Friday, October 30, 2009

I want to say two words to you. Just two words. Are you listening?

Ring molds.

Today was a potluck for my friend Geoff's birthday (which is really tomorrow...I bet Halloween babies get extra candy, whereas Christmas babies get shafted with combination presents...plan accordingly, future parents), that had a Mexican theme. I wanted to avoid the use of my oven for anything because I've already burned through two years' worth of gas making popovers. Avocados were on sale so I figured I'd do something with that. Also, ceviche (though technically Peruvian in origin) doesn't require any cooking if you use the right things. So I figured, ceviche with avocados and stuff...simple and straightforward.

But I chose this occasion to practice a bit. For what you say? For when I'm sponging off of a rich wife and throwing dinner parties and the like. Indeed, the only reason I came to med school was to find a future rich doctor wife. I've failed in my first couple years so far. Since I haven't sewn one up yet, I'm doomed to take Step 1 of the boards, but I'm still keeping hope alive. In short, I'd have absolutely no problem being someone's "trophy husband" (hell I'd gladly take "consolation prize live-in boyfriend").

But what if somehow I manage to land a woman of sophistication and taste? I'd have to step up my home cooking game, and maybe borrow a few tricks from fancy restaurants.
That's where the ring molds come in. In my case, the set of biscuit cutters that I got for my chicken biscuit.

Here's some tricks that I've noticed fancy restaurants use (though I haven't been to that many...these might be outdated at this point) in order to make simple dishes look fancier:

First, deconstruct. The idea that restaurants want you to think is that by isolating the elements of a dish, you're presenting in radical form a familiar flavor, aggressively inviting the diner to consider the culinary process by which something edible comes together.
In reality, this is an awesome way to make the person eating do all the work for you. You don't have to mix your stuff together in the right amounts! Just put it all on a plate, have the person do all the work, then blame them if it doesn't turn out well! You could just criticize the ratio of the different items they put onto their fork/spoon and say it's their fault. Genius!

I deconstructed a Mexican ceviche by separating avocado from seafood from tomato. After some calculations, I figured out that each serving is about $2.50 worth of ingredients. Let's say the theoretical base price if I owned a restaurant that no one really knew about would be about $5 (I have no idea how they decide what to charge for stuff). Here's how I would mark it up. Please try to imagine a cash register "ka-ching!" sound every time you see a dollar sign:

The menu would simply say "ceviche" because that's more ironic and playful. Clearly this is not just any ceviche, but the foodie crowd would read "ceviche" then the description, and would feel smug about picking up on the chef's "cleverness" and feeling as if they were in on the joke with the chef, who is clearly their close personal friends because they go out to eat at fancy places all the time. ($6)
"ceviche" would be in all lower case letters, and the price would not have a dollar sign next to it. Also if there were a fraction of a dollar, it would be written as an actual fraction, not a decimal ($ i mean 6 1/2)

Here's the description:

Citrus-marinated ($6.75 for use of "citrus" instead of "lime") fresh sea scallops, wild caught ($7) gulf shrimp, and red onion.
Grape tomato and cilantro salsa cruda (use of the term "salsa cruda" instead of "hastily chopped" $7.50).
Chilled Haas Avocado soup (whaat...Avocado soup? $8) with cumin and cayenne.
All produce sourced from local ($8.75) organic ($9...local and organic are two words that give you license to charge anything! KA-CHING!) farms.

I garnished with lime zest. I don't describe the garnish so that it seems like a surprise and extra effort on my part ($9.25).

Second tip: Ring molds ($9.50). Food just tastes better when it's perfectly round.

Here's where I went wrong:

I mean look at those bowls. They're just so...round.
Despite the fact that food tastes better when it is perfectly round, it tastes worse if it's in the same shape as the plate it's on.
I could've charged much more for square ($9.75), or better yet an unnamed geometric shape ($10). The motherlode were if it were served on some sort of bowl carved out of pink sea salt ($12) that was cooled to the perfect avocado soup temperature ($13), thus keeping the dish cool and adding a subtle saltiness. If at all possible, use some sort of squeeze bottle to put sauce on ($13)
Oh yeah...the owner of the restaurant is a celebrity ($16). That celebrity is Jay-Z ($17), co-owned by Kanye West ($16.50). Also I'm Asian, so by definition making Mexican food is fusion ($18). Also my restaurant is in Vegas ($25).

So as is, I served a

ceviche 9 1/2

that cost me $2.50 and required absolutely no cooking whatsoever. I just stole $7 from your pocket. I'm gonna need that to pay for Step 1...unless someone wants to bail me out in time...ladies?

1 comment:

amanda c. said...

Chris, I spend too much time reading your food blog. and salivating over your culinary masterpieces. btw, will you be in atl while studying for the boards? ...