I know I've gotten a lot older since the last time I was living in New York. You know how I know? Let me tell you: everyone around me is twenty ("why are we at THIS bar?"), they're totally too loud ("can't we go to a more civilized bar?"), they're wearing all the stupid neon stuff I did when I was twelve (the tattoo on her leg totes clashed with the green on her skirt, can we go to the next bar?") and there are bike lanes everywhere ("please don't hit me when I walk right out in front of you without looking when I'm leaving the bar"). When did this happen? When did I actually pay good money for CROCS and am I in the early stages of dementia since when I bought this footwear abomination I was stupid enough to get a pedicure first? My feet are already totally ruined from trying the crocs on and from walking about 100 miles in flip flops over the last few days while I gathered up my new gear (a gorgeous santoku knife, among other things) for my stage. I'm kind of a moron. As Arash commented on one of my Facebook status updates, "what kind of person gets a pedicure before they do slave labor in a kitchen?" Me, that's who. And I don't even get to enjoy it for ten minutes before I screw it up.
But today is special because today is day one of my stage at an amazing restaurant in the West Village. The Magical Kim Merlin invited me to breakfast as a sendoff into this adventure this morning, and, true to her awesome form, we wound up at Balthazar, which in my 32 years of coming to and living in New York, I had never been to. It was decadent, to say the very least. I loved both the eggs en cocotte (the ten minutes of bake time is totally worth it) and the eggs benedict and I'm now the proud owner of a gigantic basket of pastries that I carried eighteen blocks home in the rain, clutched desperately to my chest so they wouldn't get soggy.
There was even a few rolls of thunder as I was trudging up 1st Avenue, and instead of feeling angry about getting caught in the deluge, I was thrilled. It's been months and months of sunshine back in LA and this was the perfect cleansing. I wish my parched bamboo back home could have had such a treat.
And right now I've showered, bandaged my feet (I can already hardly walk from the four sets of stairs I've been climbing each day in flip flops) and dressed myself in black jeans and a tank top with my knives strapped to my back for my journey on the L train . I look like a ninja. Like a really un-badass ninja, actually, that wears crocs with the logos blackened out with nail polish because he's such a vain ninja.
I would fail ninja school so bad.
And here I am six hours later, home from my first day in the kitchen, and here are some highlights/ things I've learned.
1. It's no joke that Spanish is a helpful language to know in the kitchen. Saying "tamale" in response to any and everything asked of you in Spanish is looked at with some level of disdain.
2. Purslane is not parsley. Don't label it as such when you're tasked to leaf a hundred pounds of it and put it in the walk-in. Very nice people will still smirk behind your back because it doesn't actually look like parsley at all. And parsley is also not spelled "parsely". It's not to be parsed.
3. Don't ask to borrow a sous chef's sharpie. Bring your own. They'll cut a bitch.
4. Feel really lucky that Chef Kenobi's restaurant is full of really patient, incredibly cool people that don't make too much fun of you. That is, while you're around...
OK. Day one was a success. There were no grease fires. There was no crying. There was no chopping off of any appendages. There was no poisoning of any diners (even though when I said to one sous, He Sous Shall Remain Nameless, that I was hoping not to poison anyone, he replied that sometimes he wished he could, but please don't quote him on that). At least not yet. In my book, that's a win.
And since I loved the eggs en cocotte that I had at Balthazar, I thought I'd share my favorite recipe for a similar dish. I call it my morning after eggs, which sounds really dirty, but seriously, it's what I think of as a deal clincher. And isn't cooking food all about seduction, anyway?
Here are the details:
by The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen
Yield: Makes 4 servings
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
6 slices applewood-smoked bacon
1 5-ounce bag baby spinach
2 whole wheat or sourdough English muffins, split horizontally, well toasted
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
Special equipment: 4 1-cup ramekins
Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp; transfer to paper towels. Pour off drippings from skillet; reserve drippings. Add spinach to pan, sprinkle with pepper, and toss over medium heat, 1 minute. Transfer to strainer set over bowl to drain. Brush four 1-cup ramekins with drippings. Crumble bacon.
Place 1 toasted English muffin half, split side up, in each ramekin. Divide spinach among ramekins, then sprinkle bacon over, dividing equally. With back of spoon, shape well in center of each ramekin. Gently crack 1 egg into well in each ramekin, keeping yolk intact. Drizzle 1 tablespoon cream over each egg. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake eggs until whites are just set but yolks are still runny, 14 to 16 minutes.
I have made a few changes for my version. I use pancetta instead of bacon, firstly. Then I substitute arugula for the spinach, creme fraiche for the heavy cream, and I lightly toast brioche instead of english muffin and place it in the ramekin. I also add grated reggiano parmesan on top of the egg before baking in the oven.
Anyway, I'm just glad that today was such a great day and that I've been lucky enough to be constantly and consistently shown that other people are awesome. That they're generous of their knowledge, that they're considerate, fantastic friends and that we're all lucky to be part of a community that wants good things for each other.
So thanks for that (and for the pastries, Magical Kim Merlin)!