I do this thing…

I have had a few interviews…

So I do this thing when the interviewer asks me why do I cook and I begin to tell my story… my throat starts to tense up – my voice starts to  shake –  shivers and a slight tremble of excitement trickle throughout  my posture leans forward and my eyes start to water and words get elongated.  It’s a bit of a trance.  It always frustrates me and I feel completely crazy when I do this but I just can’t help it.  I love cooking.  As a small child my earliest memories were food related. Running through the park with a carton of Donald Duck orange juice, as a todder there was a story of me walking out of a grocery store with cookies and ice cream unpaid for, my mother had to run back in. Baking cakes from a Betty Crocker box, squatting down on the kitchen floor helping my mother pick herbs and other greens, cutting up chicken livers next to my Hello Kitty Stickers.

I always wanted to cook, it lasted into Elementary school into my teenage years into college into well…now.   It fell into my lap but I had to make it happen and I just let it.  Now how am I gonna make a living outta this?

The other night a girlfriend and I (the beautiful Mia) had a farewell dinner at Zuni Cafe.  We sat down ordered wine and I left her at the table for moment to rush down to greet the kitchen crew.   I felt an instant rush of nostalgia and I knew that I would be missing all the people in this kitchen.  We were of course like some sort of family and a team!  Not to mention some of the nicest people whom I have met.

I stepped down to see another cook getting trained on the station where I work, and felt a bit of sadness as I knew that I was easily replaced. Feelings of separation really hit.   However, no ill feelings.  We…I just gotta go.  However, I have gained a slew of passionate and driven cooks that I can now call my friends.  I said my hello’s and went back upstairs to continue to my dinner.

I glanced down into the kitchen.  Our table overlooked the oven and the grill as well as the rest of the downstairs dining room. No regrets. It was magical.  I was able to sit and have a bottle of wine with her enjoying our delicious meal.  The meal as well as atmosphere really solidified why I loved working there.  Even the times well when…nevermind.

Photo: Daniel Dent

But what kept me there?  What inspired me? Learning…and maybe it was the freshness and quality of the produce and ingredients that peaked my interest.  Maybe it was the dedicated few that lasted beyond my comprehension.  Maybe it was Judy who constantly walked through the kitchen – hers,  a look of concentration – with the folds of her forehead working with her eyes to portray the inner workings of her mind- every –single– detail from food to dust thoroughly examined over relentlessly.   I’ve worked the station watching her trying to extract what I can from her unyielding quest for high quality and standards.

Maybe it was my naïve / romantic notion of what cooking  gives someone when they button up that white jacket, “CHEF”, but like I said, a person learns how easily they can lose patience and in the same moment gain patience.   The good bad and everything in between.

My palate grew, my cooking evolved, I developed more ideas, and I am inspired to do more.  Whatever happened it’s happening and will continue…is this too much? Stop me now.

Roasted Poblano Peppers Stuffed w/ Chicken Shrimp and Black Trumpets- w/ Braised Chayote

4 Large Poblano Peppers
1/2 lb of Ground Chicken
4-6 Medium sized Tiger Shrimp – Pounded to a Chunky Paste
1/2 C. Fine Diced Yellow Onion
1/2 C. Shredded Carrot
1/2 Chopped Black Trumpets
1/4 C. Roughly Chopped Cilantro
1 Leek Sliced at a Bias 1/2 Inch think
1/2 C. Cubed Chayote
1 C. Chicken Stock
1 Serranno Chili
1/4 C. White Wine
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 T. salt
1 tsp. Vietnamese Anchovy Sauce (you can omit this)
10 Grinds of Black Pepper
Prep:  Place in a bowl the chicken meat -Using the side of a heavy knife pound down and out on the shrimp – then roughly and carefully seperate the shrimp by going over once or twice with your knife. Be careful of the knife slipping.
Clean and grate a carrot – Fine dice a yellow onion – Roughly chop the Cilantro- Roughly chop the Black Trumpets- COMBINE Salt – sugar and the above ingredients in the same bowl as the chicken – mix well.
De-vein the poblanos by first cutting off the top.  Remove seeds and veins- Do the same with the Serranno and fine dice Peel and cut the Chayote to 1/2 inch cubes-  Clean and Cut the leeks into 1/2 inch slight biased cuts. Carefully fill cavity of with mixture – Heat up a pan , add olive oil – Carefully add poblanos and pan char. Remove.
Add leeks to give slight color, deglaze with white wine – add chicken stock- turn heat down- add Serrano & fish sauce &  Chayote. Season w/ salt.
Add the ingredients from the sauté pan into the roasting pan.  Place the stuffed poblanos on top.  Set Oven to 375° bake for 30 Minutes.  Finish with A good douse of Olive Oil.   When Serving slice on a bias and pour juices and ingredients from pan on top.

Cooking shenanigans will continue…


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