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Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Comics Gnome Presents...

A Map of the DC Multiverse

to me, it's like a subway system map of an Imaginary World.  Strata of possibility!

by Grant Morrison & Rian Hughes.

Get In My Belly: Special Edition!

A Day in the Life of a Linecook
by Rev Sully

It is an average Friday in July, where I ply my trade.  My day starts pretty early and if I get up wickid early, I can get more done.  Hey, I like to sleep in too.  Sleeping in means 5:25AM.  
I got until 6AM to get out of the bathroom unless I'll start the Real Game of Thrones with my Flatmate.  I leave at 6:30AM sharp to make my 6:40AM bus.  All July.
This schedule switches to the 5:45AM bus during the School Year but iDigress...
It's the Summer and school is Out, where I work in one of Cambridge's hallowed halls of higher learning.  I do not work in a cafeteria of some dorm hall.  I'm more of what you'd classically call the Rounds Cook, master of basically every station & counted on to do so in a rotation if the schedule allows.  
Summer's for me are still full-time, covering other people's stations while they vacation.  
I hit the ground running.  I enter my building at 7AM prompt, I wash my hands & I get to work.  
This Month, I'm running the Pizza Station!  It's not an easy gig.  
And if you're ill-prepared, service will suffer...therefore life will suffer too.  
Things need to be done in almost-Astronaut fashion of rote executions.  
Time is the Key, use it Wisely.  
I got 3 hours until we open.  
That is plenty of time to the organized linecook.  

As soon as I get in, I start a series of "First Things" to First:  
Coffee, usually a 12 oz. mild Starbucks, black, no sugar, served Blackeye style.  
A bucket of Sanitizer and turn on my Pizza Oven.  It's a gas-operated "Masonry-Style" oven; stone bottom with a great concave top that circulates the heat with an adjustable open fire.  Great pizza oven, I love cleaning it after the day is done I love her so much but that's between a chef & his oven... oh and please think about if you turn on the pizza oven before service?  It doesn't work like that.  It needs to achieve an internal temperature of 350deg and more to cook a pizza in that.  First Things First...
Then I retrieve my pizza dough from the walk-in cooler.  I've "Sheet Panned" them up already and placed them on tall, mobile "speed racks".  We use a frozen 16" round for cheese & veggies: I've usually "panned up" 20 dough.  I've also "panned up" 48-60 7" rounds for calzones depending on how busy I think it's going to be.  
I'll "proof" these doughs now by putting them under my heat lamps.  By 8:30-9:00AM, these doughs will be puffy, proofed & ready to manipulate into production.  Do the Math, mouthbreather...it takes literally a few hours to get the thawed dough to a great state of usefulness.   From the freezer will take much, much longer.  I'll also take the time to wipe down my station with sanitizer & assess the sitch on leftovers.  
At this point, I now start to Plan My Menu.  I'm on the hook for 6 different pizza items, 4 of them change daily.  Since it's Summer, I asked Chef, "Hey you got a menu or do you want me to do my thing?"
He said, "Do your thing".  And that's what I do.  I'll also throw a few serving bowls of Marinara into the streamer.  People love extra sauce and they can help themselves, I'll always make sure you got plenty.  
It is now 7:30AM.
And I haven't even punched in yet.  I'm still in my tee-shirt & ballcap.  Why work off the clock?  
Time.  Time is a Key Ingredient.  This July, my schedule is 7:30AM-3:30PM.  
I now change into my chef's coat, clogs, floppy hat & neck bandana, apron and cut glove.  
I am now ready to work.  

Second Things Second: 
OK, now I can start my day!  I go to the freezer & grab some dough to prep for tomorrow; I grab the 7" rounds for calzones and also some 12" X 16" Squares for Sicilian Style.  I load up my cart with these and also about 40 lbs. of shredded mozzarella cheese and 5 big restaurant cans of pizza sauce.  I'll grab some towels, aprons (I'm a bit of a slob, a bad habit to work on professionally), a few cutting boards, some empty, clean pans of varying sizes & volumes, another speed rack loaded with empty, clean sheet pans and useful, need utensils such as serving spatulas, pizza cutters and ladles.  Seriously, miss something, you'll be looking for it later when you need it, that means leaving your station while cooking?  Uh uh!  
Properly laden, I return to my pizza station, now properly garbed.  
It's gotta be 7:45AM and I already feel like I'm Losing Time.  
Actually, it's all going to Plan.  I take the time to prep my paperwork; HACCP sheets & temperature logs.  I get my menu signage and holders, give them all a nice wipe down.  Doublecheck my shakers of powdered parm, oregano, granulated garlic & red pepper flakes; clean & loaded.  Assess leftovers and come up with some ideas...

