1 1/2 gallons of vinaigrette

I have started a temp job in the culinary department of Epic Systems, a large medical software company located in Verona. They have a really interesting campus with themed buildings such as outer space, dungeons and dragons, and the wild west and are often mentioned in the same category as Google and Facebook for cool office environments. Check out this link for some photos; http://www.glassdoor.com/Photos/Epic-Systems-Corporation-Office-Photos-E35163.htm 

I am working in Casseopeia dining hall but that term doesn’t really do it justice. There are some top chefs here and the plated lunch entrees look and taste as good as what you would get in a high end restaurant. Recent choices include lamb with potato galette and pea puree and shrimp with citrus-marinated fennel and red pepper gelee. Less lofty offerings this week were apple, caramelized onion and arugula flatbread, cauliflower gratin and beef brisket with mojo sauce. There are also 3 soups daily, fresh homemade bread and a salad bar, which is where I come in. Four of us work to keep the salad bar stocked for the thousand or so employees who stop in for lunch each day. We fill all the containers in the morning and spend the lunch hour going back and forth from the dining hall to the kitchen refilling everything. After lunch it all gets put away for the next day. You’re on your feet all day and it’s exhausting but what could be rather mundane is made fun by the people I’m working with. All four of us are temporary workers, or on-call. (There are several people out on maternity leave which accounts for some of the need.) There is a mom with 2 teenage girls in Verona High School, a recently retired high school English teacher and a young man on leave from Harvard. The cooks we work with have equally varied backgrounds and we have a good time talking and joking as we go about our tasks. 

We do quite a bit of chopping veggies and washing lettuce and I have so far avoided slicing my fingers in the mandoline! That’s one of these

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not one of these

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although I would like to learn to play the latter. I am trying to improve my knife skills by watching the experts but I can’t imagine ever being as fast as they are. One chef told me you’re bound to spill some blood in the learning process. 

The chefs come up with 4 compound salads every day. A compound salad is one in which you can’t separate the ingredients, such as macaroni or chicken salad. They are pretty creative in using whatever ingredients are on hand and need to be used up and the results are always tasty. When they need help or when we have some down time they are eager for us to venture out of our usual routine. I was asked if I had ever made vinaigrette before. I replied that I had at home (thank you Jacqueline for teaching me how several years ago) and then was shown the lemons, oil and fresh herbs and was left to my own devices. I only needed to make a gallon and a half instead of the five gallons they usually make so I didn’t get to use the giant immersion blender but it was still way more than I have ever made at once! The chef declared it good (“perhaps a bit more salt”) and into the decanter it went.

I had been eyeing the man who makes quiche each afternoon to be served at breakfast the next day. Imagine the many pounds of butter and flour going into ten rounds of dough! As he was rolling the dough out one day I commented on the large bits of butter visible in the dough and he proceeded to give me a few tips on how to make it flaky (use shortening and butter and a mixer instead of a food processor). He then invited me to watch him make the dough the next day which I happily accepted. Just seeing the enormous version of a KitchenAid in action is pretty cool. Word got around and the woman who bakes all the pies found me and said I’m welcome to watch her at some point too. I have two weeks left in this position and who knows what else I’ll get to do?

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One Response to 1 1/2 gallons of vinaigrette

  1. SR Anne Paye says:

    Carolyn, you are amazing! I sent this to a friend who is a gourmet cook. She is going to concoct the vinaigrette. Love, Anne ________________________________

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