Sunday, December 4, 2011

Buffalo surf and turf

My wife came upon a great deal at Safeway this week: $5 frozen lobster tails! Yeah sure, live lobster is better, but you can't argue with $5. Our friend also happened to be at the San Francisco Ferry Building and picked up a half pound of buffalo tenderloin. Having some free time today, I put them together for a classic surf and turf. A shot of rich lobster soup accompanied the meal.

Lobster and buffalo lend themselves wonderfully to sous vide cooking. The slow cooking gives the lean buffalo a wonderful texture without fear of turning it into leather. Also, butter poaching the lobster using a temperature controller really infuses the butter flavor into the lobster.

To get the timing right, I started with the buffalo tenderloin. When the buffalo was done cooking, I transferred the bag and the water to a separate container to keep warm while I made the lobster and soup.

For the lobster, I followed Thomas Keller's recipe of poaching the tails in beurre monté. Buerre monté is an emulsion of butter and water, whisked together below 180° F. It's very easy to make: just start with some water water at low heat, and slowly whisk in pieces of butter.

Keller's recipe calls for creating an entire bath of buerre monté and lowering the lobster tails directly into the bath. In order to save butter, I put the tails into a zip-lock bag and poured the buerre monté into the bag. I ended up using about 1 stick of butter for this. The nice thing is, when you're done, you can reuse the butter to flavor anything.

The soup was kind of an afterthought, but it turned out to be a nice complement to the dish. It was very rich and flavorful due to the lobster shells. I wish I had some celery or potato to add substance, but I worked with what was available in the kitchen at the time. Also, a nice variation could be to use white truffle oil instead of extra virgin olive oil to finish.

Buffalo tenderloin steak
Buffalo tenderloin
salt, pepper, to taste

1. Salt and pepper the tenderloin, vacuum pack.
2. Cook for 1 hour (or as needed) at 130°F.
3. Grill on high heat, about 1 min per side.

Butter poached lobster tails
Lobster tail meat

1. Make buerre monté by whisking small pieces of butter into warm water. Dilute with more water until you have a 75:25 mixture of butter to water.
2. Place lobster tails and burre monté into a zip-lock bag and seal.
3. Cook for 15 min at 139°F.

Lobster soup
Lobster shells
bay leaf
heavy cream
extra virgin olive oil

1. Saute lobster shells until they are red
2. Add onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaf. Add water until barely covered.
3. Simmer for one hour.
4. Reduce in half, add heavy cream.
5. Garnish with extra virgin olive oil and black pepper.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Blowtorch prime rib

I was inspired to post this because of my sister-in-law's recent posting on Facebook about her own prime rib. :) We hosted a dinner to raise money to send my wife to serve on board Mercy Ships. The fundraiser was a huge success and we are grateful for all who attended!

The main course was Thomas Keller's blowtorch prime rib. The recipe details can be found at the link, so I won't bother rehashing that. The key to the recipe is to torch the outside before you roast it, so that by the time it comes up to the correct temperature, it has a nice crust on the outside.

This is a dish I've made several times in the past, and I've found that it really lets the quality of the beef come through. My favorite type of beef to use is corn-fed, dry aged beef. You really get some nice complex flavors from the dry aging process, as well as the marbling from corn-fed beef. Just remember if you use dry-aged beef, you need to cut off the dry outer layers or else it will be tough.

For this particular dinner, we used a corn-fed, non-dry-aged prime cut of beef. You might say it was wet-aged for a week. The result was still delicious, although you don't get the complex aromas and flavors from the dry aging process.

The most fun part about doing this is using the blow torch! Don't bother using a "creme brulee" torch you get at fancy culinary stores. Go straight to your local home improvement store and get yourself a serious blowtorch at a cheaper price.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Fountain Coke vs Mexican bottled Coke

Everyone talks about how Mexican bottled Coke is so much better than regular Coke because it uses cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. Today at work, we put that to the test in a scientific experiment.

My coworker Sean and I were presented with two unlabeled paper cups of Coke--one of which was Mexican Coke, the other was regular Coke from the fountain machine. I noted that they smelled pretty much the same. Upon tasting, the cup on my left tasted more familiar to me, like the Coke gummi candies I used to eat as a kid. However, the cup on my right seemed to be more refreshing and fizzy. I preferred the one on my right.

It was revealed that both Sean and I preferred regular fountain Coke, which was a shock to both of us. The candy-like taste of the Mexican Coke could possibly be attributed to the cane sugar. Also, the appeal of the fountain Coke could possibly be attributed to the freshness and coldness of the carbonated water from the fountain rather than the actual flavor profile of the drink. What we learned from this is that the freshness of a drink has a bigger impact than any subtle difference in flavor between cane sugar and HFCS.

However, since our goal is to isolate the difference between just the sugar, we will try this test again on Monday while trying to minimize these other variables.