The Fat Duck: Beef Royal (1723), Course 3

In addition to working on making a proper one-spoon quenelle (or rocher), I really need to work on applying a proper sauce “drag”. The elongated teardrop shape on a plate looks simple, but it is tricky. More practice is needed to apply that properly. On to this dish. I really liked the short rib preparation from course #2, but I absolutely loved this one. It is one of the best steaks I have ever cooked. I am sure that is partially due to the dry aged rib eye steaks I bought from Pete’s Fine Meats, but also the preparation was spot on delicious.

In the continuation to Blumenthal’s take on the Beef Royal dish, he prepares a steak coated with a crust made from a combination of beef crackers, panko bread crumbs, crispy short rib strands and herbs. Then he serves it with a mushroom ketchup, onion sauce, reduced beef sauce, mushrooms and fried crispy bone marrow. The combination is classic and brilliantly interpreted.

The most time-consuming part of this whole process is making the coating for the beef, the Chef calls it “Beef Shreds”. First, I made a beef cracker using Tapioca starch. The idea for these crackers is to mix a flavorful base (in this case, ground beef, seasoning and beef sauce base from the original preparation) with Tapioca starch to make a dough. The dough is then steamed till cooked and cooled. Then it is sliced and dried for a couple of hours. The last step is to fry it.

Below are pictures of the beef cracker dough…mmmm…

Dried crackers…

 …and Fried crackers. These are crispy, spicy and tasty. I wish I saved some before pulverizing them.

The end result is not unlike pork cracklings or chicharones. This can be done with cheese instead of beef, click here for a version from the  Alinea cookbook prepared by Martin at Alineaphile. It can also be done with vegetables to get vegetable puffs or crackers, click here to see what Dave at EatFoo prepared with it.

The next step in preparing the shards is to crisp up pieces from the short ribs from course #2 (I still had one in the freezer saved for this recipe) and to shred it finely. That is mixed with toasted panko bread crumbs, the beef crackers from above and finely minced herbs.

For the mushroom ketchup, I used my food processor to finely mince brown mushrooms with salt. These were then allowed to drain through a cheese cloth over night. I got way more liquid than I expected. The mushrooms are squeezed to extract all the liquid and tossed away. The mushroom juice is heated briefly and set to a fluid gel with Gellan F. It is seasoned with vinegar, sugar and salt. The onion sauce is also a fluid gel made with a mixture of sautéed onions, milk, cream, thyme and then strained. The resulting sauce is set with Gellan F to get a wonderful smooth puree. This onion sauce was excellent, I ate the rest of it with a spoon after plating the dish.

To prepare the marrow from the bones I first brined the bones for 24 hours then soaked them in fresh water for 30 minutes. The marrow slid right out. I cut those into small cubes, coated them with egg wash and then dredged in a mixture of untoasted panko bread crumbs and beef cracker crumbles. I held these in the fridge for a few hours until ready to fry. Right before service they were fried for a few seconds. Marrow is a lovely and luxurious product. Some love it, some hate it. I love it in small doses. It is mostly fat and is best served in small quantities. The taste is basically like beef-flavored butter. Crispy and fried, these nuggets are a tasty snack, but I had to stop after four or five. With the dish though, the fried marrow worked very well.

The mushrooms were just sautéed in a little grapeseed oil and then tossed with some of the mushroom ketchup. I still have a good bit of that ketchup and I wonder how long it lasts. It’s savory and tart, sort of like a refined and subtle barbeque sauce.

The star of the dish is the beef. The specific cut Blumenthal uses is the Spinalis Dorsi. That is the rib eye cap, a very tender, very well marbled piece of superb beef. It combined the tenderness of a filet mignon with the full flavor and richness of a rib eye. To get a whole one, you will need to buy a big piece of prime rib, preferably from the center (ribs 2 to 7) and remove the cap on your own. That is damn expensive and, unless you are cooking for a crowd, a bit more than you need. What I did is remove the Spinalis Dorsi portion of the steaks I bought after cooking and trimmed them as needed. I also used a square piece of the eye of the rib to make a more substantial meal. The rest was sliced and went into tacos for the kids.

Below is a picture of the two steaks with the Spinalis portion outlined in red

I prepared the steaks by salting them well about 18 hours ahead of time and then rinsing and drying them. I cooked them en sous vide at 132 F for about 2 hours. In the book, Blumenthal does not sear the steaks after cooking, but I did, in a very hot cast iron pan for about 40 seconds per side to develop more flavor. After trimming the Spinalis and a good size cube of the beef, I coated them with reduced beef sauce base and covered the surface with the beef shreds mixture. More beef sauce was drizzled on the steaks in the plate after they were served with the onion sauce, mushroom ketchup, mushrooms and fried bone marrow.

