Miss Ginsu: About/Bio


Tri Harder

If you're a longtime reader, you may have noticed I've posted more infrequently lately. There's a reason for that: In order to fulfill a personal New Year's Resolution this year, I'm training for my very first triathlon — a sprint tri in Central Park that takes place next month.

Now, maybe some people can complete an Ironman event in their sleep, but if you'd known me when I was a sprout, you'd know what a big deal even a sprint-length triathlon is for me. My high school class did not vote me "most likely to drop a lot of money on protein powder."

I was an arty kid. I couldn't even make it the one mile around the track for the Presidential Physical Fitness tests they administered every year in gym class. Just running a quarter mile made my lungs feel like they were burning.

But after college, a funny thing happened. I jogged a bit, and it wasn't so bad. No burning lungs. So I jogged a bit more. I thought I'd be the best I could be when I hit that long-awaited mile run, but it turns out I can now zip out for a 3.5-mile run before breakfast.

Chickpeas on the Run

So what made the difference? I credit two success factors: 1. Lack of judgement from gym teachers and classmates. 2. Not living with a smoker (Dad was a heavy smoker throughout most of my childhood).

And the best part? progress with running helped show that I wasn't athletically retarded (something I'd long believed). This year I enrolled in swim classes at the YMCA. And while I'm not a sleek dolphin in the water yet, I'm now proud to say I'm less of a sea cow.

A great benefit I've discovered about training for a triathlon is the diversity. If I have a blister from running, I can switch over to swimming. If my arms are sore from swimming, I can work on my biking. The built-in variety means I'm never bored. There's just so much to concentrate on.

That's also part of the downside of triathlon training. Even for a shorter-distance triathlon (like the sprint tri I'm working toward) there's a major time commitment to balance each aspect of the sport.

Aside from juggling the schedule to accommodate training, anyone attempting athletic events quickly finds that eating becomes a major planning factor. When do you eat? What do you eat? How much do you eat? In what form should you eat it? I must admit, I'm not really jazzed about eating (slurping?) those sugary little goo packets I see in sporting goods stores.

Additionally, many events start early. Should you wake up extra-early to eat so you have time to digest beforehand? When the event is long, as in the many hours involved in a marathon, how do you eat on the run (literally), without upsetting the tummy?

Luckily, those who work out tend to experiment and find their own solutions to these questions. And they're usually happy to share.

Dave's New Pizza Oven
Dave's New Pizza Oven

Just yesterday, I stopped by the Fort Greene Brooklyn Flea to chat with my friend Chef Dave Sclarow of Lunetta and Pizza Moto while he kneaded dough into crusts. (BTW, he's expanding into the Sunday Flea in Dumbo in a couple of weeks.)

He gave me a handy tip for even more simple smoothies: Instead of using an upright blender, use a big cup (or a mason jar) with a stick blender (aka "immersion blender"). Fast, easy and less laborious to clean up. Brilliant.

Smoothie in a Jar
Smoothie in a Jar

Dave offers this recipe for his workout smoothies: two ice cubes, half a banana, big scoop of peanut butter and soy milk. Sometimes he adds a little maple syrup if he wants it to be sweeter.

So today, I made my morning smoothie in a mason jar with a lid, and kept it cold in the fridge for my post-workout recovery drink. Slick.

One of his pizza-slingers mentioned that the sesame-seed & honey bars that are sometimes found in natural food stores make good workout snacks, too. A little protein. Some sugars. Easy to carry. A good option.

I've done posts on workout snacks before, but I'm always open to new tips and helpers. Drop 'em if you've got 'em!

Yours in good health,
Miss Ginsu

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Pizza on a Flat-Bed Trailer

I cooked with Dave Sclarow at Tabla back in the day. He was always a pretty handy guy and a solid cook (he's now running the kitchen at Lunetta in Brooklyn), but he recently got in the NY Times and various other publications for what essentially amounts to a novelty act: he built a wood-fired pizza oven on a flat-bed trailer.

Voila! It's porta-pizza!

Dave Sclarow and his Pizza Oven

Pizza Moto

Dave Sclarow and his Pizza Oven

Now you can catch him at the Brooklyn Flea on Sundays. Mom and I were there for the first pie outta the oven a couple of weekends ago. Here's the quick and dirty how-to video:

I swear I'll someday feature something other than cheese-based foods in my food videos.

