Sunday, January 16, 2011

Backstage in the Restaurant Kitchen

"Becoming a Chef with Recipes and Reflections from America's Leading Chefs" by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page Van Nostrand Reinhold 320 pages No price given, but I paid $4 at a book sale.

This book presents a comprehensive look at what being a chef is all about (passion!) and starts with a comparison of yesterday (Escoffier) and today, discovering a passion for food -- very often this occurs in childhood -- cooking school vs. learning in the kitchen? (as an unpaid dog's body; clean that floor, chop those vegetables, OBSERVE.) Chapter 7 discusses the business of cooking -- operating and running a restaurant which includes so many details the reader's mind swirls with visions of napkins, glasses, wait style, front of the house look, efficiency of the kitchen and its layout.

The book was published in 1995 and in just those 16 years, food tastes have changed. Farm to restaurant table (the table actually ON the farm in some instances) is the big movement now. Foams, happily, are gone. But behind the stove appears to have stayed the same. Work like a donkey for 16 to 18 hours a day; be so up after a busy night that you don't want to go home, but out instead. Alcohol and drug abuse are something of a problem in a lot of kitchens (or so I've read.) ((Just alcohol abuse in mine.))

The back of the book has a glossary of restaurant and kitchen terms; a list of selected professional cooking schools in the US and abroad; a list of the leading culinary organizations; another list of leading culinary periodicals; brief biographies of the chefs intererviewed in the book and finally (gasp) an index of everything covered in the damned book!

Many of the chefs contribubed a favorite recipe and, interestingly, it was often something an older relative used to make. This one appealed to me, probably because I'm so used to "French" onion soup.

SWISS ONION SOUP - warning -- it serves 8 to 10 people
1 stick sweet butter
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
pinch of white pepper
1/2 of a day-old baguette or 6 slices of white bread
1 teas. table sugar
1/2 gallon of milk
1 lb. Swiss or Gruyere cheese, diced

Saute the onions until soft while you cut the bread into a medium dice. Put the bread in with the onions and add the sugar. Stir so that the bread absorbs the butter. Add the milk and bring to a boil; then add the cheese and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook -- no lid -- for an hour and 15 minutes. Serve immediately. Susan Feniger's recipe

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