Internship: Day 10, 11/02/05

Wow! Today was an intense day. It was unexpectedly the busiest day that I’ve worked the line. I got in a little earlier since I’d taken my knives in to have them sharpened (I also picked up a sharpening stone and a new hat while I was at it). T wasn’t in yet, and M played a little joke on me by telling me that he wasn’t coming in, and today was all me. While that sent me into to a mild state of panic, I was (surprisingly) ready to take it on, disastrous though it might be. M actually wasn’t able to hold out very long, and let me know that T was just running a little late. He was impressed that I didn’t freak out, though, and was willing to take it on even though I only barely have a grasp on things. The good thing about T being late is that I got to start setting up by myself, and while I’m definitely slow and have to really think things through, I think I’m getting the hang of it. I’m going to start coming in at 8:30am so I’m there for the entire setup, and I plan to talk to T about letting me set up without help—maybe next Wednesday.

Everybody thought that it was going to be a slow lunch—it was reported that there were only 28 reservations on the books. There was apparently a miscalculation, though, because about 20 minutes before service 28 turned into 48. The original plan was to have me work hot side if things were slow and cold when we got busy, and to have T and M switch stations (T on sauté and M on pantry) for learning purposes. We went ahead with that at first and it was pretty chaotic. I was training M on the dishes I know, referring to my notes for dishes I’m not as sure of, with T stepping in on the new dishes that I haven’t done yet. As we got busier it was just too much, so we reverted to our usual positions. I feel like I held my own pretty well, although I still have trouble keeping everything straight at that pace (I often forget to put the tickets up with the food, and it’s hard to keep track of multiple dishes at once). T seemed to be pretty happy with my performance, though, which is good.

After service, I prepped the evening’s amuse bouche—a sunchoke puree to be garnished with a relish of brunoised apples and red onions (mixed with a little lemon, olive oil, and sugar—I prepped that, too) and crab meat. I didn’t get to taste the garnished amuse but the soup was delicious—creamy with a flavor that reminded me of creamed corn. I also prepped some preserved lemons by quartering almost a case of lemons, layering them with equal amounts of sugar and salt per layer, and pressing each layer to release the juice (reminiscent of the sauerkraut but much less labor intensive). I added a little water at the end so that the lemons would be completely covered by liquid, added a weight to keep it pressed down, and wrapped it up in plastic wrap where it will sit until the lemons are preserved.

The best news is that before I left for the day, J talked to me about the possibility of being hired on. I suspected this was coming because they’d begun to ask me when my internship would be done, and when I’d be done with school. They also called T in for a meeting today and I guessed it might have something to do with me (and he must have said good things, which is great). The biggest issue is that I don’t want to leave the Chopping Block during the holiday season. They’ve already got the holiday schedule worked out, and it would be hard for them to bring in someone new to replace an experienced worker during their busiest time of year. J seemed to take that in stride though, and said that they need to talk about it some more, but I think it looks good. That makes me really happy—I was worried about where I would go after my internship was over. I like Quake so much, and I feel that working there will give me experience that I need. I think it would be hard to find another place that would be such a good fit.

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Jerusalem Artichoke (also Sunchoke) This vegetable is not truly an artichoke but a variety of sunflower with a lumpy, brown-skinned tuber that often resembles a gingerroot. Contrary to what the name implies, this vegetable has nothing to do with Jerusalem but is derived instead from the Italian word for sunflower, girasole. Because of its confusing moniker, modern-day growers have begun to call Jerusalem artichokes sunchokes, which is how they’re often labeled in the produce section of many markets. The white flesh of this vegetable is nutty, sweet, and crunch. Jerusalem artichokes are available from about October to March. Select those that are firm and fresh-looking and not soft or wrinkled. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. After that, they will begin to wither because of moisture loss. They may be peeled or, because the skin is very thin and quite nutritious, simply washed well before being used. Jerusalem artichokes can be eaten raw in salads or cooked by boiling or steaming and served as a side dish. They also make a delicious soup. Jerusalem artichokes are a good source of iron.

Definition compliments of the New Food Lover’s Companion.