What Big Night Taught a Professional Chef About Cooking and Commerce

Stories from The Dissolve.
Sept. 11 2013 3:25 PM

“This Is What I Want to Be”

What Big Night taught a professional chef about cooking and commerce. Plus: What to eat when watching it.

(Continued from Page 1)

The Dissolve: That need for conviction and that problem of people who want instant prestige and instant success—both of those are true in a lot of fields, including filmmaking.

Aglibot: Yeah. I think there’s been a lot of glamorization of what we actually do. And at the end of the day, it’s still a lot of work. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

The Dissolve: Pascal’s character is a chef villain—a sellout who deliberately undermines other people’s work. Does his archetype resemble anything you’ve seen in real life?

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Aglibot: Yeah, that’s media. [Laughs.] I mean, could there be people like him? I don’t know. He represents ego. It’s what you see somebody else having that you want to strive for. There’s always that person you compare yourself to, and that’s what that character brought. And he’d probably encourage you to do well, but not really want you to do well.

The Dissolve: But you feel that kind of pressure from other restaurants or other restaurateurs?

Aglibot: I think so. I think at the end of the day, you have to take care of your own four walls, but you also have a duty to your industry. Our neighbor’s success is our success, and we can thrive off each other. People ask me, “Who’s your competition?” and I say, “McDonald’s. Someone needs to eat, and they’re going to decide where they’re going to spend their money. Isn’t that competition?” And what makes them choose that? Is it that they want to spend X amount of dollars that day, or that’s what they’re craving? But at the end of the day, that’s my competition. Also, luxury-item stores. If someone’s going to spend more money on a bag or something, that means they have less money to spend when they’re dining out, so they may not choose me that night. They’re going to choose Panda Express or something else. In commerce, we’re all competing for people to spend money at your business.

The Dissolve: There’s so much attention and excitement in the film revolving around the timpano, the complicated showpiece dish. What’s your equivalent?

Aglibot: That’s a good question. When I first saw the movie, I came out of it thinking, “I just want to eat something Italian!” Then I was like, “No, I want to do something that has more process, and more pomp and circumstance, like the porchetta.” On E+O’s menu, I freak out on anything to get it right. But in terms of that sort of fussiness … my most requested dish in any restaurant I’ve been in the last five years is probably the Brussels sprout salad. It has 12 or 13 different ingredients, and the pomp and circumstance for me is how it’s presented and how it’s dressed. The sauce is actually two sauces that have to be mixed right before serving. One of the cooks said, “Chef, why don’t you just mix both sauces together and put it in one bottle?” And I’m like, “No! It has to be separate, because I want it to interact at the moment before it goes out to the table. And the Brussels sprouts have to be cut in a certain way, I want the shrimp minced a certain size. I’m so particular about that salad, because now everybody’s the expert on that salad, so that’s probably why it’s become a pomp and circumstance piece.

The Dissolve: Why porchetta with this movie?

Aglibot: Because it wasn’t like making pasta, or pizza, or a sauce, or a salad. There were a lot of separate processes, getting the pork belly, and flattening it out and scoring it, and then what goes inside. I like to use a tenderloin vs. a loin, because the tenderloin has more moisture. And then I want oomph to the flavor, so we had to stuff the inside with Italian sausage. And then we had to make this rub for the inside. It’s not a simple process, but what I love about it is that I’m using my knife or my hands. At all points, I’m touching the product. Watching that movie, watching them cook really from scratch, I wanted to do something that used all of my senses. Any dish that feels like that is like therapy for me, and I love to make it. I probably wouldn’t love making the timpano, though, because it’s so labor-intensive.

The Dissolve: Any last thoughts?

Aglibot: I wish there was a Big Night 2. And what would that movie be? Would you find Primo is a car salesman or whatever, and then Secondo is like, “Let’s do another go at this thing”? I don’t know, there were other movies to choose from, but not a lot of them really touched me. But Big Night … to this day, I always tell young chefs or even people who love food, “Watch Big Night. Watch Big Night.”

E+O Food And Drink is located at 125 Randhurst Village Drive in Mount Prospect, Ill. Find it on Twitter and Facebook.

Rodelio Aglibot’s porchetta recipe

Ingredients:

5–7 pounds skin-on or -off pork belly
2 pounds pork tenderloin
1 pound Italian sausage, bulk, no casings
½ cup equal parts minced sage, parsley, rosemary
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
butcher twine, about 5 feet
12-inch bamboo skewers (3)

Directions:

1. Place the pork belly skin-side down and cover with plastic wrap on a cutting board. Using a mallet, pound it until it’s uniformly 1 inch thick.

2. Turn it over and score the skin side of the belly into 1-inch diamonds. This allows for less shrinkage and more crispiness. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Place the pork belly skin-side down on top of a fresh piece of plastic wrap.

3. Mix the olive oil, mustard, and mixed herbs. Rub half the mixture onto the flesh side of the belly until it’s fully covered. Then spread the Italian sausage atop the herb mixture, leaving about 1 inch clear of sausage around each edge.

4. Place the pork tenderloin on one end of the pork belly. If the belly is longer than the tenderloin, you can add extra pieces of tenderloin to the end, to equal the belly length. Using both hands, roll the belly around the tenderloin. Use plastic to help lift the belly off the table if needed.

5. Roll tightly, and position seam side down, using 12-inch bamboo skewers to keep the roll together. Use butcher twine to tie the roll, keeping the twine loops 1 to 2 inches apart.

6. Rub the exterior of the porchetta with the other half of the herb mix.

7. Preheat a convection oven to 325 degrees and roast for about 90 minutes. Using a meat thermometer, check the internal temperature, which should reach at least 170 degrees.

8. Once the meat reaches that temperature, turn the heat up to 450 degrees and roast for about 20 minutes or until skin gets crispy. Once it reaches the desired crispiness, remove from the oven and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

9. Remove the string and cut into slices, cutting across the roll. Serve in a salad or sandwich or with polenta.

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