Rise


A nifty bit…
September 7, 2007, 2:43 pm
Filed under: Basics, Reference

Title

After talking about steak earlier today I remembered a great little trick I was once shown. When cooking steak to order, one of the hardest tasks has to be knowing what that damn fillet is currently sitting at! If I have 5 cuts sitting in front of me, all of different measures of “done-ness”, how do I tell which is which without actually cutting them open to check? (one hell of a no-no by the way)

Well here’s the simplest and quite possibly best method i’ve come across to date. Of course there are plenty of expensive gadgets and implements to help you out, but i’m proud to say this technique uses the two best implements any cook owns: his hands!diagram

So here’s how its done: You see the picture in the title? Do that with your own hand. Now feel that plump muscle at the bottom of your thumb (so nicely pointed out to the left) feels juicy doesn’t it? Well funnily enough, this is (roughly) the same feeling as you get from pressing down gently on a rare steak! Brilliance! But it gets better…

If you move along and touch your thumb to your second finger, you will now get the rough “press-touch” of a medium steak. The next finger, in turn, presents a well done steak (boo!) and if you press your little finger? that my friend is one dead steak!

Of course cooking times vary with different types of meat and cut, I generally apply this to a 250gm sirloin cut. But feel free to have a play, it’s a great little system that’s definitely saved my bacon more than once or twice!



A rare tradition
September 7, 2007, 1:39 am
Filed under: Opinion

Title

I was just going over some monthly reports the other day for the cafe when I noticed something interesting: 60% (approx.) of all steaks ordered are requested med-well to well done.

Why is this? Are we scared of a little blood? Has mad cow disease got us all in a paranoid tizzy? I’m dying to know (no pun intended) why we don’t seem to appreciate our meat products anymore.

Personally, I love a bloody steak, if you read my about section you’ll see that’s why I got into food in the first place! To me, a well done steak is just a dead piece of meat with all the flavor and life grilled out of it!

I’d like to quote a line from Bill Buford’s “heat” that i think captures my love affair with the bloodied steak perfectly:

It arrived, a steak 5 inches thick, sitting in a pool of blood. Dario started cutting it up with a pocket knife he carries with him and distributed slices around the table, until he grew impatient and tore off a chunk directly from the serving platter and speared it with his blade and ate it rapidly, re-enacting the evening’s earlier furious outsized chomping

Doesn’t that passage just stink of carnality? Just like a good bloody steak, it’s all about primal urges, blood lust and impatience.

There’s plenty more (comment below on your favorite reference to meat if you like) and it always seems to reference steak just the way I like it dripping with blood, barely touched by flame.

I’m not trying to change attitudes here but I might suggest one thing: next time you’re out to dinner and you decide to try the steak, try turning it down a notch if you usually go for well done, go for med-well (etc etc). You might just be surprised!



Basic recipes: Hollandaise
September 6, 2007, 11:55 pm
Filed under: Basics, Opinion, Recipes

Hollandaise header

Excuse the rant, but why do so many cooks find hollandaise so difficult? How many times have I sat down to a Sunday brunch in some new eatery to find some semi-transparent goo dribbling off of my eggs benedict? Well, the answer is too many! So now, I feel I must do my part in combating this perilous plague of horrendous hollis by presenting you with mine own way… The truth about hollandaise!

This recipe was initially shown to me by a wonderful cook I worked under many moons ago (it may even have been my first hospo. job!) and, to this very day, I still use this recipe with very little variation in my own cafe. Now you may say, “sacre bleu! hollandaise must be hand whisked over heat to be “proper” (oh poo poo!) well, my answer is: show me a cook who has time to use the traditional method, and I will show you a cook with too much time on his hands! No, my (by proxy) recipe uses that all time favourite kitchen implement: the stick blender!

