Speak Up

Saturday, November 29, 2008

ChefWife Advice

SK from Chicago left a comment on a previous post today. She'd like our advice and since you are the best advice givers I know I thought I'd share her quandry again so we can leave comments to help her out.

Hello all...I am not married to a chef (cook, as it were), but I am in a
very serious relationship with one. He's currently working in Vegas (while I'm
still in Chicago) and was planning on being back in August, but after three
months he had a wonderful opportunity: they brought in people from Europe and
had him interview with them. On the spot he had to whip up a four course meal,
etc. and blew them away. Now they're setting him up for some place in Europe (we
still don't even have the full details) and it sounds like they want him there
sometime after the first of January.

I guess I'm just looking for some guidance in this. I'm a very family
oriented person, and I'm very close with mine, but I don't know if I should try
to go with him or if its better to end things here. We've only just started
talking about it, and I know he's going to take this opportunity which I do not
blame him for, it's amazing. But we're not quite at the marriage stage yet, and
now that I'm reading some of what these women go through with families... being
in the one I was in, I don't know if I could handle it. I want kids, and so does
he, but I never wanted to be a single mom and it sounds as if that's what I'd be
in line for.I guess I'm just looking for some advice on making this extremely
difficult decision. Some perspective from people who have been there.

SK - Chicago

My advice: TALK! Talk to him! Is this the type of man you want to be with forever? Would you be willing to move? Willing to visit? Willing to live without him. Having a chef boyfriend who lives in Europe isn't all that much worse than living in the same home as one. But of course, it's also much, much diffferent. If you're not completely committed to long distance phone calls at odd hours in the night, no dating, no sex, and no person-to-person companionship, then it might be time to say good-bye.

Apple Confit Update

It seems that a couple people are going to make Jean-Georges's apple confit-hooray! I think I'm going to make a smaller version tomorrow. I'm such a recipe cheater; I never follow the directions all the way. Since I don't have Granny Smith apples, I'll use Fiji. And since I don't have 15, I'll shrink my recipe to make it with only 7 apples. I cheat!

Let me know how yours turn out!

Here is the full Apple Confit (said "confee") Recipe:

2 cups sugar
5 oranges
15 Granny Smith apples

1. Melt 1 cup sugar in a saute pan over medium heat, stirring only occasionally, until it bubbles and turns golden brown. Immediately pour it into a standard 9x5-inch loaf pan, or a 3-inch deep, 9-inch round cake pan. Swirl the melted sugar around so that it coats the bottom, and set it aside. It will harden while you prepare the oranges and apples.

2. Use a zester to remove the orange zest in long, thin strips. Place the zest in a saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil, then cook for 1 minute. Drain, then refresh under cold running water for a minute or two. Drain again.

3. Peel the apples, then halve and core them. Cut them by hand or with a mandoline into even sliches about 1/8 inch thick; keep the slices neatly stacked.

4. Using only flat pieces (discard the rounded ends), place a layer of apples neatly in the bottom of the loaf pan. cover with another layer, keeping the layers as level as possible, and pressing down to event them out. Sprinkle with a bit of the remaining 1 cup sugar, then some of the zest. Repeat, adding sugar and zest every 2 or 3 layers.

5. When you get to the top of the pan, keep the lines straight and continue to build layers beyond the top, going about 3 or 4 inches above the pan. Cover the top with plastic, then wrap the whole pan in aluminum foil. Place it in a shallow tray - it will drip - and refrigerate at least overnight, preferably for 24 hours.

6. Drain the juice from the tray (you may reserve it for sorbet or other uses), then unwrap the pan. Drain the excess liquid, then wrap the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil. Place the pan in a large, deep roasting pan, and fill the roating pan with water halfway up the sides of the loaf pan. Bake at 300 degrees fahrenheit for 5 hours, then check: The confit is done when all the apple slices are dark brown, it has shurnk to fill only about 3/4 of the mold, and a thin-bladed knife pierces it easily. Cooking time is usually between 5 and 6.5 hours; check and replenish the water bath (use boiling water) as necessary.

7. Unwrap the confit, cool, then chill for several hours, up to 2 days. Slice thinly and serve.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thankful Thoughts

It's too bad most of us only stop once a year to give thanks for all the things we have. Occasionally a near-fatal accident or sickness lends a thankful heart, but giving thanks is as important on Thanksgiving as it is on a Tuesday.

