Plate Me, Eat Me

Ribeye and Caprese Salad
Ribeye and Caprese Salad

I don’t think I can mention enough how much I enjoy eating a good steak. If I had one culinary skill that I could master it would be that of cooking the perfect steak. I’m sure I’ve said this before and I’ll probably say it again. At the beginning of the year, when I set out on my odyssey, I was tired of cooking all protein meals with no sides. these just weren’t that appetizing although probably perfect for anyone on the Atkins diet. I knew I had to learn more about creating the complete meal and this seams to be one of my biggest sticking points.

A side effect of working with many ingredients and a key benefit is the addition of color to the plate. More ingredients make the food more fun and appetizing. For tonight’s dinner I opted for making a simple addition to my meal, a Caprese Salad. It didn’t take much effort and added a nice balance to my steak, which instead of plating whole, I sliced after letting it rest.

While the meal overall was quite good, it was immediately obvious that something was off. I took pictures of my meal and realized my errors after the fact.

I first realized that I need new plates. There’s a reason that restaurants mainly serve their meals on white plates. See through glass just doesn’t do it. While food may not be art, a meal needs a better canvas to rest on.

Secondly, my plating was a bit messy. I have seen chefs use towels to clean their errors before serving. I should have done that as well.

I also realized that my proportions just seemed off. While I was able to add some tasty components and new dimensions to my meal, they weren’t combined in a way that really made them stand out alone and yet together at the same time. The tomatoes and mozzarella just seemed to lay on the plate as an added extra instead of part of the steak.

Plating is the lost chapter in every cookbook that I have come across which is a shame because it is useful knowledge for just about any meal whether a casual one with family, or a gourmet meal at a fine dining establishment. I know I need a lot more practice and hope my skill improves greatly over time.

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Celebration

My cousin Gladys just graduated from college today, on Mother’s day. If there is one thing unique to humans, is that celebrations often follow major life events and achievements or are held to honor those special people in your life. These celebrations often include the sharing of food either at a home or at a restaurant. Accompanied by family and close friends my cousin celebrated her graduation while our mother’s celebrated Mother’s day. They chose Davio’s, a northern Italian steakhouse in Boston and one started by a graduate of the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, the school I took my Back to Basics intro class at and where I am considering enrolling in for more formal study.

A great thing about eating at a restaurant is taking note of how the Chef’s creations are put together on a plate to be eaten.  Food presentation has a lot to do with the overall experience of eating and I was able to take a few pictures of some interesting dishes that I enjoyed.

My Dinner:

Roasted Tomato Soup
Roasted Tomato Soup
Flank Steak
Flank Steak

Sampled Delicious Meals:

Foie Gras
Foie Gras
Pan Seared Scallops
Pan Seared Scallops
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Plating Practice With Pan Seared Steak Diablo

I didn’t have cooking class this week because of the holiday weekend and it’s funny because I actually miss it. We have our final class next week on Friday as usual and I’m looking forward to it. Without class, I still wanted to practice what I had learned so I decided to look through my cupboards and pantry to see what I had that I could make for dinner. Last night I placed some steak that I had bought in a marinade of medium salsa for a Steak Diablo. In the cupboards I found a can of refried beans that I decided to heat up to accompany the Steak.

I started by pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees as well as two pans onthe stove. I placed some olive oil in one pan heated up the refried beans, adding cumin powder, black pepper, chili powder and kosher salt. Once warm, the heat was turned down to low to keep them warm.

Seasoned Refried Beans
Seasoned Refried Beans

The steak was next. On the hot pan I added a bit of olive oil for lubrication and then placed the strips down for five minutes on the presentation side to get a good sear.

Steak Diablo Searing
Steak Diablo Searing

I then turned the strips over with my tongs to sear for another five minutes. The steaks were then placed in the oven for five minutes and pulled out and checked. They weren’t done so I put them back in for another five minutes to finish off. When they were pulled out the second time they were perfect so I let them rest for a few minutes before cutting and plating.

Pan Seared Steak Diable
Pan Seared Steak Diable

During our last class we went over basic plating concepts which I wanted to bring into my dinner so I sliced the meat and placed it on my plate. I then added the refried beans to the plate with some tortilla chips for dipping. A rather odd combination I know, but it’s grocery shopping time and one must make due with what they have. I added some of the medium salsa to the beans and steak along with some sour cream for the beans as well. It wasn’t beautiful, but better than just throwing it down on the plate I suppose.

Plated Pan Seared Steak Diablo
Plated Pan Seared Steak Diablo

The end result was actually pretty decent. I much prefer my steak finished off in the oven. It cooks a bit faster, I’m sure due to both conduction and radiant heat. The marinating also produces more flavor and body making the dish a lot more appealing.

Pan Seared Steak Diablo with Side of Refried Beans
Pan Seared Steak Diablo with Side of Refried Beans
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