HOLLANDAISE SAUCE

  • 5 egg yolks (organic eggs produce a thicker darker yolk which helps to avoid this catastrophe)
  • 1/2 a block (that’s stick for the Americans) of full fat butter (it’s hollandaise, not exactly prime dieting material!)
  • a pinch of salt
  • a pinch of pepper
  • 1 tsp. whole-grain mustard
  • 1 whole lemon (extracted lemon juice is an option, if you must)

So, pretty simple really. Start melting your butter (re: zap it) and whilst this is going on, place all your ingredients into a cylindrical container. Now, the shape of this container is all important, you need something that will keep all of the ingredients close together whilst blending, but it must also be wide enough to allow your stick blender to get all the way to the bottom. I find a medium sized milk jug seems to do the trick best. So, once your butter has become fully liquid, take your stick blender and start to blend the contents of your container, once combined, pour just a slight drop of the melted butter into your container whilst continuing to blend.

You should hear a slight gurgle as the contents combine, this is good, pour just a little bit more butter into the mix. When you hear this begin to gurgle you should start to pour the butter in in a small but steady dribble. Continue to increase the flow (slowly) until just before you have reached your desired consistency (somewhere around the consistency of p.v.a glue, not a nice thought) but it must be stressed, stop pouring before you reach the solids in the bottom of your butter container (that’s the little white bits of fat), if this goes into your mix; it’s all over!

So there we go, just a few notes though to finish off:

  1. Whole-grain mustard is not 100% necessary (I simply like the taste) and could be substituted for any other ingredient of choice (parsley is quite good, or maybe you could go the opposite route and add fresh garlic?).
  2. Make sure you use your hollis reasonably soon after making it, firstly, it will taste better but, you probably also want to avoid the possible food poisoning that can come with leaving raw eggs out in the open.
  3. Do not refrigerate your hollis! Its melted butter remember? You want it to stay melted.
  4. This is, most obviously, one of the least healthy components to food you could ever hope to come across so, no it doesn’t have the heart foundation tick and no it probably wont help that heart condition either.

As always: practice makes perfect so keep giving this a go until you get it right. At that point it’s just like riding a bike, it will stay with you for the rest of your life!

Till next time…



We start with bread…
September 3, 2007, 2:20 pm
Filed under: Basics, Recipes

Bread
Bread is life. Ever since man first toiled the mill stone (and probably much before that) he has combined wheat and water to create the staple meal; the corner stone of our very being. Bread tends to pop up everywhere; in religion (“give us today etc. etc.”) to modern colloquialisms (“to break bread”), from the the hardy crusted artisan loaves, to the delicate butter brioche: bread is all encompassing, a mass of swirling complexities all help together by one staple principle: flour + water = bread.

And so we start with bread…

A Basic Dinner Roll

  • 2cup flour (any kind, feel free to experiment!)
  • 1tsp active dry yeast
  • 1cup luke warm water
  • 1Tsp olive oil
  • a pinch of salt

Stir the yeast and water thoroughly until the water turns an opaque color of clay. Next add the flour gradually, making sure not to “overwhelm” your mixture. During this process throw in the salt and a dash of olive oil. You should continue to add flour until your mixture begins to “ball” and shows signs of resistance.

Now leave your mixture to sit. It’s recommended you leave it in a cool, dry environment, but anywhere reasonably warm should do the trick. Make sure you do not touch it for a good half hour…

Next, sprinkle a board with flour and turn your ball out onto it, work your ball around with the palms of your hand and continue to kneed more flour into the mix until your palms can no longer push through the dough and meet with a reasonable resistance. Now its time to do whatsoever you may please! Divide your mixture into 4 and sculpt and mold them to your hearts desire! Create! Trumpets, horns, rolls, and more! There are a million techniques and absolutely no rules, so enjoy!

Once you are satisfied with your creations, take an oven tray and smear it with the remaining olive oil, now place your rolls onto the tray and place in a hot oven (180 C will usually do the trick) and leave to cook for roughly 20-30 minutes.

You can tell your rolls are ready when you break one open and find the center soft and springy rather than doughy and limp. Now is the time to enjoy, don’t let your creations cool! Tear them open! Smear them with slabs of (full fat!) butter and devour them whole!

Bread is about life and so, should be enjoyed with zest and great vigor, consequences (including a burnt tongue) BE DAMNED!