Top Ten Things I'm Thankful For:

1. My husband. Erik is my best friend and I'm not just saying that. For the longest time it's been just us, and I like it that way.

2. Family. They drive me crazy in the best way. No one in the world makes me laugh as hard as my sisters-which usually involves laughing at my mom. Aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters and parents make my life uniquely complete.

3. Teaching. If there were no teaching I would be poor and lonely with too much time on my hands. Besides that, all those mushy emotional rewards are great too.

4. The Internet. The glory of the Internet-someone should write some sonnets about it. I could not live without it. Take my phone, my car, my chapstick, but I cannot live without Google.

5. Jersey City. The best city in the world, for me, for now. This place has given me a home when I had nothing. I'm committed to this place and I like that.

6. Bravery. I never knew I was brave, but I am. So I guess I owe some of that to bravery itself.

7. Equal Rights. Fairness is cool!

8. I Love Lucy. Funny, comforting, and safe. You can't go wrong with Lucy.

9. Toothbrushes. Do I really need to explain?

10. Lotion. Winter is killer on skin and without lotion I'd have to use every muscle I have just to stretch my face to speak.

Thank you, too for reading and supporting my blog! I love you!

JGV on Regis and Kelly

Mr. Vongerichten graced the studio kitchen on LIVE today, making an apple confit and lemongrass turkey. The apple confit actually seemed easy enough for me to do. Peel 15 apples, slice them, layer them over some caramel in a pan, add some orange peels and sugar, cook for 4 hours...that's it! But I'm not feeling brave enough to go near a turkey anytime soon.

I'm off to a Balloon Party tonight to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade balloons get inflated. It's a creative party theme and I'm really looking forward to it.

Happy Thanksgiving, All!!


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Chef Mumbles...Only Worse

Talking in your sleep is one thing, but getting up in the middle of the night and changing into work clothes is sickening. Erik! Come on, you need a vacation.

Last night Erik woke up, took off his flannel pants, put on his work pants, then went back to sleep for another three hours. Really? This is getting a little out of hand. He did this once before and actually started to leave the apartment, but that was over 4 years ago. I thought the chef-sleep walking was over.

Jean-Georges, if you're reading this: give my husband a day off. Oh, and I heard you can ice skate. There's a rink on my street, can you cross the Hudson and teach me some cool moves? I really want to learn an axel.


Milk Bar

I was reluctant to go to Milk Bar, David Chang's newest eatery, because I'm not really a dessert person. It's not that I don't like dessert, I just don't like it after I eat. I like cake and ice cream, cookies and chocolate as much as everyone else, I would just rather eat them in the morning. But we were a few blocks away from Milk Bar on Sunday, which is attached to Momofuku so we walked over.

The size is small with tables to rest your elbows on (don't tell Molly Manners) but no chairs. They've got a generous menu with pies, cakes, soft serve, cookies, flavored milk (a la Milk Bar) and even those delicious pork buns Mr. Chang is so famous for. The blondie pumpkin pie was so good I felt guilty eating it. The soft serve flavors we got were snicker doodle and fudge brownie and they were tasty, too. But my favorite thing was the corn cookie. I love corn. I love cookies. I really love corn cookies. I liked the open kitchen, it definitely made the place feel warmer and more roomy.

BUT as much as I love Mr. Chang, I've got to give him some advice. And please, Mr. Chang-these are free. Let's call them your Christmas present.

1. Speed up the service! I don't mind waiting for quality food, but the pies, cookies and cakes were already made. Pre-cut those suckers.

2. If #1 is not an option for you, may I suggest this: I didn't order a drink because I wasn't thirsty. But after all those sweets I wanted a soda really bad. The thing is, the line was out the door. I wasn't about to wait 30 minutes for a drink. So, what you could do is get a vending machine with your own drinks in it. You know, flavored milk and Dr. Pepper. I'd pay double to have a cool drink ASAP.

