Thursday, December 04, 2014

My First Time In A Commercial Kitchen

and other stories of the second day at the Four Points by Sheraton at Vashi.

Views of Vashi from the Comfort Suite

My second day of stay was planned to be exciting! 

I was informed that my request for an experience in the Commercial Kitchen was accepted by the Executive Chef Mukul Jha and yet another bumper, Four Points was hosting a dinner for us!

I slept like a baby cuddled in the super soft bed and in the perfectly controlled ambient atmosphere through the night. I woke up and drew back the curtains, the suite overlooked Vashi, it was bathed in the morning sun and suddenly it looked better than a mere concrete jungle, we could now see the creek in the clear morning.

I decide to take a luxurious bath in the huge bathroom and soak in the tub much like a Maharani! Oh wasn't the research done for Lyril soap from the yesteryears say that a woman's own place is the bathroom and she even goes off into her own dreamland singing La~La la, la ~La la la~ La ~la ~la. Well the result was good, I stepped out truly rejuvenated!

So much that the bed was inviting me right back to curl up under the warm covers and rest on those soft excessive pillows. But then the hunger pangs got me rushing down for breakfast to the Asian Kitchen. While there Exe. Chef Mukul Jha met up and discussed what I wanted to cook later along with him. I said something quick and enjoyable, something I can share with my beloved readers. We froze on a dish which would be colorful, appetizing, wholesome Italian. Chef Mukul surprised me when he stressed that it would be *veg*. The information about me being a strict vegetarian had been cascaded to the team and they never faltered after the pancake incident.

After lolling around some I got a call that the chef was ready for me to go to the kitchen. We walked past the show kitchen into narrow paths passing several pantries and storerooms. Thru a maze of shiny kitchen counters to our work area for the day. The Chef had got the meze ready and introduced the ingredients that we were to work with. Nisha Saran from the F&B was with us and she arranged for an apron and a toque for me. I was trying to suppress my mounting excitement. 

With Executive Chef Mukul Jha, me adorned an apron and toque !

We began by marinating the slices of cottage cheese. Then seasoned the pan with oil and then seared the slices. As I watched I realized that these guys cooked in flat pans and on very high heat. The high heat acted like a flash in extracting the flavors and aromas of the ingredients. After pan searing the cottage cheese we put it on a greased tray along with marinated beetroot slices and put it in the oven to bake at 150 degrees for 7-8 mins so that the fats from searing evaporated. 

Meanwhile we heated the pan and got frying the onions and garlic. Chef Mukul was moving fast and I meddled in between to stir the seasoning and mostly watch him. I realized that working in a commercial kitchen is intimidating when you try to handle the slightly larger pans and ladles that you are not used to handling but the kind chef was very encouraging and said it was only a matter of practice, which I agree. Once the semolina was cooked we tasted it and kept it aside. Then we made the Ratatouille, the veg were diced to perfection as is expected of a hotel kitchen. When ever Ratatouille is cooked the topic of the movie has to come up and the chef scorned at it! both of us ended up laughing aloud. As we cooked I was absorbing the techniques the chef used and benefited a lot from him. A key thing is we kept tasting through the steps we followed making sure everything was salted right and cooked to perfection. This is something we never do at home as we offer Naivedhya to God.

Finally we were ready with all components of the meal and were ready to plate. Before we did it the chef heated up everything and then carefully showcased his finesse in plating a beautiful meal. Though I was more of a observer I felt equally proud of the way the dish had turned out and how Chef had plated it. While we were at it Nisha was taking countless pictures of us in action and would you believe it just when I was to take the camera in hand to click some shots of the Grand finale, the plated dish; the battery died on us!

The thrill of cooking in the kitchen of Four Points, Vashi

Quickly got the staff to charge up the battery until we went looking for a perfect spot and lighting in the Asian Kitchen to shoot the plated meal.


The final strokes of artistry

So as a reward for reading patiently about my adventure, here is the recipe. Tadah!

What's the Dish?

