Marital Conflict (Rare, Raw, Unspeakable)

February 27th, 2016 § 5 comments § permalink

HG is decidedly French in food tastes. Loves innards and long simmered, wine soaked stews of fowl or beef. A caveat: HG does not share the French love of savoring Ortolans (swallowed whole) or devouring execrable chitterling sausages encased in the lining of a pig’s rectum. HG is very French in loving steaks cooked blood rare–seared on the exterior with a bright red (only slightly warm) interior. (Italians also like steaks cooked this way. Witness blood rare Bistecca Fiorentina that is served with cannelloni beans, olive oil and lemon). HG also favors tuna grilled with a raw interior and salmon with a rare interior. These enthusiasms have caused marital conflict with BSK. Such conflict is rare since BSK is a wondrous home cook, dazzling HG and friends with an array of international dishes. However, BSK’s Anglican ancestry takes over when grilling steak or fish — she prefers them cooked a bit more than HG would like and HG often murmurs a soft, diplomatic complaint (BSK thinks HG’s complaint is loud, overbearing and nasty). Thus, marital discord. To bring the marital sail back to calm seas, HG will now grill HG’s own steaks and fish. HG’s mantra is “It keeps cooking.” That is, bloody steaks and barely cooked fish, continue to cook when removed from the grill and allowed to rest a bit on the table before eating — this process also allows juices to re-circulate throughout the cooked flesh. Surprisingly, BSK pan broils the best hamburgers and pork chops HG has ever tasted. Crusty exteriors, Juicy, pink interiors. Tonight, BSK will be cooking Kefte, cigar-shaped Middle Eastern lamburgers. Crusty exteriors. Juicy, pink interiors. Go figure.

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The Perfect Meal?

October 17th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

HG uses a question mark in describing last night’s meal as “The Perfect Meal.” That’s because perfection is something we can strive for but can’t really achieve. But, last night’s dinner came mighty close. The elements were all there. Dinner companion: Beloved BSK. Atmosphere: Fire crackling in the fireplace on the first chill night of New Mexico autumn. Light: Candles and last rays of flickering sun. Sound: Bill Evans. And, the food. HG/BSK nibbled Shishito peppers and drank chilled Pinot Grigio. BSK dusted the bottom of a favorite cast iron pan with kosher salt and pan broiled a thick nicely marbled rib steak. BSK’s method is to keep turning the steak every 40 seconds over medium high heat. The result is a steak which has a crusty (but not charcoaled exterior) and a lush, red and juicy, rare interior. BSK sautéed Chantarelle mushrooms in butter to a silky consistency. A big salad of assorted greens with a dressing that combined oil, vinegar, a bit of Dijon mustard and a plentiful amount of ripe Gorgonzola. Drank an abundance of Chilean and Australian red wines. Robust and full of fruit. Finished the last glasses with New Mexican Biscochitos (traditional anise and cinnamon cookies). Perfect ? Don’t know. But, close.

platonic-world

Dislikes (and Likes)

January 27th, 2015 § 3 comments § permalink

Cuisine experts agree: Fat is flavor. While observing some degree of intelligent restraint, HG enjoys animal fat. Well marbled steaks. Juicy hamburgers made with good ground chuck. Crisp chicken skin. Pork bellies. Bacon. The heavenly Italian lardo. Pork chops (from chubby, non-athletic organic pigs, not the current crop of genetically engineered porkless pigs). This doesn’t mean HG loves all rich foods. Hates cream soups. Creative BSK makes any number of green, pureed soups that are rich in flavor but contain no cream. HG was never a fan of many old fashioned dishes (thankfully banished from most restaurant menus) that relied upon gobs of cream and butter. Lobster Thermidor used to be a dish that symbolized regal living. Excellent Maine lobster was overwhelmed by bechamel sauce, butter, cream, cheese, mustard powder, garlic, shallots, etc. The lovely sea quality of lobster vanished. Chicken met a similar sad fate in the form of chicken a la king, chicken tetrazzini, chicken in champagne sauce. Vile. There was another “luxury” dish HG never understood: Beef Wellington. This is filet mignon layered with pureed mushrooms, mustard and (sometimes) prosciutto, enclosed in puff pastry, and roasted. A pride of the English holiday table. Not a fave of HG. Filet mignon is a tasteless cut of meat and covering it in pastry, etc., creates an elaborate dish without doing much for the meat. HG is not fond of extra lean meats like beef tenderloin and pork tenderloin. Flavorless. For a quick snack, HG does an italian thing: Rubs a thick slice of good, toasted bread with a raw garlic clove. Gives it a hit of extra virgin olive oil. Better than slathering bread with anything cheesy or creamy. And, healthier.

