Out of the fridge by Brice O’Neill
A lot of cooks dread the holiday season as it means much longer days and the very real possibility of split shifts. You know all those super fun Christmas parties you go to with your friends, spouses and coworkers? Yes, we get to make all the food, which means we have to order/procure all the ingredients for your amazing party, set up service lines and when it’s done, tear down; spending the next two hours helping in the dish pit and restoring the kitchen to its prior glory so we can do it again the following day. And, because we are for the most part, open to the public right up until you arrive, we also get to prepare all that wonderful food for your party while trying to make regular orders. If you’re lucky/talented/dedicated/modest/stupid enough to become the Chef, you also get to spend the previous night in a sleepless state going over the plan. Did I order enough food? Can we pull off this amazing plan? Will my staff show up…sober? Will the client like what we made…oh crap! I forgot to ask if there were any allergies, so that means I’ll have to come up with something quick! Then the thoughts of the wait staff start creeping in and you need to remind yourself that if you want something else to worry about you always have the thought of the food delivery truck not showing up.
All of that is eclipsed by the client telling you that everything was great and that they had a good time, and while you’re standing there talking to the client, you realize that spending the last 8-9 hours sweating has taken its toll on your personal aroma. This might sound all bad but most of us love our jobs. We love the fact that the hours we put in are enjoyed by our clients. There is something extraordinarily satisfying about this. That’s not to say that cooks don’t go to Christmas parties. In my old/young chef days, I would have a few “primers” before we arrived at the restaurant where our boss was brave enough to notify the kitchen staff that there was an open bar. That lasted about an hour. Needless to say, being around a group of men and women who sweat, swear and wield knives and/or fire for a living, and are given access to an open bar, lead to many stories that for legal reasons I’m unable to relay to you. Now that I’m older, wiser, sober-er, we have our staff parties at the bowling alley. We bring in pizza or sushi, have a few beers, exchange gifts all while I destroy everyone at bowling (yeah, right).
So when you go to Christmas parties this year, take a second to acknowledge all the men and women who have dedicated their lives to making sure that you have a great evening eating great food. Here’s my recipe for Red Pepper, Green Pepper Soup that I absolutely did not steal from a Chef who is now in my employ. Roast some red and green peppers. Skin them, seed them and place them in separate pots. Add one tablespoon of sugar to each one, a splash of heavy cream and then hit it with your immersion blender. Pour in more cream while you’re blitzing. You want to create a semi-thick consistency like warm peanut butter. Gross, but bear with me. Warm both pots to just below boiling. If you boil it, your cream might separate. Take two ladles, one in each hand, put both in the pots, lift up and scrape the bottom of the ladles on the edge of the pots to prevent dripping. With a deft motion (which takes quite a bit of practice) you pour simultaneously into a bowl, one a 2 o’clock and one at 8 o’clock. The trick is to pour them both in at the same speed so that the end result is ½ green ½ red soup. You can add a couple of drops of cream to decorate it. Give it a try, it’s a lot of fun and a real conversation piece.