Hope this helps!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Chef Doctor

Just when I thought I've exhausted the avenues of all things that trouble wives of chefs, I have realized that getting a doctor's appointment is damn near impossible. My chef is off on Sundays and Mondays. Sundays are a waste as far as doctors go, and Mondays are not much better. My chef sleeps in until about noon on Mondays, then takes a nap from 1-3PM. But at least he's able to alter that for one day if needed. Erik doesn't have a car but luckily we live across the street from the doctor and one train stop away from the dentist. Don't get my started on the sleep lab though. Since Erik is getting a sleep test done he has to stay all night at the lap until 3PM the next day. I tried explaining to the receptionist, that he can only come in on Monday, but he'll have to take Tuesday off, which is a nightmare, because then he's not off on Sunday. And who is going to pick him up at 3PM since I've got meetings on Mondays?? AHH. This is so annoying. Perhaps a taxi is needed.

The point is there needs to be special services just for chefs. Like a chef doctor that open on Sundays all day and all other days from midnight to 3AM. He'd get a lot of patients and he could specialize in drug and alcohol rehab, high cholesterol diets, and stress tests. Then the chef services would catch on and the dry cleaners would be open late along with the bank, DMV, and bookstores. All of these chef accommodations might lead to more people wanting to go to culinary school and we don't really need any more of that. I suppose nothing is completely perfect.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pressure Cooker Documentary Screening

Wednesday, December 10th, Pressure Cooker will be screening at the IFC Film Center. This documentary, directed by Jennifer Grausman and Mark Becker, is near and dear to my heart since it was inspired by the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), founded in 1990 by Richard Grausman.

From their website: "C-CAP works with public schools across the country to prepare underserved high school students for college and career opportunities in the restaurant and hospitality industry. A national nonprofit, C-CAP manages the largest independent high school culinary scholarship program in the United States. Since 1990, C-CAP has awarded students $25 million in scholarships and donated $2.2 million worth of supplies and equipment to classrooms."
To purchase tickets visit: http://www.ifccenter.com/index

Three seniors at Philadelphia's Frankford High School find an unlikely champion in the kitchen of Wilma Stephenson. A legend in the school system, Mrs. Stephenson's hilariously blunt boot-camp method of teaching Culinary Arts is validated by years of scholarship success. Against the backdrop of the row homes of working-class Philadelphia, she has helped countless students reach the top culinary schools in the country. And under her fierce direction, the usual distractions of high school are swept aside as Erica, Dudley and Fatoumata prepare to achieve beyond what anyone else expects from them.

Hope you get a chance to go!


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thanksgiving Sans the Chef

View from above the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, 2007

Of course Thanksgiving is without the chef. I couldn't imagine it any other way. Well, that's not true. I can imagine a long drive back to Ohio to eat a 32 pound turkey and mom's famous cheesy "bataduhs" while sitting around the table laughing at old time. Wow, I've got some wild imagination because that won't be happening for at least another 78 years.

Now, normally I wouldn't be so bummed out around Thanksgiving. I'd drive to Ohio, or my folks would head out here for some NYC holiday magic. NOT THIS YEAR. My weekend is too short for the drive and my folks and brothers and sisters aren't able to come out. Boo freaking hoo, I'm mad. What the hell and I supposed to do on Thanksgiving? Have dinner with my cats? Has my life turned into that of a middle-aged homebody eating a microwavable TV dinner, watching Will and Grace reruns on TV? No, not yet at least.

I'm contemplating a few things. But nothing is as good as eating turkey with the fam and decorating for Christmas with my favorite holiday album in the background.



Friday, November 14, 2008

Chef Wife Health Life Update

After walking with the ten thousand pound weight of not knowing, I finally found out what is going on with my heart. The doctor looked over the results with me and told that my heart pumps an extra beat occasionally in my lower right chamber. I was in such a daze when he was telling me all of this that I forgot what it's called. But in the comment below you can see that the Los Angeles Nurse Rosen reminded me they're called Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVC). The feeling doesn't last long and when my heart speeds up it doesn't speed up all that much. I just have to drink more fluids, and get more Potassium in my diet. (I ate two bananas today!)

The best part of learning the results was that Erik came with me! I was so grateful that he did that. It may seem like something all husbands "should" do, but it means the world to me that mine chose to.


