Friday, October 16, 2009

Mashed Potatoes

A few weeks ago Mat asked for a new chinoise to replace our old handle-less one. It seemed a reasonable request so the next time I'm at the "Depot" I pick one up. The new version. A plastic one. Great, I wonder how long this will last. Anyway, I've noticed Mat using it for the mashed potatoes. He's running the mashed potatoes through the chinoise to produce a very fine creamy texture. (A chinoise is a very fine sieve shaped like a "China-man's hat used for straining soups, stocks, sauces, etc.) It's a bitch to pass mashed potatoes through it. It got me thinking about how Mat and I approach cheffing. There is no freaking way I will ever put mashed potatoes through a chinoise. No freaking way. I appreciate the effort and the final product but it's an example of how our styles differ. Not only how we approach food but the job as well. Mat loves to cook. He gets to work early every day because he just likes to be cooking. He has the passion and energy and loves the work and the food. I don't anymore. After 35 years it's extremely difficult to keep that edge. Even in my personal tastes I have come full circle and prefer a simple straight forward "comfortable" dinner to the multi course extravaganza. They almost seem silly to me now. 20 years ago I might have gotten satisfaction of putting potatoes through a sieve but now that seems silly to me too. Is it because I'm burned out after 35 years years of an intimate relationship with food? Or because of that long time relationship I've become so familiar with food that I've grown to recognize the essentials in good food and dining and realize it's not about awards, fame, money and the latest trends. Much like life, as you age you understand that it's not about the short term satisfactions you get along the way, it's about the core principles of love, family and peace. You can apply those same basics to cooking and dining and you'll recognize the final product and most of the people you cook for will too. It's old school but I think old school is the next new school.

As a kid we ate alot of boxed "mashed potatoes". Mom was busy and had six mouths to feed. We always knew if the potatoes were lumpy mom made real mashed potatoes. She took the time to make them, not perfectly but she made real mashed potatoes because she loved us. After many years of mashing potatoes she would cut a corner or two and leave some lumps. You may find a lump in my potatoes but that's ok because after mashing my share of potatoes I've grown to love the lumps.

I also give that new plastic chinoise three months. A fifty dollar plastic sieve. Sheesh!

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I went to the Boelter Super Store twice today....I was AMAZED at the cost of EVERYTHING. Today was a learning experience.

Michael Walsh said...

That's a prespective I can appreciate. With a mear 11 years under my belt I too am realizing what's really important, to me, to the customer, to the bottom line...All tug you in a different direction sometimes. Your lucky to have someone with such ambition on you team. With a little guidance you might become very successful together. good luck

Scott Sebastian said...

We are a little like oil and vinegar but you know what happens when you mix em.

Michael said...

Salty, they have a charity week dining special at some 40 Milwaukee area restaurants and an amazing number of them are running specials involving braising and mashed potatoes. On another note, you got a fine write-up in the new edition of Milwaukee Magazine. Congratulations to you and your staff.

Anonymous said...

Salty said,

"Even in my personal tastes I have come full circle and prefer a simple straight forward "comfortable" dinner to the multi course extravaganza."

I’m somewhat the same. While I would not turn down a free dinner at Charlie Trotter or French Laundry, some of the most memorable and satisfying meals I have had were in tiny, rural restaurants in Europe when the emphasis was on simplicity and the use of the best and freshest local ingredients. If some people want to blow a small fortune in the latest molecular gastronomy restaurant; more power to them, but I am happier with a well-made cassoulet, sauerbraten, ragu or boeuf bourguignon. “Peasant food” naturally, but they have been around for hundreds of years and will be around long after people have forgotten about foams and weird trendy fusion cuisines.

- Dave Risch

Scott Sebastian said...

Amen brotha.

Scott Sebastian said...

What edition? November? What's the scoop? I know nothing.