Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A typical day off

Today, after a busy monday, i woke up early. It was tuesday... a day i look forward too, not because its a day off from the kitchen, but more so a day in the kitchen without service.  My day got started at 10:30. I got picked up by colin (current stage, next week payed employee)  and we hit up kensington market. We met thoshon, who is the sous at Niagara on the lake, but has been staging at the hoof for the past few weeks while they relocate the restaurant. I'll just add that thoshon is hardcore, he drives in every morning from niagara for a 6 hour prep shift and then back again. I dont know many cooks with that kind of discipline. i respect that. 
We started by grabbing dried blueberries from my favorite dry goods shop on baldwin for a smoked buffalo salami. I dont know the name of the old women who runs the shop, but she calls me mami, mommi, or mommy, so i call her that back. She always gives me a taste of salted pistachios or chocolate covered coffee beans while i wait as she gets my order ready. Next we went to get some oxtail from european meats for a new spring dish im planning to play around with. After that we headed south on kensington to that little butcher shop that generally has some sort of animal head hanging in the window. I really wanted to show thoshon it because she usually has some interesting innards stocked. Today she had nothing except for 3 lamb heads and some tripe. We bought up all the lambs heads and left the tripe. 
On our way back to the car i stopped at a fish store to show thoshon. I warned him of the large amount of jamaicans buying kingfish at any given time of day. We perused a bit and ended walking out of there with some nice fresh herring for 5 bucks.
We dropped off our buys in the car and on we went to augusta fruit market. 
I dont know why people shop at all these overly priced stores in kensington when they could go to Augusta FM and get everything pretty much wholesale. They gave us a tour of there downstairs refrigeration, which is a maze and massive. 
We got ourselves a case of baby topper carrots to pickle and on we went. 
Next up was jumbo empanada. 
Thoshon hadn't had an empanada before, so we all got the typical beef and a little cheese one on the side. Ofcourse we ordered extra salsa and the chilean lady made a crack about how we should use our hands to eat as she brought us cutlery. So i made a joke, and asked if she had any chopsticks. Somewhere along the line, this got lost in translation and both she and her coworkers didn't get my joke as they looked at eachother confused. Then a chilean customer began translating what i said and by the time they got the joke (which wasn't funny anymore) we were done our empanada's and out the door. 
Off i went to tap phong to return a 320 dollar blender that over heated the first time i used it for cabbage soup. Luckily they didn't give me any trouble. Most likely because they knew it was crap before i bought it. I bought a cleaver with my new found wealth because i knew we had lambs heads to deal with. We bought coffee and back to the restaurant we went. 
As we arrived, Thoshon began piping out soprasatta's  which will most likely be our charcuterie contribution for the slow food movement dinner on may 2nd in Toronto. 
Then Colin began busting through the lambs heads. We needed a saw, so i sent him to ML lumber and he came back with a fine toothed saw. We had three heads. His first one was rough. lots of sawing, hacking with the clever, and chipping away at the bone. The second one got better. By the third one he got the brain out perfectly which is not an easy task. Well done!
I did my usual thing. Organized the fridge, cleaned out dry storage. Delt with some stuff that needed to be tended too. Glamourous life i live indeed. 
Throughout the day was battle pickle. 
We pickled the toppers with a sweet ginger pickle. Some cauliflower with tumeric. And our white pearl onions in spiced cider vinegar. 
During battle pickle, i browned some onions a little too much in a pot. The aroma was charred (some may say burnt) but not enough to throw out. 
I enjoyed the smell of onions on the verge of going into the garbage. 
So then i got to thinking about the pearls that were sitting over in a pickling container (garbage can from walmart)
I thought to myself what if we were to char ,almost burn/blister the onions and then put them back into there pickle. 
I mentioned the idea to the stages, neither of them objected.
So there we were burning pearl onions in dry cast irons, the sugars from the brine blackening in the pan. The whole restaurant was filling up with the smell of burnt caramel and smoke. It was a beautiful thing. When they were all done, back into the brine they went and off to the cave where they will ferment for atleast a month until they will end up on our pickle plate. 
Earlier in the day we had put on pork bellies to smoke for our pastrami. We had also cleaned, fillet, and salted the herring. When the herring had tensed up a bit from the salt/sugar mixture, we finished them in the smoker that had now been turned off and only the residual smoke was left. We then began the Dutch rollmops. I'm dutch, but never have i made rollmops. Infact none of us had. But thats the best thing about being in on our day off. Nothing is written in stone and we can do/try/screw up as much as we want, and for as long as we want. Thoshon made up a pickling spice, along with a brine and we layered the fish with spices, onions, herring, and built it up in a jar, layer by layer. We poured the cold brine over and we shall see if its like the ones you buy in a jar in the stores. 
Next up was my girlfriend Rita. Apparently, she needs to come to the restaurant and clean and do chores because we consider it quality time together now that im never home (and when im home, im sleeping). So she organized the spice jars, amalgamated, labeled, etc... We drank some vino and beer, listened to music and for a brief second it really felt like quality time. She's a keeper. 
10pm and we were out the door. 
Tomorrow, up at 9am to go to an artisanal prosciutto makers facility. He's going to show me how to debone a prosciutto leg the old school way. 
Cant wait!! 


Anonymous said...

Smoked buffalo salad? With dried blueberries?! That sounds wonderful! Another reason to make my way to your restaurant.

Thanks for blogging, it's a nice start to my day.

Unknown said...

Oh no!

Now the Everyman is going to love you even more!!

He's also Dutch, and as he (and all his family) love to remind me constantly; "There are 2 kinds of people in the world: the Dutch, and everyone else (who wishes they were Dutch)!"

The next time we come in he'll probably want to give you the thumbs up... just for being Dutch.

Great post too, by the way!

Rupert St. said...

Great post! I hope you blog to us about the proscuitto, too!