Monday, May 11, 2009
But this is a good rethinking...
I'm currently reading "The Soul Of A Chef" by Michael Ruhlman, and must admit, it's a fascinating book. I'm only about halfway through it so far, but there's a section where Brian Polcyn is working through one of his CMC tests (that's 10 days of non-stop cooking), and Brian is explaining to his assistant how he intends to reuse ingredients through each course, doing it in such a way that you don't really realize he's doing it.
For whatever reason, that's been on my mind a lot the last few days. I'm guilty of overcooking, as I'm sure most of us are. I just can't seem to scale it down. I make Gumbo, I make enough to feed the Louisiana National Guard. I make Chicken Noodle Soup, I make enough to feed every dearhearted Grandma in town... I just don't know how to scale back.
Point in case... this weekend I made French Onion Soup (see earlier post). I ate a really good sized bowl, and put the rest in the fridge for later consumption.
Tonight, the menu was Ribeyes and baked spuds, with a side salad. I'm not a fan at all of bottled steak sauces, however I do realize that a well done sauce can make a meal 100% better. Usually, I try to whip up some reduced stock (chicken and beef to make a mock veal), add some chopped mushrooms and call it a sauce. But tonight... I got surprised. Mainly because I used all my ready at hand beef stock to make the blasted soup. So here I was with Ribeyes seasoned up and nothing to dress 'em up with.
Not to be deterred, I started nosing around the fridge, looking for something I could use... and lo and behold... I spy with my little eye the container of onion soup. For about 1/2 a second, my mind mentally ran down the list of ingredients in the soup and made a crash (I actually heard it) determination that this could work... Unlike the Bill Cosby 'Chocolate Cake For Breakfast" bit, these ingredients would actually work for me...
So... I blended up about a cup and a half of the soup and slid it into a warm saute pan to come up to temp.
While the steaks were cooking, I added about 1/3 cup of cream and a 1/2 tsp of butter to the sauce and whisked it in. About this time, the steaks were pulled and set under foil to rest for a few minutes.
Then I jacked up the heat under the sauce to medium/high and quickly thickened it up, stopping when it was actually thicker than I really wanted.
I had a plan.
Dropping the burner to low low, I tended to the plating of the steaks, spuds and salads. As the steaks came off the platter, I had about 1/4 cup of luscious, savory steak juice just sitting there...
Enter My Plan...
I drained all that liquid steak love into my sauce, and whisked it in to incorporate. The consistency thinned out just right, to a near nappe consistency. Drained the pan into a gravy bowl, and headed for the table.
How was it? (you notice I almost always ask this? I'm nothing if not consistent...)
The onion flavor accentuated the steak so well. And the sweetness from the caramelized onions offered up such an interesting counterpoint to the savory of the steak that it's kind of hard to describe. Just know that it was probably one of the best steak sauces I've ever had, let alone made. The addition of the cream gave it just the right amount of creaminess (duh) and richness to go along with the already richly marbled ribeye.
Truth be told, it made for a mighty rich sauce... almost too rich for this cut of beef... but I bet it would be downright poetic on a filet mignon, where you don't really have any fat in the meat to begin with.
So what's the point? Just that every now and then, something happens to make you pause and rethink, or maybe just pause and think. To take a different direction to get to the same endpoint. Whatever you want to call it, I liked this sauce enough that I felt like sharing...
And as Martha says.... "That's a good thing..."
Sunday, May 10, 2009
So far this year, I've knocked out the following:
- Chile Verde
- Chile Roja
- Tonnato Sauce
- Italian Sausage (well, sausages in general)
That's about 1 a month, so I'm more or less on track.
For May I tackled French Onion Soup.
Last week my bud and I had lunch at someplace that makes you think of Apples and Bees, but I'm not naming names or nothin'... I wasn't just really hungry, so I opted for a half Caeser Salad and French Onion Soup.
The salad was... well, unmemorable.
The soup was... well, passable. The stock was pretty nice, but a little too salty. But that got me to thinking that this was one of those dishes on my hit list... So when Saturday rolled around, and I had a little time on my hands, I jumped in with both barrels.
Basic recipe was:
- 3 pounds sliced onions
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups beef stock
- 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- Bread slices
- Cheese of choice, just not Cheddar or something like that. I used a shredded mix of Parm and Moz.
Sliced the onions... jeez, it looked like a TON of onions. Big saucepan on medium heat to melt the butter. I added a shot of extra virgin olive oil, just to temper the butter a bit.
Toss in the onions and garlic. Add a pinch of salt, but no more than that. If you use canned stock, they have enough salt.
Sweat/reduce the onions for a WHILE.... how long? A long time. Keep in mind, the brown-ness of the onions is what gives this soup it's characteristic color and sweetness. As long as you don't burn 'em, the slow caramelization of the onions is what gives you the sweetness. This is like smokin' meat... low and slow does the trick.
I actually split the stock into 1/2 cups, and deglazed the pan about 3 times before adding the rest of the stock and wine for the final push.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Recently, I finally got around to taking a stab at homemade sausage. What took so long was the fact that none of the meat markets in my immediate vicinity sell fatback or even pork fat over the counter, or even to the weird dude that walks up to the counter and asks for it.
So... I had to wait until I was ready for another round of bacon (which is worth a post all it's own... the best I've done to date BY FAR). As it happens, the fellow I buy my pork bellies from had no problem selling pork fat. In fact, he had no problem giving it away. So along with 25 pounds of pork belly, I came home with 10 pounds of nice, clean, lily white pork fat to do with as I pleased.
And what pleased me was sausage. So I cubed up the fat, weighed it into 1.5 pound packages, and vacuum sealed it and chucked it into the freezer. Some of it got left out and went into Italian Sausage and Chicken, Basil and Tomato Sausage (both recipes from Charcuterie, and I HIGHLY recommend both). Only problem was the piece of crap sausage stuffer attachment for my KA mixer. I should've known that for $7.95 it would be a piece of crap, but I was banking on that KA reputation.
Won't make that mistake again.
To cut to the chase on THAT exercise, it was a disaster. I managed to get about 9 pounds of sausage made (5 ital and 4 chicken), but it took me HOURS to get it into the casings. And it was incredibly frustrating. So if you're thinking about getting one of those KA sausage stuffer attachments for your KA meat grinder... stop... just stop... turn away...
So now I had to get a new tool to stuff with. (If you grinned when you read that, you're a perve...).... so I did some looking. Found the really nice 5# model at Northern Industrial, but it was backordered over 30 days, and I'm not a patient sort. So I looked and found a really nice one on Amazon. Cost a sight more than $7.95. but it also stuffed like a dream.
So, yesterday morning I started in... had two 6+ pound pork butts all ready for some lovin' attention by means of cuttin' and cubin'.
I decided to make a couple of variations, so I started with Boudain, using a recipe from Emeril Lagasse. I figured odds were it'd be at least edible, right? So I got the pork and veggies to simmerin on the stove, where they had to do their thing for a least a couple of hours.
Oh... and a sore back from standing at the counter for about 5 hours... but it was all worth it... trust me.