Monday, May 11, 2009

The World Is My Oyster

Does that saying even make any sense?
There are times at work where I have to cross over into the Dark Side . . . aka the culinary side! Away from my dainty, precise sugary goods over onto hot and cold foods which require sharp taste buds and many pinches of salt.

Lately, I've been scheduled to work "the wall". This means that I work inbetween the pastry and garde manger (cold foods, appetizers) stations, sort of like a utility person. I like it because it throws some spice into my worklife and so far I have learned a lot of new things.

Over the weekend, I made mango soup for the amuse bouche which is
 served to every customer. So good! The mangoes are pureed with champagne, simple syrup, salt and pepper and some mint leaves. Refreshing! The amuse is finished off with a small piece of kimchee shrimp, chives and a piece of fried taro. All small bits of course, because it is just a taste of what's to come.

I also got to make a corn salsa that is part of our crab salad. Yum! Arguably, the garde manger station is probably the second-most difficult station to work in this particular restaurant (after pastry of course!) due to the multitude of ridiculous items and more importantly, the beet salad. That I will have to save for another topic once I get a picture of this prime delight. Hah.

One of my tasks today was to pick 5 pounds of crab meat. We get the meat in little containers but have to carefully hand-pick them to make sure there are no tiny bits of shell in there. Usually I will find about a dozen or more pieces of shell per container. It is tedious work but necessary.

Another task today was to clean the oysters. I had no idea that they could be so dirty on the outside! We receive our oysters from the P & J Oyster company, located here in the French Quarter. I believe the oysters come out of the Gulf of Mexico, and they sure are dirty! I hauled up the burlap bag full of these large rocks into the sink and proceeded to spray the heck out of them. Lots of sand and silt and rocks and small mussels came off and I had to be sure and spray the small niches where we would later stick the shucking knife in. It was messy work.

(not my hand)

I got to thinking that it was amazing that someone would have actually thought, "Hmm.. I wonder if I can open this and eat what's inside??" Oysters aren't pretty on the outside. Heck, they aren't much to look at on the inside either! Pretty colorless and weird-looking. I can't say I truly enjoy them that much, and I gave them a good go at an oyster bar when I first got here.

Anyways, when I first started working the wall, I loathed and feared the oyster orders. I'd hear the expediter yell out the order and shudder. After the first day, my poor wrist was so sore. I really thought I was going to break it shucking these stupid oysters. I did a lot of twisting and jiiving trying to get that knife in there to open those suckers up, breaking a sweat and getting really frustrated while my male co-workers would look on and laugh at my elbow-jerking movements.

Finally, one of the chefs showed me a better way to pop 'em open, and now, I can say that I am pretty darn good at shucking oysters. No more wrist-twisting or elbow-jerking for me! All it takes is getting the knife in at just the right point and then a little pop and you're in!

Last night, I actually had oyster dreams. I kept dreaming that I was at work, and woke up thinking that I had to get up early to make sure that I shucked the oysters. My chef kept telling me to get them done. I don't think I ever realized it was a dream!

Each order gets three freshly-shucked oysters, topped with a different flavored savory granita (ginger or cucumber snowy-like ice chips) and three types of caviars. It is a pricey first course!

I am no longer afraid of the shucking, my wrist isn't sore, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have learned this skill anywhere else!

ps - I still wanna know what that saying means anyway: "The world is your oyster". Shakespeare?

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