Archive for the ‘beef’Category

Compelling CARO marries Mendoza and Bordeaux

Bodegas Caro vineyard
In November, we wrote about the CARO Amancaya blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon as a bargain big red. (See this post.) On a cold and rainy March weekend, we decided it was time to dust off a bottle of that wine’s big brother. The 2013 CARO is a 50/50 blend of Malbec grown in Mendoza’s Lujan de Cayo district (above, courtesy of Bodegas CARO) and Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the adjoining Uco Valley. The CARO wines are a joint project between Nicolas Catena and the Barons de Rothschild. In this top wine of the collaboration, intense Argentine fruit meets Bordeaux-style winemaking to great effect. It retails for $50-$60.

CARO 2013 on our tableWe pondered what would pair well with such a voluptuous red and decided that grilled steak alone wasn’t up to the task. We like beef with Cabernet and blue cheese with Malbec. So we created a variant of boeuf en croute that uses an easy rough puff pastry with a potent Roquefort substituting for some of the butter. The result was even better than we expected.

CARO 2013 is still evolving in the bottle, and we found it changed markedly in the course of a meal. Intense initial aromas conjured blackberries and cassis with resinous overtones of the dry brush in the Andes foothills. The balance between Malbec rigor and Cabernet lushness was quite appealing. The acidity cut through the lusciousness of the pastry crust while the elegant, supple tannins brought out the meatiness of the filet mignon. The sweetness of the roasted tomatoes brought out the leather and tar of the wine’s Malbec component. As the meal progressed, Cabernet came more to the fore. The wine is ready to drink now, but we’d love to try it again with the same dish in a few years.

boeuf en croute with CARO

BOEUF EN CROUTE ROQUEFORT


We knew that we wanted to combine the intensity of a good Roquefort with the richness of puff pastry. Most versions of boeuf en croute that we found (or beef Wellington, for that matter) used frozen puff pastry. So we resorted to rough puff pastry, which is folded about a thousand times less than the real thing. Substituting bleu cheese for 20 percent of the butter provided just the right flavor without overwhelming the dish or messing up the texture.

Serves 2

For rough puff pastry


Ingredients

1 2/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick plus 5 tablespoons butter at room temperature but not soft
3 tablespoons Roquefort bleu cheese
1/3 cup cold water, more as needed

Directions

Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut butter and bleu cheese in small pieces and add to the bowl. Using pastry cutter or two knives, combine until texture of fine gravel. Pieces of butter and cheese should be visible.

Make a depression in center of mixture and add about 1/3 cup of cold water. Mix until a firm, rough dough forms, adding more water as needed. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate 20 minutes to rest.

On a lightly floured board or counter, knead dough gently and form into a smooth rectangle about 7 inches long on one dimension. Keeping edges straight, roll out dough to roughly 7 by 21 inches. Butter and cheese should create marbled effect.

Fold 1/3 of dough down from the top, then fold from the bottom to overlap. Turn 90 degrees and again roll out to three times its length. Fold as before. Cut into four equal pieces. Cover pieces in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 20 minutes until ready to roll out to encase beef.

For beef and mushrooms


Ingredients

two 6-ounce filets mignon
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, minced
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced then chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup sherry
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup minced parsley (about 6 sprigs, finely chopped)
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
2 clusters cocktail tomatoes (Campari tomatoes) on the vine

Directions

Season beef with salt and pepper. Heat a large cast iron skillet over high flame. Add olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter, then sear beef on all sides. Remove to a rack over a plate to catch juices. Let cool, wrap and refrigerate.

Make mushroom duxelles in same pan. Add remaining tablespoon butter to pan and cook shallot until translucent. Add mushrooms, thyme, tarragon and bay leaf. Cook until tender. Add sherry and turn up heat. Cook until liquid has evaporated.