So far, it's all pretty Rote.  Mechanical.  I betcha you're wondering, "Sully, where's the good stuff!"  
I'm about to get to it.  Yet, I need to stress the importance of the Rote Stuff.  It's technique.  It's Paradigm.  And it's the foundation of the Day & Service.  You simply cannot have one without the other.  
By 8:00AM, I've come up with my menu of the day; 4 Pizzas, 2 Calzones.  Daily: Always Cheese & 'Roni.  Then one meat special and the other a veggie.  One meat calzone and the other veggie.  
This is the point when I start Thinking Creative.  I'll actually get creative in another hour because I got more Technique to get out of the way.  
The rounds are still proofing so I take this time to "pan up" tomorrow's Sicilian doughs.  There are 11 sheet pans to a case and I piss through these so I'll sometimes pan up 2 cases, daily.  The squares are "panned up", "speed racked" and placed in the back of the higher-temperature kitchen to proof.  They're right from the freezer, as I mentioned above.  I'll come back for these about 1:30PM, when they'll be perfectly proofed and ready to par-bake.  
When I'm done with the squares, it's time to start par-baking the rounds.  We do this as a time-saver without scrimping on quality.  We, as cooks can balance production without compromising quality & freshness.  
I'll use a Dough Docker, a hand-held roller with high pins.  It's used to rolls the bubbles out and prevent over-rising.  I'll par-bake my rounds off.  While they're par-baking, I'm handling my calzone dough...hey if you can't manipulate it now, how are you gonna stuff it and then think someone's gonna be able to pick it up and eat it?  You gotta think this way.  Once the rounds are "squared", I move on to some "real" cooking!  

Third Things Third: 
I'm on the hook for four fresh & delicious menu item.  And this is great because they're of my own creation, with the faith of my Chef and using leftovers.  Pizza is a great destination for yesterday's meatloaf to be today's Taco Pizza.  I can take Tuesday's roast pork into Friday's BBQ Pork Calzone.  When it comes to veggie pizza & 'zone, I always start with whatever's in my produce cooler.  Usually tasty roasted veggies, seasoned with simple kosher salt, oregano & minced garlic, roasted in canola oil.  Simple mushrooms...yet this is the time to taste and know how to use salt.  Not over cooking it either.  I'll pan up some squash & zucchini with a little onion & pepper, toss in my "sabor" and let 'er rip.  Great, delicious food.  Simple.  What I like to eat.  Lots of marinated tomatoes paired with feta or ovaline.  And I'll see what's in the meat fridge too.  Cold cuts go a long way on pizza.  Ham & Pineapple with basil & oregano is one of my personal favorites.  Different cheeses...another fave if the 3 or 4-Cheese Pizza & 'Zone.  Last time, I did Swiss, Mozz, Muenster & Havarti Dill.  Yesterday's leftover seasoned lasagna ricotta mixed with some freshly steamed broccoli and seasoned with kosher salt was a big hit and made an Impressively Plump Calzone.  
So, I really have free reign in the menu, daily.  That's a good feeling.  And to nail it everyday too.  
So between 8:30AM-9:30AM, I'm prepping toppings & stuffings.  Cooking, cooling and producing, safely & sanitary.  

In the 'Zone:
Realistically, if I'm not started rolling those calzones by 9:20AM, I start to worry.  It just takes a little time, organization, slowing down and being consistent.  In Aikido, the Japanese Budo of my Soul, I learned the concept of "Mai-Ai", aka Proper Distancing.  It applies in Baked Goods as well.  What happens if two calzones are leaning against each other while baking?
Yuk, happens my friend, Yuk.
You need to space them apart.  So when I was handling the 'Zone dough, I split them, needs-wise over 5 sheet pans.  48 Calzones give me a 30 Meat/18 Veggie Split.  I would never cook more than 12 Calzones to a sheet pan, FYI.  
To make life easier, you tend to do them all at once, rather than one at a time.  High production style.  I'll cheese them all, a handful of shredded mozz.  Start with my veggies, clean gloved handful on each.  Then change gloves as not to get stuff all over outside of dough and begin to roll them.  Pull both sides up, fold one side over, pull opposite side over completely then seam-side down in pan.  Now I've got 48-60 Identical, Consistent Calzones.  In the beginning, mine were kinda ugly but developing knowledge & faith in my dough, technique & ingredients, by the end of July I was making the handsomest & prettiest calzones you'd want to stuff in your mouth.  

