Chapter 486 - Destined for a Life of Labor
They paused only to see a plump figure nimbly squeeze through the crowd of cooks and appear at Xiaocao’s side . He used his chubby palm to wipe the sweat on his face as he panted, “Miss Xiaocao, you’ve already finished teaching them the recipe to a dish? That’s not fair, why didn’t you wait for me, Fatty Wang!”
Pitiful him . When he received news of this, he immediately took a horse carriage and rushed over from the eastern branch of Zhenxiu Restaurant . He was in such a hurry that he still sweat a lot despite it being a cold, winter day . During the entire journey, he kept rushing the driver, but even so, he still missed a dish . Head Chef Wang’s expression looked like he wanted to burst into tears .
The other chefs that he had pushed to the side could only suppress their annoyance, as Head Chef Wang ranked elder in Zhenxiu Restaurant . His culinary skills were extraordinary, and he was the exemplary chef among all the chefs . Many of the chefs present had been mentored by him before, so they could only swallow their discontent as he took up the best spot .
Yu Xiaocao smiled, looking at this familiar person who had grown plumper and said, “Head Chef Wang, it’s currently lunchtime, is it really good for you to just ditch the whole kitchen and come here?”
“It’s better if I come here alone . It’s much better than iif a whole group of people ditched the customers completely! The chefs in the eastern branch are more than capable, so it doesn’t matter whether I’m there or not! Now, which step are you at? Don’t stop, I, Old Wang, am still waiting to learn so I can go back and show my skills to the customers!” Head Chef Wang was still so carefree .
Yu Xiaocao pointed towards the chopped ingredients on the cutting board, “This dish is called duck’s blood and beef tripe in spicy soup . The soup is bright red, fragrant, spicy and thick . It’s suited to be served during the start of the year . ”
Head Chef Wang turned his gaze to the cutting board and whoa, that was a lot of ingredients! He counted duck’s blood, swamp eel, tripe, streaky bacon, ham, squid, sea cucumber…Wait a second, what were these ingredients? Why had he never seen them before?
Yu Xiaocao glanced at the ingredients Head Chef Wang was curiously looking at and smiled, “This is called ‘yellow throat’ . It’s a main blood vessel at the heart of livestock like pigs and cows . It’s very nutritious and the texture is crisp . ”
This time, Yu Xiaocao was making top quality duck’s blood and beef tripe in spicy soup, so she was very demanding when it came to the quality of the ingredients . However, for such a big restaurant like Zhenxiu Restaurant, they still had a lot of stores in their kitchen .
She poured chili peppers, Sichuan peppercorn, ginger, garlic, and the Zhou Family’s factory’s chili bean sauce into the warmed peanut oil and stir-fried the ingredients on low heat until it was fragrant . Then, when the soup was ready, she fished out the whole spices and added seasonings like MSG, sugar and vinegar into it . After that, she sliced, diced and blanched the main auxiliary ingredients and added them to the boiling red soup . Once the soup was done, she poured it into a vessel and sprinkled spring onions on top . Then, she heated more oil, added the Sichuan peppercorn and chili peppers and fried them until they were fragrant, and quickly poured the oil onto the soup that was ready .
The process seemed simple, but the actual creation of the dish was not so simple . It was a good thing that all the chefs had more than ten years of experience in the culinary arts, so they quickly mastered the techniques and successfully made a pot of duck’s blood and tripe in spicy soup . Yu Xiaocao tried the result of their cooking and indeed, the older ginger was spicier—Head Chef Wang made the most authentic dish . The other chefs’ dishes were also quite good .
After Third Young Master Zhou served the steamed chicken with chili sauce which received the emperor’s compliments, he hurried downstairs and waited in the kitchen . Once he saw another completed dish, he immediately said, “Let the waiters go to the private rooms and promote today’s new dish . Duck’s blood and tripe in spicy soup, priced at 88 taels and only limited to 10 sets per day!”