While cooking, combine cornstarch and yogurt in a bowl, mixing well. As mushroom mixture loses excess moisture, add yogurt mixture and stir well. Reduce heat and cook slowly until thick and pasty. Stir in minced parsley and reserve.

boeuf en croute to accompany CARO just cooked

To assemble


Roll out a quarter of the pastry into a circle about 2 inches bigger than one filet. Roll out another quarter slightly larger. Spoon mushroom duxelles on smaller piece. Place filet on top. Paint the exposed edges with egg wash. Lay second piece over top and pinch at edges to seal. Place beef case on aluminum foil. Repeat with second filet. Refrigerate two beef cases until ready to cook.

About 1 hour before serving, set oven at 425°F and place a heavy baking sheet inside on middle rack.

Brush both pieces of pastry with egg wash and make two slits on top to let steam escape. After oven is preheated, carefully lift pastries onto the preheated baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce oven to 400°F and continue to bake 20 minutes for medium rare.

Remove from the oven and let stand about 10 minutes before serving on individual plates with quickly broiled tomato cluster.

boeuf en croute with CARO cut on plate

29

03 2017

Eat, drink, and be merry in New Orleans at the holidays

New Orleans is always ready for the holidays
As a New Englander, I always secretly pitied people who had to celebrate Christmas in a warm climate. But after one day in New Orleans, I realized the error of my ways. Even in December, potted trees and ferns flourish on wrought iron balconies and poinsettias and camellias bloom profusely. All it takes are a few red bows and some twinkling white lights to deck the city for the holidays.

With decorating out of the way, New Orleanians can spend more time at the table. Great food is a city birthright and I can’t think of another place where you can eat better—or at a more reasonable price—than New Orleans at Christmas.

Until the Civil War, Creole families enjoyed lavish feasts after Mass on Christmas Eve and again on New Year’s Eve. Today’s chefs have improved on that tradition. Now more than 50 restaurants—including many of the city’s best—offer four-course, fixed-price Reveillon menus throughout the holiday season. (See holiday.neworleansonline.com for a full list.) The term “Reveillon” refers to a late night meal. But today’s diners don’t have to wait until after midnight to feast. Moreover, they can choose between contemporary cooking or the city’s signature Creole cuisine, which blends French technique, African tradition, and Spanish spices. Reveillon menus are almost evenly divided between the two.

Tujague's is the second oldest restaurant in New Orleans

Celebrate at venerable Tujague’s

For tradition, it’s hard to beat Tujague’s (823 Decatur Street, 504-525-8676, www.tujaguesrestaurant.com). Founded in 1856 by immigrants from Bordeaux, Tujague’s is the second oldest restaurant in the city. The long wooden bar in the front room was brought from France that same year. The bar is a lively place for a drink, but the dining room with historic photos on the walls is a better choice for a leisurely meal. The Reveillon menu hits on many of the city’s classics. Fresh local seafood finds its way into bacon-wrapped oysters en brochette or crawfish and goat cheese crepes. One of the entree choices is Chicken Pontalba, a city favorite featuring a chicken breast on a bed of crunchy fried potato cubes, ham, and mushrooms—all topped with Béarnaise sauce, that piquant daughter of Hollandaise.

Making Café Brûlot at Arnaud's

Drink to the season at Arnaud’s

Tujague’s was into its seventh decade when Arnaud’s (813 Bienville Street, 504-523-5433, www.arnaudsrestaurant.com) was founded in 1918 by a French wine salesman. An attention to fine libations has always been part of the Arnaud’s experience. The best way to start a Reveillon dinner is with a French 75 cocktail: cognac and lemon juice topped with champagne. Menu choices usually include a version of Arnaud’s signature dish of shrimp in remoulade sauce. (Made with mayonnaise, Creole mustard, paprika, chopped pickle, and a slew of spices, Arnaud’s remoulade is the standard by which all Creole versions of the French sauce are measured.) The most satisfying and dramatic way to end a meal is with a cup of Café Brûlot. The mix of black coffee, lemon and orange rinds, cinnamon sticks, and orange Curaçao is prepared tableside and flamed with brandy (above).

