Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How Do You Like Your Meat?

Our focus this past week has been on methods of concentration cooking and in particular grilling. Sauteing, roasting and grilling are all considered methods of concentration cooking – searing the outside of the meat creates a crust that allows for flavorful juices to stay inside of what you are cooking. Meat caramelizes and browns between 300 to 500 degrees and this is called the Maillard Reaction.

When grilling indoors or out here are a few rules to live by:
- Make sure the grill is clean of debris; use a wire brush to clean the grill of any leftover bits.
- Always preheat the grill before you cook anything – make it very hot!
- Lightly oil the grill once it is hot, this can be done carefully with a cloth or you can lightly oil whatever you are cooking to prevent it from sticking.
- Never grill meat that comes right from the refrigerator. Meat that has been allowed to come to room temperature will cook faster and more evenly.
- Create a quadrillage (a/k/a grill marks) place the meat on the grill turned towards the right at a 30 degree angle, once the meat is seared, turn to the left at a 30 degree angle to get that “right out of the steak house” look. Repeat on other side.

There are many degrees of doneness and here are a few French terms in case you find yourself in a Paris steak house - which reminds me of a restaurant I dined at in Paris near the L’Arc de Triomphe. The restaurant only served steak frites and the only thing that changed nightly were the sauces that accompanied the steaks – it was a quintessential Parisienne experience. I can still savor the flavors! OK, enough dreaming back to the terms.

Bleu = very rare
Saignant = rare
À Point = medium
Bien Cuit = well done

Not going to Paris? Here’s the U.S. version:

Blue = barely cooked over medium heat (Our friend Scott likes it this way – we joke and tell the waiter to just hold a match under his steak and that should do it!)
Black n’ Blue = Sounds like a case of domestic abuse! The meat is charred on the outside over high heat and quite raw in the middle.
Pittsburgh = Charred and very rare
Rare = Meat is red inside, center is cool
Medium Rare = Meat is red on the inside, center is warm
Medium = Characterized by a pink, warm center
Medium Well = A little pink is left but losing color fast!
Well Done = Put a shoelace on it and strap it to your foot ‘cause it will be tougher than a leather shoe with no “meat” color.

We prepared Contre-Filet Grillé (Grilled steaks accompanied by a Choron Sauce). The Choron Sauce is a derivative of a Bearnaise with the addition of tomato fondue. This dish was our dinner and we made Pommes Darphin to serve with the steaks. Pommes Darphin is easy to make and once you make these you will make them again and again!

Pommes Darphin – take a couple of washed Idaho potatoes and peel them. Place the peeled potatoes in cold water. Once all the potatoes are peeled remove one from the water and slice in half lengthwise. Now, with a very sharp knife the goal here is to make thin julienne strips of potato that are thin enough to be flexible and not stiff. Once all your potatoes are julienned, do not rinse them. You need the starch in the potato to hold it together. Generously salt the mound of potatoes on your cutting board and mix together to release more moisture. Give the potatoes about 5 minutes to accomplish this task.

While that’s happening, get your sauté pan ready by heating it on the stove first before adding the vegetable oil. Now take a kitchen towel and place your potatoes in it to squeeze out any last bits of moisture – make sure your potatoes are nice and dry before sautéing. Film you sauté plan with some oil, give it a minute to glisten and get hot then add your julienne. Work quickly to even out the layer and form the sides into a neat circle now add a few pats of butter around the sides and some freshly ground pepper. Sauté until golden brown on the bottom and carefully flip over to brown the other side. Once your potatoes are done, drain on paper towels and let cool slightly hit with a little more salt while it is hot. Serve with sizzling steaks right off the grill or at breakfast with a boursin chive scramble. The potato cake can be cut into “triangle” size pieces and overlapped on the plate.

The grilling continues! We partially de-boned a chicken (only leaving the wings and the leg bones so we could grill a whole bird flat on the grill which was then finished in the oven brushed with a mixture of Dijon mustard and white wine then dusted with breadcrumbs.

On to grilled beef medallions and boneless chicken breasts pounded with a mallet to achieve a thin, flattened breast. We also made a Beurre Composée (compound butter) of butter, parsley, lemon juice, salt, & pepper. We shaped the compound butter into a log and wrapped it in plastic to chill. A slice of this cold butter placed on the hot-off-the-grill beef tournedos melted into every glorious bite!

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