Lardo-di-Colonnata

HG Told You So!

May 17th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Some time ago HG advised HG’s faithful followers that the only way to cook steak is the smoky, satisfying cast-iron-on-a-stovetop method. This involves heating a cast iron pan to the ultimate, sprinkling it with kosher salt and adding a well dried New York strip (or rib) steak and giving it a robust, crusty sear on both sides before turning down the heat. Well, in the New York Times Dining section today, Julia Moskin reiterates this advice (and illustrates it with a nice video). Moskin advises that after it is seared, the steak should be turned every 30 seconds. Crushed pepper should be added, she says, just before the steak nears readiness as pepper burns easily. Some HG counsel: If you like rare steak (anything else is a waste of good meat), take it off the heat while it is still very red in the interior. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing to let the meat’s juices re-circulate. During the “resting period,” it will continue cooking to the right saignant (as the French put it) point. The eccentric French (lovers of Jerry Lewis) like their steak “bleu”, not “saignant.” “Bleu” is raw beef with a modest sear. Enhance your steak with a pat of butter or top it the Tuscan way with a splash of fruity olive oil and crushed garlic. Pass that bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon down here, please.

recipelab-steak-videoSixteenByNine1050

Secret of A Good Paris Steak: Imported Meat

March 25th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

When HG wanted to get some vigorous jaw exercise in Paris, HG ordered a bavette (flank steak) or an onglet (hangar or butcher steak). Tough? These were broiled baseball mitts. Well, it seems times are changing and the outlook is rosy (or bleu or saignant) for the Paris steak eater. The French, supremely nationalistic about their cuisine, are finally making an admission: French beef can be admirable when long cooked as pot au feu or boeuf bourgignon. But, served as steak French beef is usually tough and tasteless when compared to imports from Germany, Scotland, Argentina and the United States. That’s why more than 20% of meat presently served in French restaurants is imported. And, that number is rising. Good Paris steakhouses like Le Severo and Au Boeuf Couronne now depend on imports. You can get a nice steak at those places (Severo’s frites are exemplary and Boeuf Couronne serves hard-to-find pommes souflee). But, if you want really great steak nothing beats a traditional New York eatery like Spark’s and Keen’s Chop House (yes, Peter Luger’s is good but a tad overrated). HG believes New York’s restaurateurs reserve the best cuts in the world for themselves.

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Tasty Tagliata

April 30th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK’s Colorado buddies, Mike R. and Trish L., have left snow packed Crested Butte for a visit to sunny (parched) New Mexico. So, What’s for dinner? HG/BSK decided upon robust food for this robust couple (they ski, ride horses, hunt and probably wrestle bears). A tagliata, steak prepared the Italian way. A thick (one and a half inches) rib steak was marinated for a few hours in some olive oil after being covered in crushed pepper corns, sliced garlic and sprigs of rosemary. The oven was revved up to 450 degrees. A big, black, well used cast iron pan got a light layer of coarse sea salt and was popped into the oven to heat for some 35 minutes (wanted to give the steak a good seared black/brown crust). Steak went into the hot pan and back in the oven for six minutes and then turned for another four minutes of cooking. An important step is to let the meat rest for a good 8 minutes of so before slicing so as to let the natural juices settle. Result was rare and delicious (and, as a bonus, smokeless unlike stove top preparation.) BSK surrounded the sliced meat with arugula enlivened with lemon juice and shavings of parmesan. Served it with penne topped with sauteed oyster mushrooms. Happy carnivores drank lots ot pinot noir and barbera d’alba.

Tired Of French Food?

