Thursday, September 28, 2006

If you read in the last week's post that I was planning on making Roasted Garlic Bread pudding for my Sunday garlic festival demo this year, I changed my mind. I did the same dish in 1996 so I thought it would be cool to bring it back.
Picture this...
It is the peak of catering season, Rosh Hashanah and the NY Garlic Festival weekend.
On Saturday I was in the New World kitchen at 5 am to pack out the garlic festival vending stuff by 8 am---700 lbs of string beans for blackening, 14 gallons of Creole remoulade sauce and 20 chafing dish pans of roasted garlic mashed potatoes! I was down two cooks; one was celebrating his "Birthday Weekend" and the other was a newly hired Culinary grad who just had a bad attitude. We were catering a wedding for 100 in Boiceville and another party for 100 in Stone Ridge. The Cafe had done 250 covers on Friday and was set to do 300 on Saturday, shorthanded, which meant I was going to be cooking on the line.

Back at New World we were slammed all day and I worked until 10 pm, 17 hours, or until the food began to look like something else to me.

I slept for a few hours and got to New World about 7 am Sunday morning to get more mashers for the garlic festival ready and to organize my demo. I decided against the roasted garlic bread pudding demo for two reasons. One was because I didn't have a chance to prep it up on Saturday and secondly because I needed to have about 100 tasting portions ready by 11 am ( demo was at noon) on Sunday and we were so busy Saturday that we didn't have any leftover bread. The busboys had cleaned out the freezers of all bread because it was so busy! There was nothing for me to prep anyway.

I patrolled the coolers to get inspiration. We had three bags of fresh mussels on ice, untapped. I decided to do a neat demo, Mussels three ways---Thai, Mexican and Belgian, and all using beer and garlic. The body may wilt but the brain never rests!
I arrived at the garlic festival at 10:00 am and gave my new crew, Lee, Jill, Ed and the wonder boy--14 year old Jasper--- a quick lesson on how to blacken string beans for the masses.
Two pots of boiling water, a 14" cast iron skillet-- white hot, soybean oil and New World CAGE seasoning. Blanch the beans, toss with oil, toss with CAGE and dance them in the white hot pan making a bilow of white smoke. Dump the pan into the chafing dish and blanch more beans. As soon as the pan has recovered its heat, blacken again, more smoke, more beans, more money!
Around 11:30 Joey Beesmer, Woodstock soul singer and guitarist extraordinaire whisked me to the demo tent on a rickety golf gart. I am guessing we had about 600 pounds of manhood on that cart as Joey is bigger than me. Add my loaded cooler of demo stuff we I know we pushed that cart to the limit!

In the Demo Tent behind the second base I set up all of my mise en place on these corny but cute harvesty tables decorated with Indian corn, baskets of herbs and small glazed gourds. The usual suspects!
I displayed a 10 pound bag of PEI mussels, olive oil, butter, cold pressed peanut oil, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, chiles, clam juice, cream, mustard, a mess of herbs and three beers---one Rolling Rock ( to emulate rice brewed Thai beer), one Duval and and a Corona. I had two portable butane stoves and three woks, ready to go. I took three of the black plastic catering bowls (disposable) from New World to to dump the hot, fresh and aromatic mussels into, one batch at a time. I planned to fill a a bowl and move on to the next recipe.

Picture this...
I was just finishing up a beautiful my first mussel dish Thai style, prepared with lemongrass, Thai chiles, garlic, shallots, basil--it smelled magnificent! I picked up the steamy, shiny wok with two hands and with plenty of chef-like theatrics, poured the hot mussels into the first plastic bowl. I was cool. But as I turned back to the other wok the audience began to make sounds ranging from giggles to gasps. The hot mussels had melted the bowl. No, it wasn't just a small warp around the edge. The entire bowl slowly widened and sank until it was essentially a big deflated ballon. Within 15 seconds there were mussels and broth and herbs and garlic all over the fastidious, harvest themed table. The Demo Tent volunteers were scrambling to clean it all up. Bounty to the rescue.
That was is good theater. I urged the vidoegrapher to capture it on tape! It was so funny that I may even do it again on purpose at my next event, this time staged of course, but I will have real glass bowls hidden and extra mussels for actual use.
Never waste the opportunity to make memories!
Visit to get my three mussel recipes from the 2006 Garlic Fest.

Make sure to ice the seafood before you leave,
Ric the Chef

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