Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Pumpkin Butchering

There's an old saying about curiosity killing the cat. I don't know about cats but curiosity has always served me well. Waiting for a Caesar salad to-go, I pondered out loud about the squash anchoring the festive fall decorations sitting on the bar at Lidia's Kansas City. You see it was rather large for an indoor pumpkin. So I asked the hostess what they were going to do with it once Fall was over. "Well, the chefs will take it back to the kitchen and make pumpkin raviolis out of it." How great was that? So great that I asked if I could watch and by "watch" I meant be the photographic fly on the kitchen wall while they broke down the massive 80 pound pumpkin. After a flurry of emails with busy Chef de Cuisine Cody Hogan and Executive Chef Dan Swinney, I found myself squeezed into some tight kitchen spaces to witness The Pumpkin Butchering.


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butter zuchini almonds

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Now it would be much easier and probably more cost effective to buy a big can of pumpkin at the Restaurant Depot and call it a day. But that's the difference between OK restaurants and great restaurants. They take tremendous pride in their food, from seeking out the best local fresh ingredients to using those ingredients to make simple luscious well seasoned and balanced dishes. I can tell you that the best compliment I could give to the chefs that day was an grateful empty plate.

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You would be doing yourself a favor by finding and supporting those restaurants that understand that simple philosophy. I know I'll keep supporting the treasure that is Lidia's Kansas City.


MakingSpace said...

Wow those are some amazing photos of an amazing process - the result looks absolutely delicious.

Congrats on the behind the scenes work there, Shamy, awesome!!

Big Shamu said...

Thanks MS, I can't tell you how much fun it was. I also can't tell you the secret ingredient in the filling but it was still good.

MakingSpace said...

What a treat and a treasure - for the restaurant and the chefs as much as for you. You honored their daily work.

froggy said...

How fun! And interesting and instructive and fascinating.

Big Shamu said...

Froggy it was fascinating. You should see how quickly these guys work. They went slow for me and my camera but once I stopped shooting, bambambam!

Dani said...

Great job Shammy! You're the coolest!

Big Shamu said...

Or the nosiest...

Anonymous said...

That is rare that a restaurant would let you back in their kitchen, just from a liability stand point alone but also for proprietary and sanitation reasons. You must be a really good customer.

I've broken down pumpkins a quarter that size and it's a lot of work. You need strong arms and wrists to dig out all of the seeds and cut the flesh and skin.

I've only ever had pumpkin ravioli once because you don't see it on many menus, but it's magic.

Buzz Kill

Big Shamu said...

Actually Buzz, this was shot off hours and I had my hard toed non-skid shoes, and my hair tied back. Plus they are a very cleanly run kitchen. And you're right. Pumpkin ravioli is magic.

Dani said...

Such great pictures. Been back a few times today to look at them.

Sara said...

So cool! Great photos, thanks for sharing! :)

Susan said...

Wow !! amazing & inspiring reportage Shammy Sham xoxo les Gang I love Lidia (& Joe) on PBS

Dani said...

Merry Christmas!

Melissa said...

wow! THAT was amazing. I swear, I thought that first shot was photoshopped! how cool! and great pics!

MLou said...

Great photos. The final product looked very yummy. Around here they use a chainsaw to cut 'em up. Have a look at the Giant Pumpkin Chain Saw Massacre:

They went pedestrian and made pie.

Big Shamu said...

No way, Melissa, no 'shopping the pumpkin.

Mlou, I would imagine men using chainsaws on giant pumpkins is a pretty popular event. And yes, pie was safe but also manageable.