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Friday, September 16, 2011

A Triumphant Return

Or sort of, anyhow. The restaurant and I have amicably parted ways—I wasn't exactly what they needed, and they weren't exactly what I needed, and that was (as they say) that. They're some very nice businesspeople and I would work for them again in the future, if the opportunity presented itself.

Once again, that leaves me here to contemplate life, the universe, and everything—and to cook delicious food and present it to the lot of you!

Last week, I returned to the Phoenix Café, with two dishes for the assembled masses: From New Vegetarian Dishes by Mrs. Bowdich, 1892, a preparation of Green Beans (which I purchased fresh at that week's Tuesday Market at Eastern Market,) and Chicken Cacciatore.

Green Beans 
1 shallot, minced
1 pint (473 ml) tomato juice
1 pound (453 g) green beans, steamed and shocked
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt
1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) pepper
a blonde roux of 1 oz (28 g) flour and 1 oz (28 g) olive oil

1. Sweat the shallot, and add the tomato juice. Whisk in the roux, Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer about half an hour.

2. Season with pepper and salt. Add the Green beans in, and thoroughly re-heat.

(When I prepared this, I used tomato purée instead of juice, and a bit of garlic instead of a shallot. I think the results were comparable. This is a very simple dish, and I like it that way—even though my compulsion is to complicate it overmuch.)

On to the second recipe: Chicken Cacciatore. It's a recipe that has existed more or less in the same manner for many years; I have a cookbook from the turn of the 20th century called "The Cook's Decameron" that includes a recipe for Cacciatore; indeed, "Hunter-Style" food is a common item in many cuisines, usually containing more "rustic" (or wildly available) items like mushrooms, as well as "spicier" things like bell peppers. (French cuisine includes "Forestière" sauce, for example.) I've figured out a way to make the recipe cook more quickly, so that I can serve it in under an hour from start to finish.

Chicken Cacciatore
2 pounds (907 g) chicken meat (I used breasts,) boneless, skinless, and cut into 1" (2.5 cm) cubes
2 Orange Bell Peppers, Julienne
2 Green Bell Peppers, Julienned
2 White Onion, Julienne
1 pound (455 g) White Button Mushrooms, Sliced
2 28-oz (794 g) cans Diced Tomatoes
Dry Red Wine
Salt and Pepper 
Olive Oil

1. Salt and pepper the chicken, and sear it in hot oil. Set aside.

2. Heat more oil and begin to cook the onions. When they have become somewhat translucent, add the bell peppers. Cook until slightly softened.

3. Add the chicken back in, and the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are softened.

4. Add a good quantity of red wine (it will depend on how large your cooking vessel is how much you want to use,) and cook until mostly evaporated. Add the tomatoes and season with salt, pepper, and a good amount of oregano. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through.

I apologize I don't have any pictures of either of these dishes at this time—hopefully I'll add some soon.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lessons Learned

About a month after opening the restaurant, and about two months after starting to work there, I have moved on from the place. It was not a decision that I came to on my own after consideration, but it is not one that I am explicitly unhappy with.

Working at the restaurant was a lot of fun. I got to meet some good contacts in the food industry, and I got to get into the groove of cooking the same 16 items day in and day out, as well as figuring out HOW to make them given the equipment that I had. At the same time, though, it was frustrating—I lost an entire month of my life to the fact that I worked almost every day; the few days that I didn't work, I was lucky enough to spend with the important people in my life—but the sudden change from seeing someone every day to almost never seeing them was... disheartening.

But onward and onward I go, and hopefully this will return to being a busy blog in the next week or so.