I recently happened upon a blog post about making Bordelaise sauce on the Food Wishes blog. I love making steak, but sometimes too much of a good thing can start to be a problem. I tend to season my steak with salt and pepper so as to not overwhelm it with a foreign flavor. I’ve always been suspicious of sauces and what they may be hiding. I truly enjoy the flavor of the meat, especially the subtle flavor of the meat I get from the CSA I am a member of. Chef John of Food Wishes had the perfect answer in Bordelaise sauce. Making a simple and light sauce such as Bordelaise was an easy way to add depth to the flavor of the meat while still being true to it.
Making the sauce was fun and easy. Not having beef stock on hand, I used store bought beef broth. Cringe, I know. To add further insult to injury to French cooking tradition, I also used some open Chianti as a wine instead of a traditional French wine. While going through the prescribed steps was not hard to do, an all important question did come to mind. How do you know when you have it right? and as I previously wrote, even if it is right, does it matter?
An interesting problem with following recipes or with taking inspiration from food blogs is that you don’t have a real live example to compare to, nor do you have the experience of someone who has come before you to guide you through your food preparation. While this is an interesting “gotcha”, the idea is that you are cooking for yourself or others; this enforces the notion of cooking through method and not relying on recipes. Once you have the basics down you are free to cook and experiment however you wish.
Dinner tonight was different, but not too different. Life keeps getting tastier each and every day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Friday’s cooking class was so much fun. The focus was on grilling, sautéing and roasting, all of which result in truly delicious food. I came to class stuffed from my company’s international buffet day wondering if I could even eat another bite. I would soon learn that this would not be a problem. Everything turned out great.
I arrived to find that we were in yet another kitchen; we had officially used every kitchen in the school. This was the only one with a proper grill though so it made sense that we would use it. I signed in, grabbed the recipe handout and sat down ready to read through the recipes and listen to the brief lecture regarding the methods. Once most of us had arrived, we went through the recipes and picked the ones we wanted to work on. We were given many great options including: A Warm Salad of Fruits, Endives, and Pancetta, Honey Spiced Pork Roast, Diablo Skirt Steak, Indian Flavored Grilled Vegetables with Paneer, Quinoa with Sauteéd Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms, Grilled Swordfish Verde, and Grilled Cranberry-Orange Zinfandel Bread. I teamed up with my classmate Anthony with whom I had worked on making the French onion soup to make the Diablo Skirt Steak this week. I love steak and with summer coming up, the recipe was too good to pass up..
While trying to get our bearings in the new kitchen, Anthony and I started off with searching for our ingredients along with tasting some canned salsa that was set out for the recipe we would be making. The recipe called to use half of the salsa as a marinade for our skirt steak and the other half to put on top after the steak was grilled. We decided to use the salsa as the marinade and then to make our own salsa as outlined in the recipe using fresh ingredients. This proved to be a wise choice, given the color, texture and taste of our salsa. We bagged our steak and set it aside to marinate before moving forward.
We made our salsa pretty quickly using rubber gloves to seed and dice the jalepeños. It was strange to use gloves, but I was happy I did given the heat of the peppers I was cutting. Finishing this task early put us in an interesting position as we had to wait at least 30 minutes for the marinating. We did not have a food task to work on, allowing us to observe others and converse. It just so happened that others were nearing a good stopping point just after we did, allowing Chef Angie to provide us with a demonstration and a special surprise. She would show us how to prepare a new recipe for steak and lobster, a special treat she brought in for us.
I don’t know why I was surprised, but the lobsters were alive when she showed them to us, moving and squirming around. The immediate thought was about the lobsters going into a boiling pot of water to cook, but as it turns out she would show us another method for killing them and cooking them with the steak. She actually twisted them apart to our surprise and then put the tail and claws on a baking sheet to go in the oven for 6 minutes. This was another interesting reminder of how removed we are from the food that we eat and where it comes from.
The steak was also cooked in the oven, and then slit and stuffed with lobster and placed back in the oven until the meat was cooked through. The combination of grilled steak and lobster were to die for. I felt truly fortunate to have such a fun instructor who is always looking to show us something new and exciting.
After our steak had marinated for about an hour, we took it out of the bag an placed it on the grill for four minutes on each side just like the recipe called for.
The steak was then brought to a serving platter and checked for “doneness” with a thermometer, it read 109 degrees. Anthony asked Chef Angie to tell us what level the steak had been cooked to, to which she replied simply “raw”. After a good laugh, considering the obviousness of this given the blood pouring out of our meat, we placed the steak on a baking sheet and cooked it in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes. At this point it was cooked perfectly. We learned that most steaks in restaurants begin with searing on the stove but are actually finished in the oven to the appropriate level of cooking based on the order. The steak was sliced and then plated on a serving platter with the salsa. We were given a brief overview of plating, which dishes to use when serving for singles or family style and advice on how to plate a dish using elements of the recipe to add color and appeal. We garnished our dish with lime slices on the side.
The steak and the rest of the dishes were amazing, especially the bread which took on a totally new flavor once grilled over an open flame. It is truly amazing how fast the class is learning, coming together and gaining comfort in the kitchen after only five weeks.
Our final class is in two weeks due to the Easter and Passover holidays. We’ll go over sauces while refining the cooking techniques we have learned since the beginning. This will be a great way to end our class series leaving me and others more confident in the kitchen while also leaving us with a few great recipes under our belts and I’m really looking forward to it.