Sunday, August 28, 2011

From Doughville to Tartlandia

**note: update Sept. 13 - pictures added.  and the recipe changed from onion tart to a sauerkraut/bacon tart... so some of the details for "tartlandia" changed in the last two weeks of LudoBites...

I've finally made peace with my role of being the person in charge of this appetizer dish I've been making for the past 4 weeks.

You need to cook happy.  You can't be angry while preparing food.  It'll somehow reflect in the outcome.

Hence the names.

I arrive at 11:30, and start working through "Doughville".
Step 1: gather the equipment, measure out the ingredients, and start mixing away using my Sea Foam Green Kitchenaid (which always makes me happy).  Then I set the giant balls of dough into the fridge to let them proof while I clean up my station and prepare for the next step.
Step 2:  Cut up a giant dough ball into 11 portions of approx. 80 grams each.  since I'd been scolded for not having even sized dough back in week 2, I started weighing the portions to get them as even as possible.
Giant dough ball - proofed overnight in the walk-in fridge - ready for slicing

Step 3:  Knead the 12 portions and then gently coax them one-by-one into soft pillow-y balls, with as few lines/seams as possible.
this is what you are going for on the underside - the seams are shallow
This is the top side - nice and smooth.  kinda satisfying in its velvety surface feel.

Step 4:  In order to keep them from drying out, I line the balls up on a sheet tray and cover them with a humid kitchen towel.

I get in early so I can "spread out"... my work station is rather tight. 
Step 5: Pass each ball through the pasta machine 5 times - to get it stretched out enough, and close to the correct size.
sometimes i go from 1 to 3 to 5... sometimes i have to do 1-2-3-4-5... and before I got my pasta machine back from my friend Joan, I didn't have a clamp to hold the machine in place... I almost got carpal tunnel syndrome in my left hand because of holding the machine steady!  ouchie!

Step 6: Using a rolling pin, further roll out the dough to the correct width & length. (the pasta machine has a fixed width which is too narrow)
This task helped give my arms some definition

Step 7: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, dust it with flour, lay out the rolled out sheet of dough, dust the top side with flour, lay another sheet of parchment on top.  Then repeat with the remaining balls of dough. I top the stacks with another sheet pan to help prevent the dough from shrinking back - wrap the sandwiched dough with plastic wrap. label it, and place it on a speed rack in the fridge.

Then repeat steps 2 through 7 at least 1 more time, sometimes 2 - depending on how many sheets of dough we need.

It's methodical.
It's time consuming.  
It's a helluva workout!
My arms are getting some definition now (happy dance!)
And it's my assignment.  I gotta do it.
There are no shortcuts.
But I've learned how to manage my time better and get consistent results.

After exiting Doughville, I am free to work on other projects.
If I have time to do Step 1 the night before, then I can potentially finish by 2pm.
This doesn't apply for Tuesdays.
If there are any leftover sheets from the night before, I might get away with only doing the recipe 2 times instead of 3. 
Again - it doesn't apply to Tuesday, as we don't keep leftover dough from the previous Friday.

At approximately 5:30, I enter "Tartlandia". 
Tartlandia is where it all comes together.
Step 1:  Organize the "Mise en Place"
  • Scoop some ice into a rectangular tub, and sprinkle it with kosher salt. 
  •  Gather the deli cups of the Creme Melange, Caramelized Onions, Thyme leaves, Bottarga (fish roe pods) and place them in the tub to keep cool. (weeks 1-4 was an onion tart; weeks 5 & 6 were sauerkraut/bacon tarts - so the mise-en-place changed)
  • Hopefully there are some half-sheet pans available (I try to start hoarding them around 5 so I have enough to start - at least 6)
  • Have the wood cutting boards (for serving) stacked and wiped clean
  • Place the white cutting board at my station with the tools needed (spatula to lift any stuck dough off the sheet pan, mezzaluna to cut the tart, Chef's special rape to grate the bottarga & this bamboo tool to scrape any stuck bits of bottarga off the rape)
  • White pepper mill & fleur de sel
  • Have a dry kitchen towel for removing trays from the oven, and a wet towel to wipe the station clean
Step 2:  pull out the rolled-out dough from the fridge - and start carefully lifting each dough off the parchment stack - and laying them on floured sheet trays.
Step 3:  apply the creme melange onto the dough - not too thick, not too thin - close enough to the edge without getting on to the pan.
Step 4:  spread the caramelized onions atop the dough - again, not too heavily - allow enough room for the hot air to move around the onions to cook the tart.
Step 5: par-bake them for about 5-7 minutes in order to keep the dough from getting too soft which leads to sticking on the pan.

Par-Baked "Choucroute Tarte Flambe" ready to be fired as the orders come in

The real stress comes when the order tickets start feeding through.  Because if there are more orders than prepared tarts, it's a scramble to get more into the oven.  And then after they bake, there are still several steps before the tart is finished to go to the customer...
Step 1: remove the tart from the pan (sometimes it's not that easy)
Step 2: grate the Bottarga evenly on the tart.  sometimes the bottarga is very gummy and hard to grate.  This is the most time consuming of the finishing steps.
Step 3: sprinkle the thyme leaves, a small pinch of fleur de sel, and several grindings of white pepper.
Step 4: slice the tart into triangles with the mezzaluna.

Once the tart looks good and is ready to serve - it needs to get "run" out to the front for the server to take.

Of course the order tickets come in randomly, and sometimes 3 tarts are ready at the same time.  Or while I'm in the process of finishing 1 tart, the next one that was fired into the oven is ready to pull out.  This is where I need the assistance of either Elodie, Erika or Sabel.

Ryan is rad.  He totally took charge - but he was only around after 6 on Wednesdays & Thursdays - and on the final night

Some nights, I can do most of this alone.  But most nights, I need the extra set of hands.

Doughville is my place of zen - and I'm on my own there.  But I can't linger too long.
Tartlandia is all about adrenaline and speed - I must have that sense of emergency to get the orders out in a timely manner. It's usually crazy from 6:10 to 6:50 - then it dies down as the diners are eating their entrees.  Then after I help Elodie with her desserts, the second seating comes in and I again get that rush from about 8: 30 to 9.

this was what the onion tart looked like - served on the cutting board... it's missing a couple of slices - sometimes we had to do quality control checks ;)

All this for one appetizer that will set you back $10.
Chef is thinking of changing the toppings next week, and tested it on Friday.  If we switch to that new recipe, Steps 2 & 3 of the finishing will be eliminated. I'd probably get those tarts out faster.

Choucroute Tarte Flambe - mustard creme melange, sauerkraut, pommes saute a la cru - or thinly sliced potatoes sauteed in clarified butter, bacon, onion.

On Thursday, I'd expressed to Joon how I wanted to take part in working on caramelizing the onions - so that I can truly say that I worked on 90% of each tart that I sent out... So Friday, I tended to the onions on the stove - visiting every 10 to 15 minutes to give them a good stir to make sure they weren't sticking.  Thanks Joon, for chopping the onions for me... I'd have been a teary-eyed mess as I didn't have goggles for protection.

Another good thing about this role... how can I snack on raw dough?  eww... It's definitely helped me get muscle tone and definition on my arms, and I've lost weight.

I used to really hate this assignment, and wished I had a different part of the menu to work on.  Especially because Chef would get so angry that they went out so slowly.  But I've gotten faster, and finally earned some praise.  When Chef got mad at me the other night for something about the tarts, it seemed for a moment he would re-assign me.  I almost didn't want that to happen.  I've grown to like both Tartlandia and Doughville - they are polar opposites... but I'd miss them.

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