Except for the one that he had taken away, there were exactly ten sets of mala duck’s blood that the chefs in the kitchen had made as practice . Xiaocao disdainfully looked at him, ‘Cunning businessman——if he isn’t cunning, he isn’t a businessman!’
The ingredients required for the sliced beef and beef offal in chili sauce were a little more troublesome . It was made by braising cow’s head’s skin, heart, tongue, stomach and meat as its main ingredients, but in this era, cattle were the main laborers in paddy fields, so if the plantation owner was able to rear a cow, it was equivalent to owning a tractor in the future . Who would kill their cows to eat? The beef sold commercially were all from old or wounded cows that were decommissioned from labor . They could only be found but never sought . Fortunately, Zhenxiu Restaurant was quite efficient in sourcing ingredients and actually met with one of these occurrences .
As it was a braising process, it would naturally take a longer time to make sliced beef and beef offal in chili sauce . Yu Xiaocao had Third Young Master Zhou inform the emperor that he would not be able to have the dish for lunch, and would need to return at night in order to enjoy the dish .
The chefs did not care how much work it took, as only when they had mastered the dish could it be theirs . They had already heard from Head Chef Wang that this young girl in front of them was extraordinary, and many of Zhenxiu Restaurant’s signature dishes came from recipes that she had provided . Hehe! Indeed, cooking still required talent . Just look at her, even if one started learning in his mother’s womb, he might still not have the years of skill and experience that they had when he reached her age, but every single dish that passed through her hands came out extraordinarily delicious!
The chefs perked up and watched as Xiaocao cut the beef into pieces and washed them clean along with the cow parts (cow’s tongue, heart, head’s skin, stomach) . She then used seasonings like spices, salt and Sichuan peppercorn to braise them . First, she used a large, blazing fire to bring it to a boil before switching to a small fire, braising the meat until it was tender and soft yet still held together . Then, she lifted the meat out and allowed it to dry before slicing it into large, thin slices for later use . She used auxiliary ingredients such as chili oil, Sichuan peppercorn powder, roasted sesame seeds and roasted peanuts to make red oil that she then poured onto the meat . The finished dish looked bright and appetizing, emitting a strong and spicy aroma while the meat was tender and fresh .
It was already halfway through the afternoon when all of the chefs had mastered these three dishes . All of Zhenxiu Restaurant’s customers had already left, and although the emperor had not been able to taste the beef slices and beef offal in chili sauce that he had longed for, he was still very pleased with the other two dishes . He, too, left, leaving behind the nervously trembling Yu Family who had not dared to touch their chopsticks and the host, Fang Zizhen . The dishes on the table had already gone cold, so Third Young Master Zhou had arranged for the kitchen to cook them a new set of dishes, and only then were they able to eat their fill .
The most pitiful of them all was Yu Xiaocao . She hadn’t eaten much in the morning, then personally gave the chefs a culinary lesson at noon, so in the afternoon she was so starved she nearly collapsed . Head Chef Wang pitied her, so he made her a bowl of golden string noodles in chicken soup and she was finally able to fill her stomach eating that paired with the freshly made beef slices and beef offal in chili sauce .
When she returned to the private room on the second floor, everyone was drinking tea and having dessert as they waited for her . Zhu Junyang saw her enter and asked, “You must be tired . Have you eaten?”
“Will the kitchen be short of food? But once I get busy, I really forget anything . I’ve only had a bowl of noodles…” Yu Xiaocao unceremoniously dropped into a chair—it was too tiring!
“This . . . what is this!” Fang Zizhen pitied his daughter, but he did not dare to complain about the emperor out loud and could only sigh, “All of us had not been able to enjoy ourselves this afternoon, let’s continue this evening and thoroughly enjoy ourselves?”
