Culinary Arts Project

Zen and the Art of Doing Dishes – Oh, and Brining a Pig’s Head – Day 54


  • The FDA recommends washing dishes at an uncomfortable 110 degrees to get rid of harmful bacteria. The hot water from the average ‘hot’ faucet is 110F. I can’t imagine being able to clean dishes in 100% hot water from the hot faucet. Ouch!!!!
  • Never order a fish special on Monday – this is guaranteed to be fish that is nearing its expiry date. Fish can be delivered any day but Sunday, generally it is delivered on Tuesday and Friday – so those are the days to eat seafood at a restaurant.
  • Brioche dough is kneaded when it ‘forms a window’. This is when you stretch the dough, and it doesn’t tear but thins out so you can almost see through it.

Sometimes I just want to do dishes! Sometimes there’s a certain enjoyment in being by yourself, the master of your own domain, knowing what you have to do and how to do it. I didn’t sleep very well last night, so I was very tired, and it was hard to concentrate on the multitude of things we had to get done today…. so every time we had finished using a machine, I grabbed it, volunteered to clean it, walked over to the big sink, and quietly went about cleaning it, in an almost Zen-like state.

Trouts, reading for the drying room
Trouts, ready for the drying room
Chef John demonstrates a 'dough window'
Chef John demonstrates a ‘dough window’

However, a Zen-like state was NOT the state for the majority of the day. We had pig-heads and feet to inject with brine (we’re making head cheese tomorrow), a venison terrine to cook, a wild boar sausage to stuff, our salmon en croute to preserve with aspic, 5 ‘trouts’ to clean and brine, three new breads to prepare (including a foccacio and a brioche), and a dried chorizo recipe to ‘mise-out’ for tomorrow. This meant using grinders, mixers, dough mixers, and lots of other implements…. So lots of cleaning to do as well!!!!

Stewart monitoring the boar sausage
Stewart monitoring the boar sausage
Regina and the Sauce Puttanesca
Regina and the Sauce Puttanesca

We have our charcuterie ‘buffet’ at the end of the week where we display all the items we have made for the school to come and taste, so we have only two more days to finish all of our items. I can’t say it’s the same pressure you feel when cooking ‘family meal’ for the school which has to be ready by 11.50am, but there is some pressure. My team is discussing how to get people to eat more of the charcuterie…because…. while it all looks delicious, apparently not that much gets eaten. I’ve come up with an idea where we’ll make everything very bit sized, with toothpicks for easy tasting, and also have the alcoholic flavoring (e.g. sauternes, brandy, sherry, madeira, etc…) that was used in the preparation as part of the presentation, and see if people can taste the flavor.

The taste highlight from the family meal was the Puttanesca Sauce on the pasta. Apparently this means “Prostitute’s Sauce” in Italian, and is so referred because, historically, it was hastily prepared for the husband by the wife who had just got home herself from her ‘distractions’. There isn’t the 3-5 hour simmering time required. Tasted good to me.

Tomorrow we have to take the pig’s head apart. Should be ‘interesting’.

Happy New Year’s everyone.

3 replies on “Zen and the Art of Doing Dishes – Oh, and Brining a Pig’s Head – Day 54”

This longtime food inspector says: You don’t have to wash the dishes at 110 to get them clean. Warm water is fine. It is the agitation of the scrubbing and the chemical properties of the detergent that adhere to things that are both water- and fat-soluble (like an emulsifier) that allows the water to lift and remove filth. If you remove all the filth, you will remove about 95% of the bacteria. Following up a wash and rinse with a sanitizer, and letting the sanitizer air-dry instead of rinsing or wiping it off, should result in a 99.999% reduction in the original number of bacteria (aka 5-log reduction). Remember that 110 F is within the temperature danger zone — bacteria love it, so it’s not the temperature killing things. Also you don’t want your water that hot if you are using chemical sanitizer, because there will be more chemical for you to inhale in the evaporation and less for the bacteria. You can either use water at or over 170F without chemicals to kill with heat (Passover matzoh factories do this with a steam jet), or water at 70-90F is fine with 100ppm solution of bleach or 150-400ppm QAC. The one exception is if you use the QAC (quaternary ammonium compound) in tablet form instead of the liquid concentrate like the school does; you have to get the water very hot to dissolve those cheap tablets.

More than you ever wanted to know, right?

If you were presenting on Thursday, I would beg you to save me venison terrine; ah well. The thing no one even tasted from our banquet was the pork rillette. Both of those went untouched in the compost at the end of the night. I start level 4 tomorrow night, and only go twice a week, so two weeks from now you will pass me in progress. I will be either inspired or terrified!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.