some simple chervil garnish would be lovely. Note! I have a note! You can make this puree one day ahead and refrigerate. Heat up in the oven, stir and serve. Naturally, you can substitute the cream with milk, but lets face it: it won't be as good.

My search for a riding partner ended today with a lovely, sleepy older Asian man who talks on his cell phone in (Chinese?) to his family while I try to understand what he's saying. A good pick, if I do say so myself. :) I'm headed back to the city after a wonderful holiday with my family and friends to begin my new job as a Private Chef. I'm working for a nice family in Scarsdale about 30 minutes north of the city. They live in a suburb with grass and dogs and many other soccer moms. It's a good break from the restaurant life. Not sure what the future will bring, but I am sure that dinner tomorrow will be delicious.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Better late than never...

Hello again. It has only taken me 8 months to return to my blog, long enough for the title to longer apply. Since I'm not living in a convent anymore (thank you, Jesus), and am not overly religious (unless my religion is food and then it would totally work) it sort of implies that my food is better than yours (which also has some truth to it) but anyway. I'll think on that.

So, since my last entry, I have graduated culinary school, survived six excruciating months in a convent, gone to Costa Rica, gotten a crazy job, "parted ways" from said crazy job, and am currently unemployed an on a bus to our Nations Capital for the hell of it. Ta-da!

I would like to give a little recap on a few things.

Culinary School:
Expensive. I enjoyed my experience and learned quite a bit, but I'm still not convinced that it was worth the offensive amount of money that I will be paying back for the rest of my life.

Working in different teams is always a fun examination of the human psyche. I learned a lot about myself and others, and what it means to be on a team of people who all think they know what they're talking about when in fact no one really does (minus a few who were wonderful to learn from). Surprisingly, I took away quite a bit from my pastry courses because I knew so little going in and found an interest in the "sweeter side" I didn't know I had. Cooking in L'Ecole, the school's restaurant, for paying customers the last two months was as initially intense but something we all warmed up to quickly. And when I say warm, I mean hot! The kitchen is hot! Just FYI.

You also get to surround yourself with a good amount of culinary genius. The chef instructor's at FCI are unmatched in their knowledge and experiences they have to share. Each one of them was drastically different from the next, but each one taught you a new way to learn and look at cooking. It also helps that they are pretty cool older French guys who love a good laugh and a little kiss on the cheek every once in a while. :)

One thing I will say about school is that it totally breaks you down. It strips away everything you thought you knew about cooking and throws it in the "wrong way" bin. The right way from here on out is the French way. Technique, technique, technique. My confidence in the kitchen was totally broken and I felt lost in the one place I have always felt comfortable. That was hard! Slowly you begin to build it back in a different way. I have started anew, a clean slate, a bambino in the business with tons to learn.

A highlight of my FCI education was my menu project. I would like to share some visuals of my journey schlepping a 100lb suitcase filled with food from the Upper West Side to Chelsea and back, avoiding "nun contact" and a revisit to the all-nighter.

This was pretty exciting and I was really proud of it after it was all over. The whole thing took me over 3 weeks to complete.

In the end I would sum culinary school up as such: I'm glad I did it, but I'm glad its over.

More coming soon* about convent living and the New York City Restaurant Kitchen Monster