Archive for the ‘Boulud’ Category

Day 4 – Valentine’s

February 14, 2007

February 14th, 2007 – Grilled Rib eyes with mushroom sauce, roasted beets a la Jean Georges Vongerichten and the best potatoes I have ever eaten (aka Nigel Slater’s pancetta and duck fat potatoes).

When I was down at the market yesterday, I set out to get some of K’s favourite foods.

She loves mushrooms so I picked up some fresh hedgehogs and an assortment of rather standard funghi (criminis, shitakes, etc.). She also loves beets, so I grabbed some golden beets just to shake things up a little (in hindsight, red would have been the way to go for Valentine’s, but gold will have to do).

I was going to grill veal chops for the main, but the butcher (who also sold me 17 pounds of brisket) talked me into buying rib eyes instead.  Upon seeing the steaks last night, K commented that old-school butchers may be one of the last bastions of sexism going. The steak the butcher designated for me has to be two inches thick and is easily half a kilo, if not more. It’s the type of thing dietitians hold up as a proper protein portion for a family of six or as a warning in a heart disease PSA.

The steak, “for the lady” as the butcher so kindly put it, looks like a minute steak by comparison. It’s probably 8 ounces, if not more, which is two proper servings. But next to the brontosaurus cut, it looks positively tiny.

Tonight’s menu is going to be busy at the front and back end, without about 45 minutes in between to drink a Kir Royale, play with the kids and queue up some nice music on the dining room iPod.

The oven gets set to 400F…

Ideally I’d use fingerling potatoes here, but I couldn’t find any at the market. Good old baking poatoes get scrubbed, cut into rough chunks and go for a cold water soak.

The pancetta gets cubed and two onions get quartered into wedges the size of your thumb.

The Beets get a spanking of cold water and are wrapped, individually, with tin foil.

The mushrooms get brushed clean and a rough chop and a shallot gets a fine dice.

The steaks get a whack of salt and rest on the counter.

This takes maybe 10 minutes…

Cooking Part I
The beets in foil get tossed into the 400F oven. They’ll need to roast for about an hour (this is the easiest and best method I have ever encountered for cooking beets. I originally found it in Jean Georges Vongerichten’s Cooking at Home with a Four Star Chef, which was written by Mark Bittman. Not surprisingly, the same recipe can be found in Bittman’s great book How to Cook Everything).

The pancetta and onion sweat it out in a skillet over medium-low heat. After three to five minutes, the potatoes hit the pan along with some fresh thyme and get tossed about. A dollop of duck fat (rendered and passed through a coffee filter on Sunday when I prepped the duck for the cassoulet) goes into the pan, once it’s melted the whole skillet goes into the oven next to the beets.

These potatoes, from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries, are supposed to roast under a cooking duck. The fat coming off the duck bastes the potatoes producing what might be the best potatoes I have ever consumed. Seriously.  Pancetta, thyme, onion, and duck fat – you could cook a shoe in that combination and I’d likely eat at least half of it. (The potato recipe can be found here – it’s about half-way down the page.)

The gas grill gets cleared of snow and lit leaving it plenty of time to warm up and it’s time for that Kir Royale and to catch up with K and the kids and exchange some Valentine’s day gifts.

Cooking Part II:
The beets have been in the oven about 40 minutes, the potatoes about 30 and it’s time to get cooking again.

The monster rib eye goes onto the grill and cooks for four minutes before being turned 90 degrees to cook for another four minutes (gotta have the beautiful cross-hatch grill marks – it’s Valentine’s day and presentation matters).

Some butter gets warmed up in a pan, as it foams in goes a finely chopped shallot, followed shortly thereafter by the chopped mushrooms and some kosher salt – let the mushrooms exude their moisture and soak it all back up.

The monster rib-eye gets flipped and the l’il Miss rib eye goes onto the grill.

Some red wine and stock are added to the mushrooms and the heat goes up to help reduce it to a thicker sauce.

The rib eyes come in off the grill and rest. The beets go from the hot oven to a sink of cold running water – the cold water protects your fingers and encourages the skin of the beets to slide right off.

Out come the potatoes and it’s time to plate.

A little butter goes into the mushroom sauce to give it a bit of a thicken, a great shine, and supposedly to clog all of our arteries. 

Some cherry tomatoes go on the kids’ plates along with some julienned carrots and dinner is ready.

Total work time for this stage is maybe 15 minutes.

I’m not much of a baker (that’s K’s domain) but this is a fantastically easy dessert that I have used to trick many dinner guests into thinking I can actually bake.

It’s originally from Elle Decor magazine and I made it for New Year’s some time ago. It’s so simple and delicious that it’s become part of my repertoire.

1. In a double-boiler, melt 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate
2. Add 4 tablespoons of butter to the chocolate and let it melt. Then turn off the heat
3. In a stand-mixer, slowly beat five egg whites; as they foam, slowly add three tablespoons of sugar until you stiff peaks form
4. Once butter and chocolate have melted, add three egg yolks, one at a time (the mixture shouldn’t be hot or you’ll scramble the eggs)
5. Mix the beaten egg whites into chocolate-butter-egg mix. The original recipe says, “don’t be timid, this isn’t a souffle.”
6. Pour the mixture into 8 ring molds (or small ramekins) and top each pile of batter with some chocolate pastilles
7. Bake for 6 or 7 minutes (until the pastilles have started to melt and the cakes aren’t too wobbly)
8. Gently un-mold the cakes and serve.

The Verdict
My daughter claims to only like take-out Greek potatoes from the Danforth, but she manages to eat a few of Slater’s best. 

The boy prefers the golden beats to all esle, quite the feat for a kid who’s usually a carnivore above all else.

The kids don’t dig the mushroom sauce, but eat up all of their steak.

K. loves the steak and mushroom sauce, the golden beets are a nice change and the potatoes are always a huge hit.

A fancy dinner in about an hour and 10 minutes (not including dessert). Of that time, about 25 was prep and cook and 45 was drinking a Kir with the fam. 

I completely buggered the dessert. It was nearly unedible. I mistakenly used unsweetened chocolate instead of bittersweet chocolate. The two of us grimaced through the rather bitter and dry dessert, piling on the ice cream and letting it melt into the cake to make it a little more platable.

The Wines
2003 Antech Blanquette de Limoux Grand Reserve – very citric, it was a great base for the Kir Royales.

2002 Two Hands Lily’s Garden Shiraz – We don’t drink much Australian wine and this was a reminder as to why. Completely over the top and hedonistic, this struck me as being rather out of balance, dominated by glycerin and a chemical finish. It smelled like a million bucks, but lost out to the 15% alcohol.