25 November 2009

Step by Step

The kitchen is, as always, a hive of activity. Mind you, it’s for a different reason than usual, but it’s still a little crazed in there, with regards to the prep work. Of course, we’ve got people ordering the regular food today, as well as deliveries. Enter Boss Man and Laura Lady. Chef Laura Dardi came in to help us with the masses of food that we’ll be cooking today. You don’t realise what /scale/ means until your boss casually asks you to weigh out twelve pounds of pumpkin to make pie.

And that’s just for the gluten free pumpkin pies.

What I’ve noticed is that during all this prep work frenzy, things tend to work really well when you have a system. Either you tag-team, or solo it. If you solo it, it works really well to go assembly line fashion. For instance, if you’re going to boil some pumpkins to make pumpkin pie, you first peel all your pumpkins. Then you scoop out all the seeds from all the pumpkins. Then you chop them up into pieces. Then you tip it all into hot boiling water, to boil. Then you rinse and drain the seeds, and dry them off lightly. Then you toast the seeds in the oven. It’s not because you need to use the seeds for the pie, but why let perfectly good pumpkin seeds go to waste? The chef needs a snack too, right? Then, you do all the other steps, one at a time, to everything.

The reason? When you’re cooking in large scale, you want to be able to stop at a certain point, and put it off till later, if the need should arise. For example, when I’m preparing for a large quantity of people coming over, I tend to freeze the process in the middle for those things that take multiple steps. With mixed rice (lemon rice, coconut rice, etc.), I’ll cook the rice, then put it into gallon sized zip top baggies, and put them in the fridge, to get cold cold cold. Then, the next day, all I have to do is make the spice blend, and toss the rice through on top of the stove. This ensures that my rice is perfectly separate, while still heating through at the last minute, when I need it to be heated through. It avoids the aggravation of having the rice dry out in the oven, and it saves me a significant headache on the day of, because if the rice is mushy, I can make something else (VENN PONGAL WUT WUT!) and salvage it, rather than looking foolish on the day of.

Try it out at home. When you have a large amount of stuff to do, complete it in steps, a day or two in advance. Then, on the day of, just wrap up all the loose ends, and look like a superstar.