Sunday, September 20, 2009

Were they kidding?

Top Chef Ranch Episode

The elimination challenge for last weeks' episode of Top Chef was cooking dinner for a bunch of ranch hands, outdoors in the middle of a ranch near Vegas.
"Wah wah wah," the contestants whined. "It's hot," "No kitchen!" they cried.
Then they boggled my mind as they whipped up a variety of crap never before heard of on a ranch. Ceviche? Fish? Grilled Romaine?? What the fuhhh?
There was no beef. Not a speck.
One cheftestant actually made a coconut flavored ceviche, with a room-temp coconut milk mojito on the side. EEUUWWWW!
You want to win a damn ranch hand challenge?
Okay, you grill a mess of bone-in ribeyes, some sweet corn still in the shuck, a pot of spicy borracho beans, and a cast iron skillet full of cornbread.
Jesus. How hard is that?
I've never worked on a ranch, but I have been on ranches and the last thing ranch hands want for dinner is a sliver of amberjack with sous-vide baby octopus sauce, on a bed of candied fennel bulbs with a parsnip souffle on the side.
Get real!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Boeuf Bourguignon: The Remake

After seeing "Julie & Julia," my friend Susan and I decided to get together and make Julia Childs's classic boeuf bourguignon.
We looked at the recipe and decided it took way too much time and trouble, so I told her I'd retool the basic recipe and go from there.
Turned out the retool took just as long, but that's another story for another day.

For now, I'll talk about making the red wine reduction. Once that's done, I'll tell you in another blog entry about the rest of the recipe.
1 bottle drinkable red wine
1 cup beef stock
1 stick unsalted butter

While peeling, chopping and slicing the basic mise en place for the stew, we started to create the reduction.
I used a decent Cabernet Sauvignon, and started like this:

Using a heavy saucepan, just haul off and pour in the whole bottle. Set the flame on high to medium high and don't put a lid on it--you don' want condensation, you want evaporation. As the wine starts to simmer/boil, a fine red vapor will spray all over the place. Just ignore it; it's easy to wipe off later.
After maybe a half hour, the volume will reduce by about 50 percent. Don't try to taste it, it's awful at this stage.
Here's what it should look like after a half hour:

Once you get it boiled down to about a quarter of a cup, add one cup of organic beef stock, adjust the flame to a fierce simmer and reduce that mixture to about half a cup.

Once that's done, add the butter in small chunks and, over low heat, whisk until thoroughly blended in. The reduction should be satin-like and glossy. Add salt and pepper. Taste if you want, but it's way too rich to taste any good.
Set it to the side and prepare to make the rest of the dish. The hardest part is over. be continued.