Before I dive into all the mass production type main kitchen work that I did, I just wanted to finish up with the only other station I worked in PCR - salad station. It's the station I wanted because it was the most relaxed, and at that point in the semester I really just needed to relax.
Every day at salad station involved coming in to check the mise en place (ingredients prepped and ready to assemble for the final product). A lot of times the herbs and lettuces would wilt overnight, so I would have to replenish those. And every couple of days I would need to do a batch of something or another, whether it was vinaigrette or glazed nuts or poached pears - and by the time I rotated out of the station I had prepped every single item that went into the salads, which was nice.
The station was so relaxed that I actually had the time to run a special salad of my own design if I wanted to. But I didn't. I stuck to making the three salads on the menu: heirloom tomato, fall greens, and the shrimp louie (seen below in the brief second it sat on the pick-up line before it was whisked away to a diner). What I realized about fine dining salads in relation to regular salads is that there's just a couple of elements that seem hard to replicate at home. In the shrimp louie, that element would be the poached mushroom cap. The pleats etched into the mushroom required a special tool (a super mini bottle-opener of sorts), and poaching required some brief submerged simmering in a white wine/water mix (which is simple but just unobvious enough).
What was fun in salad station was that I had my own printer for ticket orders, so my ears became attuned to the noise of printing - as soon as it started I would spring into action, a sort of muted adrenaline rush (in comparison to the hot line for grill/entree-firing). I would regret not being on the hot line (and maybe I kind of do), but I've discovered that I don't crave that spike of adrenaline. Being on the hot line is the kitchen version of being on the front line, and I really don't need to get shot.
So instead I was in my little corner, doing things like slicing up the heirloom tomatoes and arranging them nicely.
There were small challenges though, like the parmesan crisp that was the mystifying adornment atop the heirloom tomato salad. It's embarrassingly simple - you lay out grated parmesan cheese in circles and bake them until they get crispy. I couldn't get the crisp part down right - either I put them in the oven and they didn't get crisp fast enough, or I stuck them in the broiler and they got burned. On my last day in salad station I got it right. They broke in half nicely for me to use them on my heirloom tomato salads, finally.
It's always the small things that get you.