Practically friends

Said goodbye to some friends today. At Thanksgiving, my grandson asked in wonder, “Why are you going back to school?” Or, really, WTF? I could as easily have said the people as the food.

Kitchen work attracts an extraordinary percentage of intelligent, humorous, hard-working people. For every lazy ignorant jerk, there are five or six people who will jump head-first into whatever job has to be done — pile of pots and pans or plate-up for 600. Not for the hotel or the restaurant or the college, but for their buds.

I will miss my friend Amy, a tough little chick, and Tiffany, another one. When the cooking and the presentation and the eating are done, Amy absolutely drove the dish line to get everything cleaned up faster than we thought possible.  Tiffany was simply awesome on the power washer. The kitchen floor shook beneath her.

Allen, exec chef at the Sheraton, scored a 98 on today’s practical. No surprise. Yeah, he’s already a chef, but his platings are significantly better than anything I’ve seen in this town.

AJ — Jamaica Joe — is drifting away too, slowly, on island time. When he left today he turned around to everyone and said, “I love you.”

Sticking around are Josh, pining for LA, and Robert, who is planning a Puerto Rican catering company. Should be a good time.

I did okay today on the practical with mystery box #1. I made Cream of Mushroom soup, Filet Mignon,  Roasted Red Potatoes and Asparagus with Hollandaise sauce. Protein went past medium rare, veg a little soft, got a 91.  I’ll take it.

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Snow day!

It’s a lovely cold rainy freezing nasty experience out there, so we are snuggled by the woodstove with a Sunday morning snack, having declared a snow day.

The cheese is a creamy Irish cheddar forced upon us by an aggressive foodworker at Wegman’s yesterday … I think he said something like, “Try some?” It is expansive, mouth-filling, not sharp like an English cheddar, more tangy. Tangy enough to compare to a soft bleu like Gorgonzola.

The flatbread we found at the West Shore Farmers’ Market.  I really mean found. We’ve been looking for it or something like it since Giant dumped pretty much every cracker but Cheez-Its.

And, okay, Snow Day from what? The park. See disconsolate dog below.

Well, maybe a Snow Halfday. We’ll go this afternoon.

Tacqueria on Market

Eloy Saenz shows off his tacoes -- photo by Chris Courogen

If you missed Chris Courogen’s P-N story on the Market Street taco truck guy (like I did), here’s a link. Eloy Saenz is the real deal, with meat from Groff’s.

There is no lettuce on top of the meaty tacos Saenz serves up. The beef tacos are made with shredded beef that has been slow braised in Saenz’s own blend of spices, not ground beef. There is no cheese or sour cream, either.

“That’s Tex-Mex, or Californian,” said Louis Gonzales, a Mexican immigrant living in Mechanicsburg, who took a break from his lunch to serve as interpreter for Saenz, who speaks little English. “There have real meat and authentic flavor. I come here for the flavor of my country.”

Potato Galettes

We have a final practical coming up with five possible ingredient baskets — russets are in two of them.  Spending an hour on potatoes doesn’t seem prudent when there’s soup to make and veg and protein and a sauce. So I’ve been trying to find something else to do with russet potatoes besides baked, mashed, twice-baked and multi-messy-buttery-sourcream baked.

I was standing in the kitchen chopping to the muted strains of Grey’s Anatomy on Fridge TV when I turned and noticed a skinny little cookbook on the shelf. It’s one of those gift-shop books remaindered by Barnes & Noble, “Bistro” by Chef Gerald Hirigoyen. I pulled it down and opened to a page of Potato Galettes with Goat Cheese. HFS, they looked good!

The next night I dug out the deep-fryer that Dee got me for Christmas last year.

These are simple to make, pretty and tasty, especially since I subbed in crushed hazelnuts for the bread crumbs. Ready?

Scrub a russet potato and slice off the ends. Cut sections about a half-inch thick. With a pastry circle cutter or a large apple corer, make a hole in the center of each section. Fry off the sections in 300-degree oil, for about five minutes.

Pull the potatoes, place on paper towels and wipe top with a paper towel. When they cool enough to work with, stuff goat cheese into the holes and top with crushed walnuts or hazelnuts. Place in small roasting pan and chill for about half-hour.

Warm in a 350 oven for about 10 minutes.

Wish I had a picture, but I didn’t take one. This is from the book:

Today I ate dorian. It is like a fruit salad left in the fridge way too long. Word on the street is round-eyes can’t eat it. I did. But I wouldn’t serve it.

Also chewed galangal

which is like chiles, but, like, hotter.

And finally, a digestif, beechnut leaves.

Place in the cheek and enjoy the after-dinner experience.