For those of you who aren’t up to date on this saga, in December United Airlines introduced a cookbook based on the food that they serve in Polaris. Yes, a US airline introduced a cookbook about food, and yes, apparently the irony is lost on United.
I’ve never cooked before in my life (like, actually, never), so I did the logical. I decided I’d have my first attempt at cooking be from a United Airlines cookbook.
So Tiffany made a post recapping some of the dishes in the cookbook, and asked you guys to vote on which we should prepare. I actually didn’t realize we’d be preparing a four course meal until after the voting was complete, but oh well, I figured we might as well go all-in.
Then I shared my thoughts after we did the shopping for this cooking experience, and OMFG was it intimidating.
Now that I’m a seasoned chef, in this post I wanted to share my thoughts on the overall experience, in no particular order:
The Polaris cookbook is ridiculously complicated
The cookbook starts with an introduction from the chefs, which says the following:
“Between the two of us, we’ve been at United for more than half a century…”
Do they really have enough seniority to cater for United Polaris? With “only” an average of 25 years, I’m surprised they’re even off reserve. 😉
In all honesty, the cookbook is incredibly complex. Tiffany is a good cook, and she was shocked by the degree to which ingredients were prepared from scratch.
That also leads me to ask the question of what exactly this cookbook has to do with United. Is the concept that the dishes served in Polaris are loosely based on what’s in the book, or is the suggestion actually that the dishes served in Polaris are anything like this?
For example, here’s the last dish I was served in Polaris, which was downright disgusting.
Am I to believe that for this Chinese-style chicken noodle soup the chicken was gently massaged before being slaughtered, the noodles were flown in fresh from Italy the day they were made, the carrots came from United’s organic garden at O’Hare Airport, etc.? Cause that’s not what it tasted like to me…
We literally spent two days cooking
I can’t fully describe just how damn complex all of this was. Tiffany and I were several hours into cooking on Thursday and I asked her how far through the process we were. “Maybe 10%.” What the heck, I thought we were almost done?
But this comes down to how complex the cookbook is, and the fact that every ingredient basically had to be prepared from scratch.
If the recipe called for corn, it said we had to shuck six ears of corn, rather than buying it frozen, for example. So I imagine we could have taken a lot of shortcuts, but we wanted only the best for our guests, just as United would want!
I have a new appreciation for cooking
Having now cooked, prepared, and plated food myself, I have a new appreciate for this, whether getting food delivered via Postmates, eating at a restaurant, or eating on a plane. There’s so much effort that goes into it, and it’s damn complicated, so I’ll no longer be taking it for granted (well, unless it’s presented like an American Airlines lobster roll, in which case I will take it for granted).
How did the dinner service go?
On Friday night we had our Polaris dinner service, and I’m here to report back on the results, for those of you who weren’t following along on Instagram live. Sorry it has taken me so long to post this, but frankly I’m still recovering from two straight days of cooking.
I’ll let the videos speak mostly for themselves (there’s another full cooking video coming, so these are just the Instagram Live videos, which is why they’re in portrait mode and low quality, which I apologize for).
Well, I didn’t love the octopus prep…
Then here’s the plating of the crispy octopus, avocado, pickled pearl onions, cilantro, and chicharron spices:
Here’s the plating of the confit chicken salad with roasted butternut squash, pickled beets, and goat cheese:
Then the plating for the five-spice braised short ribs with fried black rice:
And lastly the plating of the black sticky rice with fresh mango and sweet coconut cream:
What our guests had to say
I’m quoting directly here:
- “It’s kind of a mess, it’s a mashup, but it all goes together” (in regards to the first course)
- “I would have the salad and make it again as a main course, it was very good” (in regards to the second course.”
- “I love the rice, I can’t get past the rice” (in regards to the third dish)
- “The short rib might be as good as my mom’s” (in regards to the third dish, and not a “your mom” joke, as far as I can tell)
- “it’s fun to have the black rice in two ways, a savory and sweet option, it was fun” (in regards to the third and fourth courses)
- “The flavor matches exactly what you’d get in Thailand” (in regards to the fourth course)
- “I’m very impressed, everything was good” (overall thoughts)
- “You’ve shown that like ratatouille, anyone could do it” (overall thoughts)
It actually wasn’t a disaster
Frankly I came away from this whole thing with surprisingly positive feelings. Yes, it took forever to cook, and it was way too involved, and yes, maybe my presentation was similar to what you’d get on a plane. But I was thrilled that in the end every dish was not only edible but actually sorta good (well, minus the octopus, chicken confit, and short rib, which only our guests ate). 😉 It just required following a lot of instructions.
My personal favorite was the dessert, which surprisingly tasted every bit as good as mango sticky rice that I’ve had in Thailand (and no, the quote in the section above wasn’t from me). 😉
I didn’t love preparing the octopus…
But otherwise I’d say the prep went pretty well.
I have realized that I’m incredibly uncoordinated. Like, that’s not a surprise, I can barely walk straight without tripping myself. But I was reminded of that when trying to slice vegetables, etc.
Here’s what the finished product looked like, course by course:
And of course no airplane dinner is complete without…
A big thank you to Tiffany for both helping with this entire process, and for letting us destroy her kitchen.
And of course thanks to you guys for your enthusiasm in following along on this adventure!
Maybe it’s time I host a dinner for readers that’s cooked by me. Though I’m not sure whether that would be intended as a reward or punishment. 😉