Miss Ginsu

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FoodLink Roundup: 11.10.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was called out (by everyone, seemingly) at a Gotham Girls Roller Derby home game. So, where in the world is Cupcake this week? Yeah, I know this one's a softball, but be a peach and post a guess in the comments anyway.

Feds try to get students to eat fruit and veg
"Not to brag or anything," 10-year-old Harrison Saling said, "but I've always been pretty good about my fruits." Hilarious...

'Clean-up' bees could save endangered hives
Scientists tinker with bees in the hope of saving agriculture. Go, Scientists, Go!

Purple Reign
Snapdragons + Tomatoes + Genetic Tinkering = more flavonoids?

When Money Is Tight, Eating Healthy Can Be a Struggle
Newsflash... healthful eating is a class issue!

Pizza From Scratch: First, Bricks and a Trailer
My friend Dave rocks the outdoor oven for the Times. Woot!

New food links — and another postcard from Cupcake — every Monday morning on missginsu.com

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FoodLink Roundup: 10.27.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was out on the links at Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course, America's oldest public golf course, in the Bronx. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

measure for measure
What's in a pinch? Depends on your fingers.

A Choir of Turkeys
What's the sound of one hand clapping? Not sure, but it's probably nothing like 300 turkeys gobbling on cue.

The New Foam Meets the Old Foam
"I must say I don't really understand this thing you call an egg cream. It doesn't seem to go well with the pastrami, and doesn't have much flavor. And there doesn't seem to be any egg in it." ...Ed Levine takes culinary god Ferran Adria out to dinner. At Katz's deli, of course.

New food links — and another postcard from Cupcake — every Monday morning on missginsu.com

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FoodLink Roundup: 09.29.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was located among the pumpkins in Red Hook Farm, Brooklyn. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

Kick off Rosh Hashanah with Sephardic savories
Sephardic treats for the New Year holiday.

Ancient Yeast Reborn in Modern Beer
Best thing to come out of amber since the velociraptors in Jurassic Park.

An Urban Farmer Is Rewarded for His Dream
How refreshing it is to read some good news this week...

What the 21st Century Will Taste Like
Chef David Chang has an epiphany about a diet for a smaller planet. Once again, old ideas become new realizations.

Mediterranean Diet Declines, and Weights Rise
An increasingly "American-style" diet produces a generation of tubby Greek kids. So sad!

T. rex's closest living relative found on the farm
Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

New food links — and another postcard from Cupcake — every Monday morning on missginsu.com

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Food Quote Friday: James Beard

Orchard-Fresh Plums

"There is absolutely no substitute for the best. Good food cannot be made of inferior ingredients masked with high flavor. It is true thrift to use the best ingredients available and to waste nothing."

James Beard in The Fireside Cook Book

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Food Quote Friday: Julia Child

Rich Chocolate in Barcelona

"I'm awfully sorry for people who are taken in by all of today's dietary mumbo jumbo. They are not getting any enjoyment out of their food."

Julia Child, as quoted in Esquire

More sinfully delicious food quotes can be found within the food quote archive

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Recipe Rock Star #6: Hack your way out of the weeds

Plate Lineup
Plates pile up along the meat line at Tabla. More food photos: MissGinsu @ Flickr.

The Recipe Rock Star is a cooking tutorial series meant to make you a better home cook. It's essentially kitchen hacking.

So far, we've covered one focused minute, mise en place, the importance of quality, the proper tools for the task and small stuff that makes a big impact. These aren't necessarily ordered, so feel free to read, review, skim or skip. Now then...

#6. Hacking your way out of the weeds.

Anyone who's read Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential can probably recall the phrase "in the weeds" (which has a few more profane variations which I'll leave to Bourdain to explicate).

Being "weeded" (as we often say) is a situation that occurs in any deadline-driven vocation. You work in graphic design? You work in editing? You work as a tailor? Any overwhelming pileup of projects or work orders on your desk (or work bench, or stove, or in-box) is clear evidence of being in the weeds.

In a kitchen, a cook who's in the weeds is a danger to everyone on the team. Hungry customers are unhappy, making the waitstaff unhappy, making your expediter unhappy. The other cooks begin to fall behind. The plated food turns cold, or melts, or burns, waiting for one crucial element of the dish. There's often screaming. Or panic. You're much more likely to burn yourself. It's really unpleasant. Nobody wants to be in the weeds.

