Things I’ve learned in the past 3 weeks, and another fun weekend!

21 May

I have worked 3 weeks at Dos Palillos.  There is much I have learned that I have taken for granted because I’m moving so fast when I am there that I don’t have time to really think about what I’m learning. So, I thought I should jot down at least a few of them, in no particular order.

Here goes:

1) A fast way to clean langostas and large shrimp to keep the head and tail intact.

2) How to smoke the body of a large shrimp over a Japanese charcoal grill while simultaneously cooking the head so that the end result is that the body is semi-crudo, the head is fully cooked, and you can suck the contents out the head after you eat the body (and it’s a lot less gross to suck the contents out of the head after it has been fully cooked).

3) How to make several different types of closures/folds for dumplings and gyozas.

4) That I hate making mochi from scratch.  It takes too long and the kind we make is not all that great tasting to me.  In my opinion, there’s less “wow” for the effort in this part of the dessert.

5) That a chupito is a “shot”.  We make a fresh strawberry juice and vodka chupito that I put in a hollowed out strawberry and then serve alongside a macerated strawberry covered with fresh mochi “paper”.

6) Because I used the “F” bomb at Antonio and put him in his place, we’re now friends. Go figure. He helped me out A LOT on Saturday night when I had a terrific blow up night and had 22 orders for desserts come in at one time. I spilled (actually, Takeshi spilled) my frying oil all over la pasteleria, but it’s because I left the handle sticking out slightly and Takeshi bumped it and knocked it on the floor. My bad.  What a mess!  At least I knew the secret to making the floor non-greasy/non-slippery in a hurry. After mopping up all the oil, put fine salt all over the ground/oil slick to cover/soak up the oil and then clean up the salt later after the oil soaked in.

Continuing on with the blowup night…I also didn’t put the soaked almonds in the blender long enough to make the 2 Liters of almond milk I needed in order to make the almond flan.  It would have been a great idea for someone to demonstrate just how fine I needed to ground those suckers before I actually did it, so I made a lot more work for everyone because then I needed help re-grinding and pressing out all the milk.  Bummer.  So, I did two things that either made more work for others and myself, and pissed off other cocineros. Lovely. Finally, I had to make family meal again. I made chicken, white bean and green chili, chili. It was good and spicy. Umm, apparently too spicy for the weak Spanish palette, so half the people tasted it, declared “buy picante”, and then went hungry as the other 2 components of the meal were bread and salad (which, to me can be a great meal in and of itself).  Again, mi mal (“my bad”). That actually doesn’t translate in Spanish too well.

7) That I am officially Dos Palillos, Barcelona’s pastry chef, but without any pay.  Vincente left Saturday to go to teach recipes and work at Dos Palillos, Germany.  I kind of knew something was up, but I didn’t know exactly why I would be working a usually paid 70+ hour/week job for free.  Huh.  I have learned a lot, but it’s not going to be at the expense of my health or at the expense of what should be a paying job for one of the 25% of people in Spain who is unemployed. It is not fair to anyone involved.  So, tomorrow I shall do something about it.

8) That I hate deep frying ningyo yakis because I always burn myself when trying to get the delicate little suckers out of the frying pan without puncturing them.  But, here is where I think a dessert is worth the effort.  I make a chocolate mousse, then freeze it, and then right before I serve it, I drop it in hot oil so that the outside is hot and it make the chocolate mousse inside oozy, but still cold. There’s a bit of an art to it, as the oil has to be the right temperature and we don’t use thermometers at Dos Palillos, so I just have to look at the oil and keep modifying the temperature.  They look like little eggs. See the feature picture at top.  The ningyo yaks are topped with powered sugar and candied ginger.  They are delicious!

9) I can’t read Vincente’s writing. Here’s an example. It’s certainly beautiful penmanship, but it’s a bit difficult to decipher.

That recipe turns into the following, at stage 2, after cooking (bizcocho de almendra = almond cake):

Yep, it’s actually cooked in plastic cups – yikes!  Then, I cut it on a bias, top it with some yuzu marmalade and a small cut of mint, and it’s finger food cake!  It’s super easy and the texture is kind of like a sponge cake.  It’s very non-American insofar as desserts go because it’s not very sweet.  But, it’s a great one to put on a tasting menu because it’s super quick to make and to assemble.  I’m not giving away secrets here, as this type of cake is used in many restaurants that employ some molecular gastronomy of sorts. In fact, Commonwealth in San Francisco had a very similar cake.

Okay, enough of what I learned for now. Onto some fun things I did this weekend.

Sunday lunch I made cheeseburgers for Diana, her sister, and Diana’s 3 kids.  I said I was going to make a typical “American” style cheeseburger.  I did, sort of. I had to search for cheddar cheese in this town. It’s not typical here, since they have so many other (and better) kinds of cheeses. But, I felt cheddar was essential for my burger.

I mixed ground beef with minced fresh garlic, some hot sauce, and some chorizo. I made 1/4 pound burgers and the last 5 minutes, I let the cheddar melt and ooze over the burgers. I put out the requisite sliced tomatoes, lettuce and ketchup.  I also made balsamic onions as that’s my new addiction, and set out sliced avocados.  I served the burgers with roasted new potatoes and a salad.  All was gobbled up. Diana served fresh pineapple, almond cookies, and cinnamon tea along with the 3 organic chocolate bars I brought, and that was a perfect combo for dessert.  I loved this cinnamon tea she had, so I’m going to go in search of it. Cinnamon, chocolate and almonds just work so well together!

Last night I slept 8 hours – yeh!  Then, today, Monday, I had lunch with Quim at Origens, and then he showed me a bunch of places I had not been to in the Born barrio.  We went to one of the best wine and cheese shops in Barcelona, and although we were very full from lunch, of course he knew the owner so we had to do a little cava tasting and had to eat a cured meat to fully appreciate the cava.

Then, I went to have a massage to try to work out the knots in my back.  So, it was a very relaxing day!  Now, I’m doing laundry and hoping to get another 8 hours of sleep before my crazy week begins again 🙂

I’m so looking forward to seeing Alan, his brother, and my love this weekend!

2 Responses to “Things I’ve learned in the past 3 weeks, and another fun weekend!”

  1. shannon May 22, 2012 at 2:22 am #

    I am continuously amazed at your experiences… Don’t have that kind of resilience… Bravo, rachel. :o)
    So looking forward to seeing you and stealing you off to cadaques during your two days off… Wining and dining you and massaging your feet!

    • rachelogdie May 22, 2012 at 10:06 am #

      Thanks, Shan! I am so looking forward to spending time with you all, as well! You’ll be here in less than 3 weeks – yeh!

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