Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Rockin' the Restaurant Kitchen

It's no big secret that while The Chef is the lifelong restaurant veteran, I, The Baker, have never worked in a restaurant kitchen. Ever. True, I used to bake homemade desserts for a local watering hole in our nearby small town, but I was able to do that from home. Totally different ball game. 

Well today, I got that chance. 

My plan for this weekend was to stay in the city and babysit my daughter's furkids- she and her boyfriend are restaurant people too, she is a restaurant manager at one of the city's newest and most trendy restaurants and he is the Executive Chef for a very successful group of locally owned restaurants, so their weekends are not Saturday and Sunday, but rather Monday and Tuesday. They had planned a nice weekend away from their busy schedules and high stress jobs but Mother Nature was having none of that, and cancelled their plans by stirring up a snowstorm. 

So I am heading back home to The Little Lake House when The Chef calls me. He asks me if I would mind stopping in the restaurant and making some biscuits. I of course think he is being funny and joking around, but he insists he is not- he really wants me to come in and make biscuits. I'm a little thrown by this idea. Sure, I am a baker. Yes, I have made homemade biscuits many many many times. But in a batch large enough for a restaurant? I've never done that! Am I scared? Heck yes!! I haven't ever worked in a restaurant kitchen- at least not since I was 15 years old and was a bus girl in a small restaurant years and years (and years and years) ago. That involved carrying a bus tub in to the sink area. I certainly never cooked anything for other people!

Well..... there is no time like the present- and I decide to go for it. I am going to bake biscuits in the restaurant kitchen! Yay me!!

I must say I have never made dough of any kind in a hotel pan before, but this worked amazingly well. I may need to get one to use around the house. Since I didn't have any of my cool kitchen utensils, I had to wing it with what they had there. No pastry blender (which probably wouldn't have been very effective with such a large batch of dough, but they did have a whisk that was made of the thickest "wire" whips I have ever seen. Unlike my whisk at home, which is bendy, this was firm- and perfect for blending the shortening into the flour! There was no biscuit cutter to be found, so I had to come up with an alternative- so a soup cup became an impromptu biscuit cutter.

Homemade biscuits are amazing easy to make- the dough is simple. Flour. Baking powder. Sugar. Salt. Shortening. Buttermilk. Simple. Mix it up, roll it out, cut them out. Bake. Done. Sounds easy enough...... but can I wing it without a book to refer to? 

Homemade Biscuits
(ingredients are approximate)

8 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons salt
4 cups shortening
melted butter

Place the flour in a large bowl- or hotel pan. Add the sugar, salt and baking powder; use a whisk to combine everything. Add the shortening in scoops and use the whisk to combine the flour and shortening until the mixture is evenly crumbly.

Grab a giant spoon and add buttermilk- just enough to get a soft dough that holds together. You don't want it to be sticky, but you definitely don't want dry and crumbly. Use your hands to form the dough into a large ball, but DON'T KNEAD! 

Place the dough on a floured surface and roll to about 3/4 inch thickness. Cut with a floured biscuit cutter and place on greased baking sheets. You can space them our or bake them with sides touching. Brush the biscuits with melted butter.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes or until deep golden brown.

The biscuits turned out pretty darn good for someone who was winging it without a cookbook to refer to! One of the guys in the restaurant had to sample them right away, so he had a biscuit with sausage gravy and pronounced them delicious! Success!

My first taste of the restaurant kitchen was really a lot of fun. I admit it, it wasn't anything like being there during a dinner rush with the ticket printer cackling away and servers barking at you. The Chef and I always cook together at home, but being able to do it in a professional kitchen was a whole new experience, and a great one at that. 

Who knows, maybe I'm on to something here!!

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