For the home cook, being weeded isn't generally a dinnertime situation. It's a dinner party situation. "In the weeds" is guests knocking at the door (early, of course) just as you're hit with the realization that you forgot to turn on the oven two hours ago. Thus, your roast is raw. Meanwhile, your sauce is burning, your mousse is melting, your child (or roommate) has burst into tears, the cat is batting appetizers across the floor, there's a line of ants marching in across the windowsill, and there's terrifying sparks flying out of the microwave.

I know how it is. I've been in the weeds. I'll probably be there again. But for the moment, I can offer five pieces of tested advice that actually apply to any vocation in which a person might find suddenly himself in the weeds.

How to Hack Your Way out of the Weeds:

1. Stay calm.
Control your breathing. This might be the most difficult, most counterintuitive act in a high-pressure situation, but it's the most crucial. A well-oxygenated mind is a clear mind. A clear mind is a creative, productive mind. And with the extra boost of adrenaline you'll get from feeling stressed, you might find that you become shockingly productive. Super-powered, even. But first, you have to be calm. As soon as you begin to feel pressure, make your breathing the first thing you check.

2. Prioritize.
Even if it seems like everything needs to happen at the same time, you need to make some decisions. If you really can't choose between tasks, just start somewhere. Do something. Priorities should immediately become more clear as you dive into action, and simply doing *something* will help you begin to dig your way out.

3. Ask for help.
Once you're calm and you know your priorities, you can (and should) ask for help. You'll even have the presence of mind to tell that sainted helper what, precisely, they can help you with. That's key.

4. Repel distractions.
When you're in the weeds and there's someone or something within your radius that isn't helping you, there's a good chance he/she/it is simply distracting you. In the kitchen, the distractor could be a clueless intern, a jittery waiter or some ill-placed pan of onions you're supposed to dice by the end of your shift. See if there's a way you can quickly, gently dispatch the distraction until you're out of the weeds. It's better to have the extra mental and physical space.

5. Clean up and get organized.
As soon as you possibly can (and forever thereafter), work on getting your ducks (whatever variety of ducks those may be) in a row. Make sure your work surface is clean. Make sure your tools are sharp. Make sure your backup is in top condition. Look for ways to make your work more efficient. These are the things that help you get ahead and stay ahead. Though it might not always be possible for the clean and organized worker to avoid getting weeded, as Chef Floyd Cardoz always used to say, "The messy cook is always in the weeds."

Next time, we'll behold the power of presentation.

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Forget Foodies. Unleash the GastroGnomes!

The New York Times published an article today that features "The Foodie Scene in the Twin Cities," the subhead for which proclaims, "In another sign of a cultural awakening, dining out in this city of sensible industry is no longer confined to steakhouses."

Sitting on the couch this morning, I read this line aloud with ill-hidden outrage.
Confined to steakhouses? Seriously? Did the writer actually visit MSP? I lived thereabouts for close to ten years and I can't remember ever eating at a steakhouse.

My sweetheart chuckled from his desk a few feet away. Having already read the piece, he knew my boiling blood wouldn't cool a bit as the thesis statement of said article became clear.

As it happens, the "Foodie Scene" covered in the Times refers almost entirely to some recent "celebrity chef" action. Oh sure, there's a passing reference to one of the excellent farmers' markets and to Chef Brenda Langton, a Minneapolis fixture who's been cooking tasty things as long as I can remember, but as far as the Times is concerned, the term "foodie" seems to be confined to those looking for high-end five-to-seven course prixe fix dining directed from on high by the new gods of expense account cuisine (Wolfgang Puck and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, in this case).

Why all the rage? Well, if I knew nothing about the Twin Cities (and honestly, that's true of the majority of New Yorkers I've met), I might read that article and think to myself, "Thank heaven for those bold, selfless celebrity chefs. How else would a backwater like that learn any kind of appreciation for organic and regional ingredients? God bless Wolfgang and Jean-Georges."

All of which is complete and utter hogwash. But wait... is it possible that they mean something different by the word "foodies?"

With that thought in mind, it seems the foodies of the Times eat exclusively at tables with very high thread-count coverings. Said foodies would also have to have completely forgotten Celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson who ran Restaurant Aquavit in Minneapolis (and NYC) until recently. And they'd have to be blind to places like La Belle Vie, whose chef, Tim McKee, was recognized by Gourmet, James Beard and the local City Pages. (And for that matter, I recommend that those seeking guidance on MSP just skip the Times and read the City Pages food reviews. They know all the best things going.)