Yu Hai also felt uncomfortable seeing that his daughter had been busy for the entire afternoon and shook his head, saying, “Maybe another day! We’ve journeyed for days and haven’t had enough rest yesterday . Cao’er has also been busy for nearly half a day, so we’ll gather together some other day . ”
“Brother Dahai is right, I’ve been careless in my consideration! Oh right, I heard that Zhenxiu Restaurant has a booked reunion dinner event . How about we have our New Year’s Eve reunion dinner together, the two of our families? It’d be merry!” Fang Zizhen suggested .
“Sure!” Yu Hai was unwilling to let his daughter celebrate New Year’s with the Fang Family, since they had only 3 people, but if he kept her with his family, the Fang Household would definitely feel cold and empty . Why not have the two families celebrate together, so that it would be bustling and everyone was happy?
Once they were home, Yu Xiaocao slept like a log, and could only force herself to stay awake when she woke up the next day and went to do her rounds at the imperial plantation with Zhu Junyang accompanying her . The winter wheat grew very well, and the greenhouse was also well taken care of . The new batch of green, leafy vegetables was already being sold, while the others would follow some time before New Year’s . Only now was Yu Xiaocao’s worries put to rest .
She followed Zhu Junyang to the neighboring farmstead and pointed to the hill at the back of the plantation, saying, “Have you found the seeds I asked you to? Additionally, you have to find more experienced flower farmers . I plan to grow many varieties of flora on this few hundred mu of wide sloping land . ”
Zhu Junyang silently held her cold and soft hands and blew a breath of hot air on them as he replied, “Don’t worry, I guarantee that I’ll do a satisfactory job! But since you’re in a hurry for these rose flower seeds, the quantity might not be a lot, and at most will be about three to four mu?”
“Three to four mu will be fine, at least it’s better than nothing . What about the forget-me-not flower seeds? I heard that they have them in the Persian Empire . Your voyage fleet should pass by there . ” Yu Xiaocao looked at him with her eyes filled with trust .
When she was looking at him with such an expectant gaze, Zhu Junyang naturally wouldn’t bear to see her disappointed, “I’ve already sent a messenger dove to them . When they return at the beginning of spring, they will probably be able to bring back a lot! You rarely go out, how do you know these things?”
He was well aware that Xiaocao had secrets, but he had never intended to prod and only asked casually . However, Yu Xiaocao panicked, inwardly berating herself for not being careful . She laughed drily, “I saw it in a book of peculiar things that I had procured by chance . I can’t be sure if it’s real, but why not try? Since your fleet is also passing by!”
Zhu Junyang watched the little lass’s panicked expression and laughed, “Don’t say it like that . The fleet belongs to the court, I’m only helping them manage it . However, the westerners have many types of machinery that I think are quite interesting . When this fleet returns, I’ll bring you there to pick those that you’re interested in . There’s a kind of clock that stands on the floor, and when the time reaches exactly the hour, a small bird will come out and tell the time . I think you’ll like it! At that time, I’ll give one to you . ”
“Who gives others clocks as a gift?” Seeing that he did not linger on the previous topic, Yu Xiaocao recovered her animated expressions and rolled her eyes at him .
Zhu Junyang raised his brows and asked, puzzled, “Why can’t I gift clocks? Is there a saying about it?”
“Giving a clock, giving a person his end! Isn’t that inauspicious?” Yu Xiaocao’s expression was saying, 'You’re such a simpleton', and it gave Zhu Junyang the urge to pinch her tender little face .
"Alright, I won't say ‘give’! Everything I own is yours, so you can go and take it yourself, does that work?” No one knew where he was learning this from, but Zhu Junyang was getting increasingly better at talking .
Yu Xiaocao nodded her head . Suddenly, slyness flashed in her eyes as she secretly giggled, “Have you heard of ‘three injunctions and four virtuous things to do’?”
“Three Obediences and Four Virtues? Of course! But I’m not so demanding of my wife, mmm… You’re fine just the way you are!” Zhu Junyang’s lips spoke as though they were coated with honey today .