Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Methods

The minute I step in the door, Chef M has a laundry list of things I need to accomplish before 5:00. It made me regret getting here at 1:20.

But there is a problem; all of the items have to do with baking. And, I am just not a confident baker.

Chef M whips out The Restaurants culinary bible: the giant Giorgio Locatelli cookbook, slaps it on a giant Boos Block, and turns to a page in the middle that has been bookmarked with a ribbon.

The recipe is for grissini. Ugh. I hate working with dough. And, I have never made grissini.  

He spouts off some changes that he wants, like using active dry yeast instead of fresh, and substituting out Pecorino Romano instead of Parmigianno Reggiano. He tells me I have to weigh all of the ingredients, and preheat the oven in advance, and read through the whole recipe, and learn Locatelli's techniques and methods for working dough. It was an earful, but all important, I assure you.

Then, as I begin reading the recipe, he puts another smaller book on top of the Locatelli book. It is The Restaurant's master recipe list. He flips it open to the "recipe" for biscotti. He tells me I will use toasted pistachios as the filling, and double the "recipe". I look down at the book. It is a long list of ingredients, and at the bottom the directions say: Use the cream method.


I guess I will just be add-libbing this one, too. Great way to start a shift.

As I am walking back to the kitchen, Chef M also tells me that I will be making a lemon mostarda using the triple-blanch method. I look at him. Smile. And, wonder when I will get a chance to google on my iPhone the terms mostarda, and triple-blanch. It is only 1:25. 

I find a scale, and start to measure my ingredients for the grissini. I am having to do math in my head while I weigh the flour because the scale does not have a reset button to start at zero. I find a cup, and place it on the scale: 5.8 ounces. A nice, even number to subtract everything from. 

(Sigh) Lovely. 

I weigh the flour. The recipe says I need 13 1/2 ounces. I am sorry, but there are not 1/2 ounces on this scale. I eyeball it because, frankly, nobody is looking over my shoulder. It seems to be a little over 1 1/2 cups. That sounds good enough. 

Then I melt butter, and milk, and add in the active dry yeast. I add that mixture, slowly and in a steady golden stream, to the flour and begin to form a dough with my hands. You have to understand, I really have no experience with dough. I am slightly shaking, and I am nervous that this is not going to turn out. With dough on my hands, palms, finger condom, and apron, I wrap the hard (should it be hard?!) dough ball in a wet, blue towel. Now, I wait for it to rest. Maybe it will soften up with time?

Chef M comes to the back, and asks me if the dough feels "right" in my hands. I laugh. 


Then, I move on to the lemon mostarda, which I have no IDEA how to do. I would have done the biscotti, but the butter needed to get to room temperature so that I could properly use the cream method. Honestly, I am really screwed with either recipe that I chose. Chef M told me earlier that the mostarda should contain lemon zest, sugar, white balsamic, dijon mustard, horseradish. No amounts, of course, or directions of order, but just enough to make about 2 cups. I get out a zest tool, and create beautiful pale yellow curls all over my cutting board. I ask The Head Chef to tell me what the triple-blanch method is (it is not google-able), it seems easy enough, and I get started on that. Meanwhile, my timer is buzzing because my hard dough now needs to get the Locatelli press and flip method, and then go under the blue towel again. My head is spinning. 

When my grissini dough is finally ready, I roll it out through a pasta wheel, and begin to form it into long sticks. I can't make them even, of course, and I put them on a Silpat to cook for 15 minutes. During their time in the oven, which actually ends up being more like 30 minutes because I make them too thick, I whip of a quick double-batch of biscotti. Using the ever-so-descriptive "cream method", I start them like I am making cookies, toss in the pistachios (that I almost forget) and put the loaves in another oven to bake as well. Phew! Two down. 

I pull the grissini out of the oven, crispy and brown. Chef M takes an ugly one (one of my first rolling attempts), tastes it, tells me this recipe is an experiment, and informs me that we may or may not serve them. 

What? All of that stress for an experiment? I need a cocktail. 

I finish up the lemon mostarda, golden and sweet, that will be served on the cheese plate, with the "may or may not" grissini, and a huge hunk of aged Pecorino. I put in into a small white bowl. 

The only thing left to do is cut my biscotti, and bake them for a second time. It is 4:45 and I need to get on my Chef's coat and my apron. Chef M, walking by quickly, grabs one of the "butts" from the end of a loaf, tastes it, slaps me on the back, and says, "That's the best shit you have ever made!" 

I smile ear to ear, on this inside, of course. 


  1. mmmh biscotti, mostarda, delish! Sounds like it all worked out in the end! That's an impressive cooking/baking day & a cocktail would have def been in order ;)

  2. How stressful! How wonderful! ;)

  3. Kari,
    I adore this blog! It's so fun to wake up and read this with my coffee;-) I can't wait to see where all of this takes you!

  4. And you're one heck of a writer!