I could go on, but I feel we should get back to business: "Foodie." I've never liked the word. It just sounds dumb. Like someone affixed a vowel sound to a random noun to make a label. It's what little kids do to form insults.

They can have that word. I just want to clarify that "Foodie Scene" as used in the article mentioned above should be read as the "Status Dining Scene."

On the other hand, I feel that those people who are dedicated to ferreting out and exploring the world of tasty, exciting, horizon-expanding foods available any a given place should be called something else.

"Gourmets" sounds flaccid and snobby. "Epicurians" seems accurate, but it comes off as a tad stiff. "Chowhounds" isn't bad, but it's rather specific. I'm going to go with something more like "Gastronomes," which conjures up an image of an army of garden gnomes armed with forks and knives, ready to explore and devour. Unleash the Gastro-Gnomes! (A bit terrifying, isn't it?)

Where do the Gastrognomes of Minneapolis-St. Paul eat? In many places, as it turns out. Ask a few. They'll tell you. In that spirit, I'll list just a handful of my favorite Twin Cities food spots:

The Midtown Global Market, where you'll now find a killah combination of cheap+tasty, including Manny's Tortas, Holy Land and La Loma, the home of tasty tamales.
920 E Lake St

One-stop picnic shop: The Wedge Co-Op, where you can get a loaf of bread, a fresh-pressed fruit juice, an array of treats and be on your way to the Sculpture Garden for lunch.
2105 Lyndale Avenue South
Minneapolis MN, 55405

The improbable Sea Salt Eatery for fish sandwiches and crab cakes that have no right to be so tasty. Be warned: They're only open in the good months.
4825 Minnehaha Ave

Ted Cook's 19th Hole Barbeque — Classic baked beans, cornbread, greens and saucy barbecue. Worth getting lost on the residential streets trying to find it? Hell yeah.
2814 E 38th St

Victor's 1959 Cafe Eggs with black beans and fried yuca? Toast with guava jelly? Yeah, I'm in.
3756 Grand Ave S

Hell's Kitchen, which makes awesome bison sausage and their signature brunchy treat: the luxe Mahnomin Porridge.
89 South 10th St

Emily's Lebanese Deli I've been trying for close to 6 years to make tabbouleh that tasty...
641 University Ave NE

Blue Nile I'm a sucker for Ethiopian. Mmm... Stew.
2027 E Franklin Ave

Surdyk's wine + cheese shop extraordinaire
303 East Hennepin Ave

Rustica Bakery Breads, rolls and pastries made with love, skill and a bonus helping of tastiness.
816 W 46th St

A Baker's Wife's Pastry Shop Unassuming, inexpensive, impressive. Get a tart.
4200 28th Ave S

Coffee Gallery at Open Book. This listing really isn't all about the food. There aren't many things I crave more than Books + Coffee. Open Book is an amazing resource for anyone who loves books and enjoys seeing how they're constructed.
1011 Washington Ave S

Bayport Cookery Okay, so it's actually a stone's throw from MSP. But my lord, people... they host a morel fest. It's damn tasty and not terribly expensive. Make the trip. These guys were doing sustainable, local cuisine before it was cool.
328 5th Ave N
Bayport, MN

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Food Quote Friday: Ming Tsai

Ginger-Duck Soup at the Slanted Door in San Francisco
Ginger-Duck Soup at the Slanted Door in San Francisco. I would eat this constantly if I were given the opportunity.

"I don't belive in putting a nuance of ginger in a dish such that you can barely taste it. If you say there is ginger in the sauce, you should really be able to taste it."

- Chef Ming Tsai

Find another batch of spicy food quotes here.

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Journey to the center of the kalonji

one spice, two spice
One Spice, Two Spice, by Floyd Cardoz and Jane Daniels Lear

One of the fantastic things about attending cooking school is the gateway it provides to great kitchens. To those who care nothing about the construction of food, it might seem silly to want to roam among the pots and cutting boards, but to the food obsessed, the opportunity to seek out behind-the-swinging-door secrets is truly the stuff of salivation.

As a culinary student, one is encouraged to "trail" in as many kitchens as one can without succumbing to exhaustion. A trailing cook simply sets up appointments with chefs or sous-chefs and arrives at the kitchen with knives in tow, ready to work on basic vegetable prep.

Generous chefs generally let the trailing student watch (and sometimes assist with) the set-up for evening dinner service, and they may let the student observe the service period itself (from a safely removed vantage point).