King Trumpet, Miso, Fried Tofu

I was picking up some ingredients for another dinner of Ramen the other day and stumbled on these awesome looking King Trumpet mushrooms. They looked fresh and plump, so I picked a few clusters up. The first thing that came to mind is to treat them as if they were the more prestigious Porcini or Matsutake mushrooms. When cooked like this these trumpets so resemble the texture of scallops and have an earthy mild flavor. I sliced each mushroom in half and slashed it in a corss-hatch pattern. These were then marinated in Ponzu sauce while I prepared the rest of the dish. Right before serving, I pan fried them in garlic flavored oil and re-seasoned with Ponzu.

The miso sauce was pretty simple. It consisted of soy milk, dashi (prepared following Cooking Issues method: 10g/L Kombu/water, circulated for 1 hr at 65C) white miso, pickled ginger and was set with a little Gellan F to give a good texture. It was very tasty and I could see a soup made from those ingredients and maybe garnished with mushrooms. I had seen in the Alinea cookbook a technique that makes a “sheet sauce”. Basically a sauce is gelled with gelatin or gellan and frozen. It is then cut into rectangles (or any other shape as appropriate) and then it is placed on top of the food at service. The sauce then comes to room temperature and coats the food item in an even layer. The effect is both functional (an even layer of sauce) and aesthetically beautiful. Here is a post of this technique by one of the chefs at Alinea on the Alinea-Mosaic site. You can also see a couple of examples on Alineaphile’s blog here and here. I wanted to give this technique a shot with this dish, but did not want to risk it completely not working. So I divided the sauce up into two. One got the freezing on acetate treatment and the other sat in a bowl in the fridge. I’m glad I did that. The sheet sauce kind of worked but it is not nearly as successful as I had hoped. I think it needed to be thicker to work better.

For the tofu, I made my own bean curd and cut it into cubes. I seasoned them with chinese 10-spice powder and breaded them (egg wash, flour, crumbs) with Panko bread crumbs before frying them till nice and crispy. I wanted to add some color to the dish and that’s where the orange sweet potato balls came in. I cooked them Sous Vide with a few tablespoons of pickled ginger juice. They tasted fantastic and looked really nice on the plate.

The rice is regular sushi rice seasoned with rice wine vinegar and sugar. Cooking it in more dashi as opposed to water gave it a deep and rich flavor. To make it into a cylinder I  extruded it through an oiled cannoli mold. The garnishes were soy bean sprouts (much more falvorful, substantial and have a better texture than mung bean sprouts I think) that were seasoned with rice wine vinegar and a touch of salt. The purple leaves are some sort of basil I think. They have a good sharp mint/basil flavor. I picked them up at the Asian grocery store as well and they had no label, but worked well in the dish and added a good color.

Here are a couple of shots of the dish plated with the “sheet sauce”. Notice how it kind of breaks a bit as opposed to staying intact and enveloping everything. I think a touch more gelling agent and making the sheet a bit thicker will help a lot. Overall this dish was fantastic, a really refined, delicious and wonderful looking vegetarian main course.

Pork Daube with Wild Mushrooms

Pork and Mushroom Daube 002

I get home Thursday evening from my business trip and start flipping through Paula Wolfert’s  “Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking” to pick a recipe to try out. I quickly settled on the “Pork Daube with Wild Mushrooms“. It just sounded right and flavor profile was very attractive with lots of dried Porcini, white sweet wine, herbs,  juniper and of course pork. Daube refers to a number of Southern French stews, in my experience, usually the end result is not as wet as what we commonly think of as stew but is very intensely flavored due to long slow cooking and -usually- cooling the meat in the stew before cooking it again to reduce the juices and concentrate the flavors.

I started working on this Friday evening for a Sunday dinner. Sure, it needs some forethought, but most of the work is quick and most of the time spent is simply marinating the meat and gently simmering it. So, Friday night I marinated the pork shoulder in a mixture of Gewrztraminer, onions, carrots, a spice sachet that included juniper, lavender and pepper, and an herb bundle. That’s all for day one. Like many a French stew the next step involved draining the meat and reserving the marinade. The meat is then browned and transferred to a clay pot along with browned onions and carrots. Lining the clay pot are several pieces of fresh pork skin. The skin here will add tremendous body to the resulting stew due to it’s very high level of unctuous collagen. The reserved marinade is simmered with dried porcini soaking water to make a fragrant flavorful braising liquid (the house just smells heavenly due to the dried porcini – simply amazing stuff). After topping the meat in the pot with the braising liquid, the whole thing goes in the oven for a couple of hours, then it is cooled until the next day.

A few hours before dinner, I saute a bunch of cremini mushrooms  and toss them in with the meat. Then it goes back in the oven for a few more hours until dinner time. The end result is deeply flavored with what I think of as “winter forest flavors” (dried and fresh mushrooms, juniper, thyme, pork, wine). The cooking juices where rich and delicious and the meat amazing. I served this with nothing more than homebaked French bread.