Job Hazards

I can't really talk in specifics, but my chef is working so hard that it is taking a serious toll on him. I haven't seen him work this hard since his days as a young, fresh line cook traveling 5 hours to and from work. And of course this is inducing a tremendous amount of stress on me because I just want Erik to have the smoothest work schedule possible. It's a given that chefs work a lot of hours that are packing with sweat, blood, and tears but sometimes the threshold of stress and exhaustion is pushed to the limits. I wish I could fly us both away for the weekend, but we're both too responsible to leave work behind.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Family Meal

The men who feed us have got to be fed themselves. They work hours and hours over the heat of the line to serve the patrons who grace their restaurants each night. They prepare fabulous food that earns them stars, ratings, and silver flatware. But each night they also work up an appetite that is fed by the family meal. 

Whether you call if family meal, crew meal, or staff meal, it's a lunch/dinner made by a member or several members of the kitchen staff to be eaten by the entire staff throughout the night. At Perry St, things can get interesting around family meal time. 

They've made several pieces of artwork from the food, but this one is my favorite. Putting this amount of meatloaf into one large loaf would take too long to cook so they came up with this prideful delight. 


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Help! Big Pig Problems!

Every year my school holds several fundraisers. And before you run for cover, I'm not asking for any money. I need your creative genius. Since more than half of my class participated in the last fundraiser, I get the chance to participate in a teacher vs. teacher pig race and pig beauty pageant. The winner of each gets $100 to spend on their classroom.

Last year I lost the race and my super Punk Rock Pig was beaten by a pig in a Superman dog t-shirt. My pig had a tri-colored Mohawk, two different earrings, a rock and roll t-shirt with studs and safety pins, and pleather pants. I was SO mad when I didn't win. But I'm going for it again and I want to win that $100! So my big idea is to make an Obama Pig! My students all adore him and I think it will be a big hit. Any ideas on how to decorate my pig to look like our president elect.

If you've got any different ideas for pigs I'll take them too. Some other teachers are doing American Idol pig, Michael Phelps pig, and and Irish pig. What about a High School Musical Pig? I also thought about doing a school pig and putting it in the students' school uniform, but that's not very fun. HELP!

Punk Rock Pig!


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

One Election Please, and Hold the Chef

There is no doubt that our voting system is outdated and severely flawed. For instance, I went to vote at 6:30 this morning in the lobby of the building next door. The line was about 50 people long, so I decided to vote after work (half day) and I waited about 25 minutes then. I did warn Erik that he'd have to get up early to vote...but by the time he got there the wait was over 3 hours. Of course he couldn't wait and he just went to work. And being a chef he won't be done with work until after midnight. Missed opportunity. Too bad for him, because we voted for different candidates and got my vote in.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Picky Picky

I am more than grateful that my husband is a chef. I love when he treats me to dinner at a new restaurant doing outrageous things with food. I've been exposed to some of the world's best restaurants; I've tried everything from fois gras to lamb's testicles (well, actually I only ate one testicle, but still). And my rule of thumb when dining out, is that I'll try anything- once.

BUT, there are several things I do NOT like to eat. I've tried them all, most more than once but there is just something about them I don't like. My mother always said, "Life is about choices, and I choose not to."

I now present you with the list of foods/food types I do not enjoy eating.

1. anything that has been bruleed.

2. chunky mushrooms

3. ginger...unless in cookie form

4. fatty meats. SICK. I can't stand that floppy chunk of clear goo on a nice piece of beef.

5. fermented black beans

6. anything that has been turned into a gelee. I'll eat it, but after a while that texture-less glob sort of makes me gag

7. foams. They look like spit.

8. Unfried spring roll wrappers

9. hot mustard. I'm a French's yellow mustard gal

10. wasabi, I like spicy, but not that kind of spicy.

** This one is the one I hate the most!
11. cooked fruit chunks! Because of this phobia I don't even like apple pie. There is something about cooked fruits that makes me say "pass".

I'm sure most foodies would be surprised to know this list was written by a chef's wife. But oh, well. Notice, lamb's testicles didn't make the list. They aren't that bad after all.


Head Toward the Light (of bacon)

You know, the bacon alarm clock really had me excited, but now I'm plotzing. A bacon lamp might be the best invention ever. Thank you Serious Eats for brining this to my attention.

So in my dream world, I'm waking up to the fresh smell of bacon, rolling over and popping a piece into my mouth as I hit the alarm and turn on my bacon lamp. Ah, heaven...
I wonder if the lightbulb works like an easy-bake oven and cooks the bacon. Now THAT would be amazing.