As a student, I trailed at Tabla. I loved the kitchen, the food, the ingredients and the fact that Chef Cardoz had a whole room dedicated to organizing and storing (and to my mind, exalting) the spices. I took an internship there, which turned into a job.

Young cooks tend to switch kitchens fairly often, but I stayed... for years. Indian food was fascinating.

Beyond the pasty yellow curries and soupy palek paneers served in the tiny to-go joints that pepper cities across America, Floyd Cardoz advocated rich braises and light, crisp tandoori breads, bizarrely spiced pickles and chutneys, and soups with more types of lentils than I'd ever seen. He brought me lotus roots and fuzzy melons, litchis, aleppo pepper, long squash and mung beans.

One doesn't often encounter fresh chestnuts in the wilds of South Dakota (where I was reared), but Chef had 'em. And they were a revelation ("Wow... they're nutty. They don't taste like a can at all!"). Every week I discovered five new things I could do with vegetables I'd never before encountered.

After years of daily practice with Indian techniques from making tarkas to pickling, spice toasting, braising and simmering, I've come to a few conclusions about the challenges to preparing delicious Indian foods in the American home kitchen.

The most opressive among these difficulties:
1. Understanding the techniques to layer in the traditional flavors
2. Acquiring good (or even appropriate) ingredients
3. Developing enough experience with good examples of the cuisine

I've clung to my usage-stained copies of Chef's recipes for the years since I left Tabla. Since these are the restaurant versions of his dishes, they all have phenomenally large batch sizes (first, dice 50 tomatoes...), and I struggle in my own kitchen to accurately size them down. No one household needs 4 gallons of pickled ramps, however tasty those little buggers might be.

Chef has now published a book of the very recipes my ugly, wrinkled home volumes contain. Thankfully, his One Spice, Two Spice was also written with household sizing in mind.

I always wonder about the accuracy of chef-written cookbooks. Are the recipes oversimplified? Have the authors reserved a few kitchen secrets? So I was particularly interested to compare my kitchen notes to Chef's published variations.

Having made the great majority of the recipes in One Spice, Two Spice recipe in a large-scale environment, I can verify the content in these small-scale versions is really pretty accurate.

There's a fore-section that explains the importance of the way one treats one's spices. Readers will discover the "whys" behind toasting, tarkas and whole-spice usage.

For home renditions of Indian foods, much of the first difficulty I mentioned above (understanding technique) can be remedied with this book. Unfortunately, this — or any other — book can do very little for cooks like my mother, (for example) who lives in South Dakota, and will still have difficulty with the remaining two challenges: acquiring appropriate ingredients and making an educated flavor evaluation of the finished product.

As much as I love books (and cookbooks specifically), One Spice, Two Spice has forced me to the conclusion that the book is a naturally handicapped tutor.

The core secrets of any cuisine are physical: first, the education of the tongue, and second, the training of the hand. These skills come from spending time in the presence of a skilled teacher. Recipes, even well-written recipes, are at best, simply a collection of notes to jog the memory.

That said, I've retyped one of my favorite basic sauces herein. The more obscure ingredients (like tamarind paste and nigella seed) can be found at most specialty shops these days.

This version (as it appears in One Spice, Two Spice), when properly seasoned, will make a good product. At Tabla's Bread Bar, it's called Kalonji and it's served with cheddar-cheese stuffed naan. If you don't have a home tandoor (and frankly, few Americans do), you might try dipping your cheese sandwich, flatbread or breadsticks in it. Or serve it alongside beef or lamb braises.

Warm Tomato Chutney (Kalonji)

Two 28-ounce cans whole or chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
3 tablespoons finely chopped peeled ginger
1 cup finely chopped white onion
2 small dried red chiles, crumbled
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
1 tablespoon sugar

Roughly puree the tomatoes to a medium-coarse consistency in batches in a blender or food processor.

Heat the oil in a 4- to 6-quart pot over moderately high heat until it shimmers. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and nigella seeds, shaking the skillet, and when they pop and are fragrant, after about 30 seconds, quickly add the garlic, ginger, onion, and chiles. Immediately reduce the heat to moderate, and cook, stirring, until the garlic and onion have softened. (Don't let them color.) Stir in a pinch of salt and the tomato puree. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour.

Stir in the tamarind paste, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste, then remove the chutney from the heat. Serve the chutney warm.

The chutney keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or in the freezer for 1 month.

