Thursday night arrives like a blessing--another slow night, to learn as much as I can while the pressure's off. Thankfully there are 15 reservations on the books, which means at least a good number of orders to take and salads to finesse. We've got a wedding on Saturday that will require our full attention, and having no idea what that will demand of me, I'm happy that Wally's able to walk me through the steps of the kitchen today. He starts me on the big demand we'll have to fill during the wedding: for lots and lots of bread.
Willamette Valley over a century ago. "They used to sleep with the starter," Maryann tells me as we roll out loaves of dough for rising, "to keep it warm enough to keep growing." This starter makes the bread that's served every night in the restaurant, and every Sunday as pizza dough. It has had a permanent place at the Inn ever since it opened, and it's the perfect slice of table bread--a soft center and a crunchy crust. Wally's making 4 batches worth tonight, which should take us through the wedding and into pizza service the day after.
lardo on the charcuterie plate. Wally slices off a piece, as thin and translucent as onion.
Still up for tasting, I let Chris beckon me over to take a taste of his Mangalitsa bacon marmalade, which will be coating the pork entree served on tonight's menu. He's cooked up the bacon until it's crisp, then sauteed onions in the bacon fat, and tossed both together with some red wine vinegar. One taste and I'm convinced that he could be selling this as a jarred commodity--it's perfect for spreading on thick slices of morning toast, gooey and delicious to eat with scrambled eggs.
Foodpickle, and someone responded with this comment: "Lard is 100% fat while butter is 81% fat and 14-18% water. If the recipe you used called for butter, than you could try adding some moisture back into the recipe. I'd try adding some milk or water." I decide to try it, and drizzle a small portion of the dough with heavy cream. I work it into the dough and sample little bites until it tastes buttery enough, then scoop it out onto a Silpat sheet.
And it works--the cookies come out moist, buttery, and addictive. I'm practically crowing with pride. "I fixed the cookies, what what!" I say to Wally as I drop a plate of them on the station counter. Geddes grins with his first bite, and I'm dancing with self-satisfaction. Chris gets why I'm so excited. "You know you're becoming a chef not when you can make something, but when you can correct something." But the real validation is when he reaches for his third cookie.
I'm coasting on my triumph as Wally and I prepare family meal for the day--rolling out a few balls of pizza dough and topping them with the leftover bits from the kitchen.
As the night wraps up, there seem to be few dark spots. The wide callus developing on my right index finger is a reminder that I've been chopping--correctly, it seems, for the first time--for almost three days straight. Holding the knife properly and preparing food for eight hours a day has left me sore, but more skillful than I've felt in a long time. And I'm emboldened by what I've done well: prepare salads, finish tickets on time, win invites from my coworkers for hikes and bike rides and tastings of great ingredients. I dig into my plate of tacos at staff meal with gusto--learning to get by in this kitchen tastes great.