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A couple of points to keep in mind if making this dish:

First, and this is true of any dish cooked in a clay pot probably, clay pots differ a lot in conductivity. I used a Colombian La Chamba pot not a Daubiere like Paula does. I ended up having to cook the dish a couple of extra hours at 250F to get to the proper tenderness. So plan accordingly and give yourself some more time than the recipe specifies.

Second, There is an error/omission in the recipe. The dried porcini, after being soaked, drained and chopped are never used. I confirmed with Paula that these need to go in the pan in step 6 along with the onions and carrots.

Like all stews or daubes, this is so much better the next day in more ways than one. More on that later.

VDP: Soft Zucchini with Pasta

Monday, March 16 , 2009

Easy and very tasty way to cook green zucchini courtesy of  The River Cottage cookbook. I tossed in some mushrooms for good measure too. The process amounts to sautéing thinly sliced zucchini in olive oil with garlic till they turn very soft. Toss in some Parmesan cheese, a couple of spoons of cream and season to taste. You can use it as a topping for Bruschetta or as I did here, toss it with some pasta.

VDP: Pizza – Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms and an Egg

Friday, November 28, 2008

It’s been a while since I’ve added some updates to this particular journal. It’s not much due to laziness as much as redundancy. I’ve been trying to cook my vegetarian meals, but over the last month or so, I’ve not made many interesting or new dishes worth posting about. Also this was Turkey month, so veggie meals were not top on my list. So, after this long hiatus, why pizza? I’ve posted at least twice about pizza already, here and here. Well because it’s pizza! I’ve made it so many times and it never gets old or tiring. The act of making the dough early on, maybe the day before, picking the right sauce (cooked tomato, raw, just use a white cheese based sauce,..), picking the simple toppings to go on the delectable pie and of course shaping and baking the pizza on a hot oven stone. It is a relaxing and delicious family tradition.

This time I also decided, the last minute, to add an egg to my pizza. I’ve done this before, I even sometimes add an egg inside calzone, but I have never posted about it here and this is something worth recording. Trust me, it is. The idea is very simple, after making the pie and adding the toppings, make a “well” of sorts in the middle. My pizza this time, included a bit of cooked tomato sauce, caramelized onions, mushrooms, and a couple of types of mozzarella cheese. In the mushroom onion “well” I cracked a fresh free range egg and slid the pizza onto my very hot pizza stone. Barring any mishaps or leaks (never happened so far, fingers crossed) you should end up with a perfectly baked pizza and a lovely over-easy egg in the middle. Just slice  the pie or use a knife and fork and use the runny yolk as the most perfect sauce. Now I am craving pizza again.

VDP: Crespelle filled with Mushrooms and Ricotta

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Crespelle is the Italian word for crepes. Almost everyone knows what crepes are but not their Italian cousins. They can of course be made sweet or savory, but more often than not I’ve seen them as savory preparations. They are considered a form of pasta and served as such, as the primo in an Italian meal. They are also used sometimes to make Manicotti instead of pasta tubes.

I like the recipe in Mario Batali’s first cookbook “Simple Italian Food: Recipe from My Two Villages“. The batter cannot be any simpler, nothing more than flour, milk and eggs. No butter. No Oil. No seasoning besides a pinch of salt. Cooking the crespelle takes a bit of practice, but once you convince yourself that they DO NOT need to be perfect circles, they get much easier. After they are filled, folded and baked, their perfect shape does not matter.

Batali fills his with a mixture of goat cheese and sautéed radicchio. I had no radicchio and I made my own ricotta the day before. So, I filled mine with ricotta, sautéed mushrooms, onions, parsley and some bitter lettuce from the garden standing in for the bitterness of the radicchio. The filling is seasoned with balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Just like Mario instructs, I saved some of the filling and smeared it over the crespelle before baking them in a buttered baking dish until the edges got crispy.

Served it with chilli flakes, parmigiano reggiano and a glass of red wine

VDP: Four-Course Dinner

Friday, March 28, 2008

We had a friend visiting from out of town, and she is a vegetarian. What better excuse to make a multi course dinner with no meat? Here is the line up.

White bean and spring onion Soup with Green herb oil.

Sauteed a bunch of spring onions and added cooked white beans and their cooking liquid. When it was done I pureed it with my handheld blender. For the oil, I blanched the tops of the spring onions, basil and parsley. I then pureed the herbs with olive oil.

Steamed Asparagus with Parmigiano Reggiano.

Simply cooked and dressed with olive oil and lemon.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Roasted Peppers and Mushrooms.

These gnocchi are not the potato kind. Instead they are made from ricotta, flour and eggs. They are exceptionally light and work with all kinds of sauces, especially lighter ones like this one.

Almond Cake with Vanilla Honey Malt Ice cream

I actually forgot to take a picture of this one. The recipe for the cake is from Dorie Greenspan’s ‘Baking: From My Home to Yours‘ where she calls it something like Almond Visiting Cake or something. The ice cream is a recipe from Michel Richard’s ‘Happy in the Kitchen‘.