Note: I prefer Muir Glen organic tomatoes, either plain, or for a little more kick, the "Fire Roasted" variety.

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Food Quote Friday: Thomas Keller

"I wonder if I love the communal act of eating so much because throughout my childhood, with four older brothers and a mom who worked in the restaurant business, I spent a lot of time fending for myself, eating alone — and recognizing how eating together made all the difference."

-Thomas Keller (1955-)

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Fire, Sand & Wood-smoke

Just in from WhiteTrashBBQ, it looks like there'll actually be something yummy-smelling on the East River (for once).

If you happen to have some extra cash weighing you down, this actually looks tasty and educational — not to mention nice work for a non-profit and all that...
We'd like to invite you to The Baron's School of Pitmasters! A first for New York City and a benefit for St. Mark Sports Association, sponsored by R.U.B. Restaurant.

Paul Kirk, the legendary Baron of Barbecue, co-owner of NYC's R.U.B. Restaurant, Barbecue Guru, etc., etc., is coming to New York City to teach the Baron's School of Pitmasters.

When: Saturday October 21, 2006 - Rain or Shine.
Where: The Water Taxi Beach, 2nd Street and Borden Ave, Hunter's Point, Long Island City, Queens, New York.
The What and The Why: This class is suited for the back yard BBQ enthusiast, the seasoned competitor, or those considering opening a BBQ joint (restaurant). The Baron will cover the basics of BBQing Brisket, Pork Butt, Pork Ribs, Chicken, and Sausage. He will also cover fire management, fuels, BBQ rubs and spices, BBQ sauce, contest presentation, among many other subjects.
How much: $250 per person - CLASS IS LIMITED TO 40 ATTENDEES.
What do I need to bring: You bring your cooker, fuel, cooking utensils and whatever you'd need to cook outdoors. We supply the rest. (Meat, spices, rubs, etc.)
How do I get into school: Contact Robert Fernandez aka WhiteTrashBBQ or Matt Fisher aka The Hampton Smoker.

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The Birth of an Entrée

Alas... my digi camera is dead dead dead. Mourning its decline, I perused my archives and thought y'all might enjoy this little "back of the house" tour from the perspective of a veg cook (one of my kitchen stations back in the day).

Keep in mind, we're not talking short-order slapdash here. This ain't no Denny's. This is how it's done in a *good* kitchen.

It's the foundation of your station. You never find a line cook in a high-end kitchen just standing around. There's always something to chop up or clean up. This is Davey making quick work of a ginger julienne.

Mis en place (mees-ehn-plahs).
It's all about prepwork and organization, folks. In this cooler drawer (called a lowboy) we find lovingly trimmed turnips, boiled potatoes, lamb bits, braised squash with mustard seeds, toasted coconut, blanched green beans and brussels sprouts, and on the upper left, roasted shallots, turnips and cauliflower, methinks... I can't remember what that reddish-colored stuff is. The meat cook made that.

On fire.
When you hear the order come in, down go the pans. This is a chickpea panisse for the lamb dish. You'll note the blue "side towel" in my friend's hand here. You don't see hot pads or oven mitts in professional kitchens. You see side towels, and god help you if you don't have a dry side towel, because you'll learn the conductivity of water in a heartbeat if you grab a hot handle with a wet towel. Zow!

The lineup.
These plates just came out of the warmer, so they're still pretty warm on the fingers. The veg generally goes in rings to shape it while it waits for the meat cook to finish slicing and fanning out the meat.

The product.
Here we see the lamb veg (turnips, potatoes, leeks and bits of lamb roast) and the afore-mentioned chickpea panisse just before the meat cook makes his addition. You'll note that my veg plays backup to that juicy spread of lamb. All this dish needs is a drizzle of sauce, a garnish, and an approval by the chef. I'm actually hungry just looking at it...

Chef puffs his cheeks, deep in thought.
Nothing goes out without scrutiny from the chef or whichever of his sous chefs happens to be manning the front line. He's got a whole palette of funky garnishes he can use to give your entrée a finishing touch. You know... stuff like finely chopped chives, cilantro chiffonade, mint chiffonade, microgreens, fried ginger, fried lotus root strips and the like.

Just in case any of this makes you hungry, all these photos were taken in the kitchen at Tabla (Corner of 24th & Madison, NYC). The chef is Floyd Cardoz, and the disembodied hands belong to my brother in arms, Dave S.

Miss Ginsu

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