February 17th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, when HG is in Paris for a two week stay there are moments when HG becomes tired of French food (admittedly, it takes a lot of French food to make HG tired). Diving into other cuisines in Paris isn’t so simple. Obviously, Algerian, Tunisian and other Middle-Eastern food is commonplace and delicious. Reasonably priced Italian restaurants are awful: Pasta is overcooked. Risotto is gummy. The really good Italian places are astronomically expensive and, of course, totally lack the jolly, noisy ambiance of good Rome and New York Italian restaurants. Pizza? Fuhgeddabout it. One taste of Paris pizza and you know you’re not in New Jersey. Chinese food? There are some snob joints that are pricey and very ordinary. Good, simple Chinese eateries are in obscure neighborhoods and one has to shlep endlessly for a good meal. Vietnamese is another story however; cheap eateries can be found in abundance in Belleville, the 13th and in the outskirts and are lifesavers for students, backpackers, taxi and truck drivers. But, they don’t compare to the top flight Vietnamese restaurants in New York, California and — surprisingly — Denver. Paris is now in the midst of a hamburger craze. Better than Burger King but costly and just passable. Parisians tout Severo as a great steak house. It’s not. Not in the same class as Palm, Spark’s and other top New York steakeries (Must admit, however, the Severo’s steak tartare is world class and tops any in New York). HG’s Paris sources tout two unusual ethnic restaurants that will please foie-jaded palates. One is a very quirky, tiny Izakaya restaurant, a Japanese specialist in sake and tapas (plus a tasty sukiyaki). Run by a gentleman named Takamoto, it is Cave 27 located on Rue Lamarcq, Montmartre. Takamoto is a very versatile guy. Expert equestrian. A flamenco guitarist and singer. Flamenco artists often come in and perform. The other ethnic place is El Nopal, a few blocks from Canal St. Martin. Mexican, Tiny (two stools). Americans who have tried it say the tacos, burritos, quesadillas, salsas are the real deal. HG will pass on this one when in Paree. It seems ludicrous for a New Mexico guy to be eating a taco in the City of Light.

Smokeless Steak = Household Harmony

February 16th, 2013 § 3 comments § permalink

About once a month (okay, twice a month) HG likes a big, rare rib steak for dinner. Tuscasn style (like you get it in a good Florence trattoria). Blood rare. Good olive oil poured on at serving. Accompanied by Capellini beans that have had a nice hit of sauteed garlic. (Must discourage Dracula). This gets a frown from BSK. She doesn’t object to the cholesterol or calories. She objects to the inevitable smoky kitchen. That’s because HG sears the steak on a bed of kosher salt in a white-hot big, black cast iron pan. Only way to cook a steak, insists adamant HG. Now, there seems to be a cooking compromise that will please BSK. Melissa Clark, in the NY Times. suggests doing steak this way: Heat a cast iron pan until very hot. Turn on the broiler in the oven. Put the steak on pan and, with care and using pot holders, put the pan and steak under the broiler. Melissa suggests broiling a thick steak for about seven minutes. Bloody minded HG would cook it for less. Must try this method. Will sacrifice for household peace. Will report on how experiment turns out.

Big Meal on Wood

September 10th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Many foreign gourmands have commented, unfavorably, on the tremendous size of American restaurant portions. They infer that this contributes to the tremendous size of Americans. HG believes that a reliance on snacks and sugary drinks is a bigger contributor. But, HG does admit restaurant portions in the U.S.A. are too large. HG feels light, sprightly and well fed after a Paris lunch where the portions are small and the fat content is large. A U.S.A. lunch can give HG leaden feet and a heavy head. There is big and then there is really big and into that category falls a dish that used to be served in the fancier restaurants of HG’s youth. This was planked steak (usually served in a portion meant for two but could feed eight at a Paris bistro). Here’s how the dish was constructed: A very big steak was centered on a very big plank of wood (basically a cutting board). It was surrounded by every seasonal vegetable –spinach, broccoli, asparagus, beets, carrots, peas, zucchini. The steak got a big blast of buttery steak sauce and the vegetables glistened with additional butter. Piped around the entire border of the plank and creating a picturesque frame for the meat and vegetables were mashed potatoes mixed with abundant butter and heavy cream and then browned under the broiler for a brief moment. Planked steak was a very nice All-American dish that paid for the college education of the chidlren of cardiologists.

HG: Steak Patriot

April 29th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

HG rarely waves the flag, believing, to paraphrase Dr. Johnson, that patriotism is the last refuge of fools and knaves. However, when it comes to steak, HG is a red-blooded, Yankee Doodle boy. Nothing compares to American steak (prime,of course). HG never had a good steak in Paris. Much lauded steak frites in a Paris bistro would get thumbs down from discerning New Yorkers (men and women who learned to eat steak on Steak Row and at Peter Luger’s). Alec Lobrano, the most informed and fair minded of Paris food writers, likes the steak at Le Severo in that city. HG and BSK sampled the steak there and found it only passable. However, steak tartare at Severo and at Le Stella and many other Paris eateries is exemplary. German restaurants in New York prepared great steak tartare in years gone by (Luchow’s covered its steak tartare with a generous layer of black beluga caviar). The great raw beef dish disappeared along with New York’s most fabled German restaurants.

If you rent an apartment in Paris, visit the Hugo Desnoyer butcher shop in the 14th and buy a rump steak (Lobrano’s suggestion) and grill it at home. And, if you’re renting a New York apartment, pick up a New York strip at Lobel’s on Madison Avenue. One pound strip: $47.98. (Hey, you only live once).