By 10AM, I'm feeling the Heat.  With my Calzones all prepped, panned up, ready to fire & safely in my walk-in cooler, I now turn up the gas and expend a lot of energy on my pizzas.  It's the messiest part of my morning too.  I've cracked about 5 cans of sauce.  I don't even have to jazz it up any, it's simple ragu.  The secret on a pizza is the right amount of sauce.  So I then methodically ladle sauce on my rounds & squares.  I  then take a clean, gloved hand and smear the sauce all over the surface of the pizza.  I change gloves then start cheesing the pizza with shredded mozz.  Now, it's time for toppings.  You can't rush it and make it look like a hack job so slowing down yet keeping pace is so important.  I knock a few 'Roni, Veggie & Meat Special first to open.  When 10:30AM hits, it's 30 minutes until we Open.  
I fire my first round of Calzones; 325deg for 22 minutes, sometimes longer.  I spin the sheet pans halfway through, a baking technique I learned from my friend Meghan McGarry, a French pastry chef I worked with.  Making pizza & calzones, you have to have rudimentary baking skills or you really shouldn't be doing the job.  
I'm still furiously topping my pizzas while the 'Zones are baking off.  15 minute before service, I arrange my signage & serving station and fire off that first round of Pizza.  
By 11AM, I am open for business.  There is plenty for the first round.  And being summer, we're not immediately besieged by guests...that comes in about an Hour.

Lunchtime: Don't f&*king bother me...I'm Union employee and I'm on my 30 minutes lunch break.  Unheard of in any other kitchen I've worked in.  Hey, I'll take it.  These days it's either Them or ObamaCare.  
Hey...I ate calzones all month long.  I tell guests, "Trust the cook that eats his own cooking"

By 12:30PM, the pace is quite furious.  The queue of guests stream from some event horizon down the hall.  
It doesn't let up until almost 2PM sometimes.  Running Out is not an option.  The Summer brings International Youth Groups.  Literally a group of over 140 Brazilian teens and they were here for 3 weeks.  
Lemme tell ya...Kids Everywhere Love Pizza.  Can you imagine how busy I was?  'Nuff Said.

At 1:30PM, I start par-baking tomorrow's Sicilians and go to the freezer to "pan-up" tomorrow's pizza & calzone rounds.  By tomorrow morning, they'll be thawed after a night in the cooler, ready for me to proof and start this cycle all over again.  

By 3:00PM, we shut it down.  I've cleaned my station, wrapped up and dated all my toppings, cheese & sauces, I've stowed them safely in the walk-in cooler.  I clean my pizza oven.  I got a long-handled chisel for the heavy duty but an oven brush tends to get a lot.  My secret weapon, I soak a rag in white or rice wine vinegar, wrap the pizza oven brush head with it and swab & scrub with a vinegar rag.  Never use soap on a Pizza Stone.  The vinegar amazingly gets that surface really clean and brings up lots of carbonized crud that would make someone sick if ingested.  My Big Catholic Guilt arises when I do this; I feel like the Roman sentry, who upon hearing Christ's plea for water on the Cross, soaked vinegar instead.  It was to slate the thirst of the condemned for water could only sustain life.    

By 3:30PM, I'm done and off to my bus home, conveniently at 3:40PM.  
So next month, another vacation, another station to run in the rounds.  
Thank you, Pizza Station.  
What a great experience.  We made a lot of happy guests together.  
And thank you for reading.  
A Slice of Life through a Slice of Pizza.  
Bon Appetite! 

Kriya Shakti,
Rev Sully

Eric O'Sullivan
Boston, MA
the Hub of the Multiverse

(PS. Added On Wednesday, July 30
After all this talk about pizza, on a random day off...
I felt it was unfair to the reader not to point out that Fresh Dough will proof in only One Hour.
And I lead by example.  Happy Cooking! ^_^)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Smoking PUCK: Obligatory Pin Hole Burns....

AKA July
July 10, 2014

There is nothing Hockey to talk, once again.  In July.
I mean, things have happened?
But did a Puck drop...
No.

What else?
I got a New Tattoo!  I'm very proud of that.
I love it.  I'm in love with my new tattoo.  I'm so vain.

Hockey?  Uh, nope.  Rather think BBQ.

So, when Pre-Season arrives, I'll tune in.  Did you have a good time watching hockey last year?
I promise more to come this Year.

kriya shakti,
Rev Sully