Friday, February 15, 2019

today's luncheon/dinner

It was a weird combination of foods, but I brought in cheese fondue and Middle Eastern chicken today to satisfy two coworkers' disparate food wishes. Here are some shots of the meals. One coworker took a bunch of chicken home for him and his fiancée; another coworker just told me the chicken was "fuckin' good." I'm beginning to love it when the compliments of my food include reflexive swearing. It's an indicator that I'm doing something right.

A wide shot of the chicken. Three toppings on the left (feta, pistachio, tomato), then chicken broth, then the chicken itself, then two types of pasta: Israeli "rainbow" couscous and Italian stelline (little stars). This was my first time working with Israeli couscous; it's much more glutinous than regular couscous—very clumpy and not so easy to fluff with forks. The stelline, by contrast, was very manageable and well-behaved.

A closeup shot of the principal elements: chicken and pasta:

Even closer in on the chicken:

Israeli "pearl" couscous, "rainbow" variety because it's multicolored:

Pistachio topping, all mortar-and-pestled:

Crumbled feta:

I think Koreans call these bang-ul tomatoes. A bang-ul is a drop or droplet:

Stelline, which look like the pasta you serve to kids in their soup to entertain them:

Fondue. This wasn't a very good batch, as you can see from the separation. A good fondue is thoroughly emulsified and smooth-looking. This one had either too much wine or too little cornstarch, but it still tasted fine:

The cut-up baguettes that we sacrificed to the fondue gods:

And lastly, a gross picture of the remains of the cheese, looking nice and snotty:

I served the meals in three shifts. The first shift was my R&D coworkers plus my ex-boss, and they didn't want fondue, which was actually a bit of a relief, especially since I had forgotten to buy the baguettes. So this shift concentrated on the Middle Eastern chicken. When the native-speaker teachers came in 90 minutes later, I had managed to buy the requisite baguettes, and this second shift concentrated on eating the fondue. Three of us plowed our way through two whole baguettes and a caquelon-ful of cheese. A few other staffers who had said they'd be coming never showed up (not surprising: they're kind of scatterbrained), so I actually have another whole load of fondue that I can cook on Monday if anyone wants more fondue. The third shift occurred when coworkers from the second shift said they were ready to try the Middle Eastern chicken. I happily obliged them. Not much chicken is left after that second wave; I'll be taking the leftovers home with me.

I was too tired to cook last night, so I did everything this morning, waking up a few hours earlier than usual in order to fry up the chickpeas, squash, raisins, figs, herbs, and chicken. I had cut up everything except the chicken the night before, which made my morning a bit easier. Cutting up the chicken in the morning wasn't a difficult task, and neither was cooking it in my special oil. Working with chicken breast is always a bit dangerous because the meat dries out if you overcook it even a little bit, but if you undercook it, you end up with unsafe pink meat in the middle of each chunk. I normally use my intuition when it comes to doneness, but I also cheat and use my meat shears to snip open one or two thicker chunks to get a general read on the meat's overall doneness. Thus far, that method hasn't resulted in anyone's getting food poisoning, so I suppose I'll stick to what works.

As usual, today was an unproductive day in terms of office work: whenever I dole out the food, I normally pay attention to service, eating, and cleanup. This really is a bit like running my own tiny catering business. Whenever compliments come in, this usually means I'm building a reserve of trust, such that my coworkers will look forward to whatever I do next instead of dreading yet another fouled-up meal. I'm batting a thousand thus far. Next month: gyros and BBQ brisket sandwiches. That ought to be fun and tasty.

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