A Cook’s Job is Never Done, Part I

A cook’s job is never done.  That, I think, is a fact that most serious cooks need to understand and accept if they really wanna cook in the kitchen.

There’s too much to do.

There’s not enough time.

You gotta eat every day anyway, right?

A cook’s job is just never done.

This week, I worked as usual.  I also cooked a lot.  A friend of mine comes and visits me on Tuesdays, so I spend my Mondays prepping all the food.  This week, it was the beef short ribs I talked about in my “About Me” page.

Shopping.  I found a pack of Flanken-cut short ribs.  Not my favorite cut, but still good.  And cheap.  Two bucks and change per pound, cheaper than a fancy steak, and damn tasty to boot.

So, slice and trim them.  Salt — ALWAYS KOSHER — and pepper.  Heat the cast iron (clad pans work too).  Sear.  Flip.  Repeat on all sides.

Meanwhile, I retrieve the bag of beef bones I’ve been saving in the freezer.  Every time I have a steak or some ribs or oxtail or anything, I save the bones.  Them’s good eatin.  Well, not really. . . not YET anyway, but you’ll see. . . .

Boil a big pot of water.  Rinse bones.  Dump them into the boiling water to blanche for a minute.  Dump.  Refill the pot with cold water.  Bring up to temperature.  Skim that nasty foam.

Too complicated already?  Too bad.  That’s the way you make stock, so pay attention.

Bring the mix up to a boil for a minute and turn the heat down low.  Way low.  I don’t want to see my stock boiling anymore, but I want it piping hot.  Collagen starts to break down and turn into gelatin at around 140 degrees, so I want it anywhere from 140 to 180 degrees if possible.  Gelatinous stock is delicious.  Leave the lid off, since keeping it on will make the liquid boil even with the lowest possible flame.

Some people call this simmering.  I think it’s more like steeping, like tea.  Steep them bones for a few hours.  Then toss in your aromats.  Thyme, parsley, bay leaf, rosemary.  Celery, carrots, onion.  Classic French Mirepoix.  Maybe some garlic.  An hour later, you’re good to go.

Strain it.  Chill it.  Refrigerate.  You’re done for the night.

Well. . . almost.

Gotta clean.  Gotta do the dishes.  Damnit.

The downside to living in this apartment is that there’s no dishwasher.  In a restaurant, you have a dish washer.  After service, you might have a night porter that cleans everything else up for you.

I don’t have a night porter.

I don’t have a dishwasher.

Well, technically, I AM the dish washer.  Ah well.  I clean things better than any machine anyway.  Suck it up.  It’s relaxing and meditative anyway.

Soap. Rinse. Dry dishes. Put them away.

Wipe down the stove top. Wipe down exhaust hood, top AND bottom (that grease gets EVERYWHERE). Wipe down handle of the oven. Wipe down knobs and panel.

Wash the counter.  Spray with disinfectant (cleanliness is next to not-being-sickliness).

Quickly wipe the floors.  That grease gets EVERYWHERE.

Wipe eyeglasses.  That grease gets EVERYWHERE

Sleep.

Wake up.

Shit. Shower. Shave. Brush. Rinse. Get dressed.

Grab my shit: wallet. cell. keys. keys for work. work id. messenger bag. lunch.

Hungry. Eggs. Toast. Maybe some bacon. Maybe I’ll settle for milk and cereal instead.

Bust out the slow cooker. Peel carrots, wash celery, grab an onion.  Chop. Dump em in cold.

Take out the ribs from the fridge.  Dump em in cold.

Pull out a bottle of red.  This time it’s a Barefoot merlot.  I like cooking with cheap wine — the taste is more balanced once the liquid’s reduced.  Fancy wines just taste off-balance.  Drink the fancy, cook the cheap.

Pull out the stock from the fridge.  Remove the hardened fat on top (DON’T YOU DARE THROW IT OUT) and stick it in the fridge or freezer for when you make savory pastries or beef patties (I lived in Jamaica for a year and a half.  I’ve got a soft spot for beef patties).

Add both the stock and the wine to a pot.  About equal portions.  A little more of the stock than wine, maybe.  Boil.

Pour the hot stuff over the ribs and aromats until they are just covered.  Maybe a little more to account for evaporation.  Lid it.

Here’s the kicker: don’t turn the slow cooker on high.  Or low.  Turn it onto “keep warm”.  Remember what I said about collagen?  My slow cooker keeps things warm at 188 degrees.  I tested it.  Thermometers are awesome.

Here’s the downer: wash the dishes you just dirtied.  I don’t like leaving shit in the sink.

Time check: Damnit.  Five minutes late for work again.

Run, don’t walk.  Speed, don’t cruise.  Don’t get caught.  You’ll be great.

Check back for Part 2, folks.

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2 Responses to “A Cook’s Job is Never Done, Part I”

  1. Waiting for part two. That first picture there looks fantastic.

  2. […] The last time (or the first time, depending on how you want to think about it) I blogged about how a cook’s job is never done, I left you with some frantic passages which tried to evoke the energy and freneticism of the […]

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