Herbs and garlic crusted cottage cheese.
Served with Semolina Mash and Ratatouille.
Finished with Beetroot chips, Balsamic reduction & Parmesan crisp

Portions : 4 

Ingredients

600 gms Cottage cheese
110 gms peeled garlic
4 gms Rosemary
4 gms Thyme
4 gms Basil
90 ml Olive oil / EVOO
110 gms Semolina
60 gms Onion
60 gms sliced Olives
10 gms chili flakes
120 gms bell peppers
120 gms zucchini
120 gms brinjals
150 gms Tomato Concasse
60 gms Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
1 no Beetroot
6 sprigs of parsley
15 ml Balsamic reduction

Preparation

Cut out 12 pieces of cottage cheese in triangles. Marinate the cottage cheese with 1/4 of the amount of garlic, herbs and keep aside.

The semolina mash : Heat a pan. Add 30 ml of Olive oil. Saute chopped garlic, onions, olives (I used black) till light brown. Add the semolina saute till toasty and follow in with salt, black pepper and chili flakes. Add 250 ml of hot water. Stir till thickened and cooked. Remove the pan from heat and keep aside.

The Ratatouille : In a new pan add 20 ml of Olive oil. When the oil is heated saute the garlic till nicely browned and aromatic along with a little onion. Now add to it brinjal, bell peppers, zucchini and give it a stir. Cook and then add tomato Concasse and seasoning to the mix. Remove from heat when done until soft.

Now pan sear marinated cottage cheese and bake in the oven at 150 degrees celcius for 7 to 8 mins.

Slice the beetroot thinly and season with Olive oil and salt and bake for 3-4 mins.

The oven helps to evaporate the oil from the cottage cheese and gives wonderful browned edges. Once you see those and the beetroot slices are cooked yet crunchy, remove from the oven.

To make the parmesan cheese crisp, grate parmesan cheese and melt it on a non stick pan. Remove from heat and let it cool and firm up. Cut out 4 triangles from the round.

Plating 

In a plate layout the beetroot chips in a circle or semicircle. On top ladle out the semolina mash. Top it with 3 pieces of cottage cheese. Above it layer the Ratatouille mix.

Garnish with parmesan crisp, basil and parsley. I did not have parmesan on hand so I grated just a little bit of cheese over it and stuck in a fried basil leaf.

I recreated that meal in my own kitchen and I think I was able to achieve a very close remake in taste but need to work on my plating skills a bit. Like Chef Mukul said practice makes perfection.

How would you rate me Chef Mukul? and how would you rate me readers?

An enormous thanks to Chef Mukul and the entire Four Points team who made this experience memorable for me!



How was the taste?

Its an Italian meal that Indians will love, a complete balanced meal. It tasted absolutely delicious each morsel different. The semolina mash has olives so it was salty, The cottage cheese beautifully crisp on the edge and garlicky. The Ratatouille was of course with notes of basil, thyme, rosemary and garlic. The beetroot chips like the salad. The balsamic reduction like the chutney or a palette cleanser. I loved it as I ate this portion and felt satiated and did not even crave for a dessert.

My Sky grill story will have to be yet another post...

5 comments:

  1. Love your enthusiastic account of the whole experience and how you have recreated the dish :) Your blog is always a delight to read, Anjali. Hugs!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Nandita! Its a memory I will revisit a lot in the times to come and each time I know it will thrill me the same way. Thank you for the lovely comment and hugs right back to you :)

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  2. Thoroughly enjoyed reading through. Making even one dish in a commercial kitchen surely is a memorable experience. Chef Mukul has been very kind in sharing this recipe with you and us.
    And yes, you have recreated the dish beautifully!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Rajani! Indeed. Thanks for the praises, I take a bow :)

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  3. Wow Anjali that was a great account to read..so nice to know you had a gala time learning and doing those things..I too love checking out commercial kitchen and never miss a chance to visit one...and must say your creation looks as beautiful if not better than the chef's dish..:)

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