Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kitchen Retard #1

I have one piece of advice for all you crab cleaning novices, like myself: when you lose your virginity to the cleaning of your very first crab, point the crab AWAY from you.

You can only imagine what happened next.

This was one of many new things I learned yesterday with The Teacher. Boy, she is a patient woman.

The first item on my prep list yesterday was to make a curd to go with her homemade ricotta. So, I hear curd and think of Little Miss Muffit, a spider, and her curds and whey. I thought to myself, Why don't you just get them at Beecher's like you always do?

But, no, she meant lemon curd. Ohhhhhhhhh. I could definitely do that. IF I knew how. Or, if I wasn't so dense!

So, I have concluded that I am a not only a Kitchen Bitch (#2, of course), but I have also have earned the extra (self) title of Kitchen Retard (#1).

I begin to zest the fresh lemons on a microplane for the curd, and stir in my "pretend" superfine sugar that I pulsed in a food processor to make smaller. Then I juiced the lemons, whisked in the farm-fresh brown eggs, and put three ounces (6 tbsp.) of unsalted butter into the mixture. I placed it over my makeshift double boiler to be babysat by my wooden spoon until thickened, for about 20 minutes. Easy.

I only say easy because it turned out, okay.

This is another detail that enlightened me yesterday: 1 ounce= 2 tbsp.

I know what you are thinking. You didn't know that?

No, math nerds. I did not. I am a Kitchen Retard, and on top of that, not really the measuring type.


The Teacher probably spent 5 minutes trying to explain this concept of ounces to tablespoons to cups, until I finally got the very simple concept. Like I said, she is a extremely patient woman.

I think I need to go back to school.

One redeaming part of yesterday was that I got to recreate my Dungeness crab and local asparagus brown butter pasta. I actually got to cook, serve, taste AND season the dish this time. I learned from my mistakes from yesterday, and was elated with the turnout. Too bad it was the most boring, and basic, course of six. A slight embarrasment, and a 1st place trophy to my lack of skills. I mean, how hard is it to make brown butter, squeeze lemon and season it with Kosher salt?

People. This is Cooking 101. Maybe cooking 110.

I watched as The Teacher made a Salmon Rouillade from an old Julia Child cookbook. She skinned, deboned, and butterflied a Copper River Sockeye, stuffed it with braised leeks, patted it with cracked black pepper, and wrapped foil around it as she rolled the fillet. Then! Then! She cooked it, wrapped in the foil cylinder in peanut oil turning, a 1/4 of a turn clockwise every couple of minutes, until it was perfectly medium-rare. She cooled it, removed the foil, and sliced it thin into little rounds. It was topped with a cucumber and tomato creme fraiche sauce and a garnish of finely minced gazpacho-like vegetables.

This was a sexy dish!

And, I can make brown butter.

I think I am in over my head here.

Lemon Curd
Serves 24

3 large lemons, zest and juice
9 oz. superfine sugar
6 large eggs
6 oz. unsalted butter

Mix the lemon zest and sugar in a metal bowl. In another bowl, whisk the lemon juice together with the eggs. Pour this mixture over the sugar. Cut butter into small pieces and add this combination to the mixture. Place in a metal bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir until thickened, about 20 minutes, until it coats the back of a spoon. Cool and refrigerate for up to a week. 


  1. Aw, Kari, you are not supposed to be the master already. This is why you're doing this—to learn! Keep your head up, don't be too hard on yourself!

  2. I love this post. Be patient with yourself! You are learning. And we all have bad recipes or bad days in the kitchen. I've burnt the crap out of myself, destroyed beautiful cuts of meat due to being dense and not followed my instinct when implementing new recipes. My latest post is about just that topic.

    Besides -- think of how the teacher would do on stage?

  3. Great post! Sounds like you are learning a lot. Everyone starts somewhere, and everyone has different skills - the joy of life. If there was no screw ups, then there would be nothing to learn from.

    You are certainly no retard!

    One other thing.. Oz to tbls to cups.. Hate to get all fussy here, but the conversions really depend on what you are converting - weight to volume (oz to cups..) depends on the density of what you are measuring really.. 1oz of butter might be 2tbls, but that rule won't be the same for something else..

  4. Wow- even with the apparent dangers of the job, I can't believe how many amazing skills you are learning. I'm excited to keep reading!