Friday, October 30, 2009

its (all) about time

Tonight while eating dinner it clicked: today was my last, actual, real, cooking shift at the Grapevine this season. Sure there is one day left on my schedule, but it will be spent scrubbing walls, and tackling that treacherous oven, rather than cooking with it. Today was it--wasnt yesterday just the beginning?
Now I must stop. I vow to write more on Sunday, when it is all actually done-done. When the season is officially over. Last sign in and out, last day in that kitchen with those wonderful people--prepare for some serious sentimentality.
It has been a good run though (more on Sunday, saving it for Sunday...), with an idle last week or so. Eerily so. I mean, it is go-go-go, go some more, sweat alot, yell some, remember to breathe and eat, breathe eat and sleep the restaurant since, well, warmth and tourism around here and then just...nothing. I mean, there was no segway, no phasing out, just: quiet. Which has been just as exciting.
Perhaps "exciting" is the wrong word, but enjoyable (perhaps "enjoyable" is the wrong word, as summer was chaos and stress--enjoyable chaos and stress). For the last few days, I have been playing in the pastry kitchen, making sponge cakes and chocolate mousse, choux pastry and vanilla cream to transform it into cream puffs, and a calvados sabayon that I am proud to immodestly call lovely. For the last few days, there has been time.
Now, though, time hardly seems so wonderful. In fact, it seems down right cumbersome, a burden that is haunting me as I await the very last day. Sure school begins and my days will be again filled, but even the mere two weeks prior to that, in what I would consider an early retirement if I even considered retirement part of my later in life plan, are sufficatingly full of nothing but time. It makes me anxious. What am I to do with all of that time and no one to cook for but me? And surely I cant cook all day for myself. I need a hobby. Wait, I have one, its called cooking. Are you sensing my restlessness.
Most people would enjoy such an enforced vacation, a freedom for two weeks before reality kicks back in. And I do plan on enjoying it, cooking things on my "list," and cooking for others too.
And I will start with Spatzli. From scratch, through the ricer, laden with enough nutmeg to make my grandma swoon. This tops my list because tonight, for the first time, I tried Spatzli--Germany and Switzerlands take on pasta. Now, being a pasta lover myself, and working under both a German (who, mind you, ate Spatzli almost--no I could probably safely say just-- every day this season) and Swiss chefs, it is surprising that I waited all year. And that thought was even more surprising when I took my first bite. "Oh my god," I thought--i may have even said this out loud--, "why the hell havent I been eating this all year?" It was that good. Soft and richly eggy, Spatzli is fluffy in a way aldente pasta cannot be. And I was shoveling it down as if I had no time at all to eat it. Seriously, I could not get enough, and wish so much that this had been my last Grapevine Spatzli rather than my first (meaning it sure would have licked the stress and hunger of the busy times). So my next food mission, what with all this newfound free time, will be to make my own, because I cannot imagine the off-season without it. And I have enough time to perfect it, and impress the shit out of that German and that Swiss the next time I see them. Not ready to say goodbye (more on Sunday...nows not the time).

This is the basic recipe and technique for Spatzli. At the restaurant, we served it unadorned as the starch side to Duck Breast with a warm cabbage salad for Dinner, at lunch it was sauteed with mushrooms, leeks and ham, before being doused in bechamel, covered with cheese and gratineed. I however, sauteed it with a clove of finely minced garlic, chopped kale, and sprigs of thyme and sage; top with parmesan cheese and wondered why I let so much time slip by.

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