Filet Wellington at Broussard's

Broussard’s strikes French pose

Broussard’s (819 Conti Street, 504-581-3866, broussards.com) was founded in 1920 by chef Joseph Broussard, who merged his classical Parisian training with the flavors and flair of Creole cuisine. Still located in a mansion owned by his wife’s family, Broussard’s is formal enough to make a meal feel special and casual enough to make diners relax. The Reveillon menu includes such classics as Creole Turtle Soup—a rich, almost gumbo-like soup always topped with sherry—and such celebratory dishes as Filet Wellington accompanied by blue cheese puff pastry and wild mushrooms. Broussard’s also served my favorite dessert of my Reveillon dining: peppermint stick panna cotta topped with chocolate ganache, a few raspberries and a dab of whipped cream. (Next post will have a recipe!)

appetizer sampler at Tableau

Tableau makes holiday stage set

The latest venture from Dickie Brennan (a scion of New Orleans’ dominant restaurant family) is Tableau (616 St. Peter Street, 504-934-3463, www.tableaufrenchquarter.com). Brennan purchased part of the Jackson Square property of the historic Le Petit Theatre (www.lepetittheatre.com), renovated the building and created a contemporary restaurant with an open kitchen in the main dining room. The renovated theater space presents all manner of performing events. Tableau is a great spot for a pre-theater dinner or for dining on a balcony overlooking Jackson Square on a warm evening. It’s also a perfect place to enjoy a contemporary interpretation of time-honored Creole cuisine.

Chef John Martin makes the most of local products. His rich Gulf Oyster Stew, which gets a sassy anise hit from Pernod, comes topped with a Southern black pepper biscuit. His mixed grill of Gulf pompano and Gulf shrimp (with a side of roasted root vegetables) pops to life on a base of citrus gastrique and satsuma gazpacho.

The inventive pairings certainly give diners a lot to talk about. In fact, wherever you choose to eat, expect to be drawn into conversation with diners at neighboring tables. The holiday season only enhances New Orleanians’ gregarious nature and the Reveillon menus are such a good deal that many locals dine out as often as possible in December.

Steak and Guinness Pie a pub standard

Steak and Guinness pie on the table
Pretty much wherever you go in Northern Ireland, chances are good that the pub has steak and Guinness pie on the menu. In recent years, many places have taken to plopping a piece of separately cooked puff pastry on top of the beef stew. This version is deliciously retrograde. It uses a classic butter pastry crust. The dish is traditional but every cook adds a personal touch. This version is adapted from several sources. Don’t be surprised by the inclusion of sharp cheddar cheese. It makes a real difference in the flavor and the crust.

STEAK AND GUINNESS PIE


Steak and Guinness pie servedServes 4

Ingredients


For Stew

4 tablespoons butter, divided
large red onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
8 oz. button mushrooms
2 pounds chuck shoulder or round, cut in bite-sized pieces
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
3 cups (1 1/2 cans) Guinness or other stout
1 teaspoon Gravymaster
6 ounces coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese, separated

For Pastry

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) very cold butter, diced
ice water
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

Directions

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

In Dutch oven or cast-iron chicken cooker, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Add onions and garlic. Sauté until soft.

Add rest of butter, carrots, celery, and mushrooms. Stirring frequently, cook over medium heat until mushrooms darken and mixture loses its moisture.

Season beef lightly with salt and pepper, then toss with flour. Add meat and rosemary to pan and cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often to keep from sticking.

Add sufficient Guinness to submerge the beef and vegetables. Cover pan and place in oven for 2 1/2 hours. Check periodically and stir. If mixture is thin at end of cooking, reduce the liquid on stove top. Fold in half the cheese.

While stew is cooking, start making pastry since it needs to chill for a few hours. Place flour, baking powder, and salt into food processor. Pulse to blend. With motor running, add diced pieces of butter slowly. Process until mixture has the texture of coarse meal. Add ice water, a splash at a time, until a firm dough forms. Remove from food processor and wrap dough in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When stew is done, spoon into souffle dish that is 2 inches deep and 8-inches in diameter. (An 8×8 baking pan can be substituted.) Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out to circle about 2 inches broader than circumference of cooking dish. Place dough over the stew and pinch the edges to seal. Make three wide slashes in top to vent. Paint the crust with egg yolk. Place dish on baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, or until the pastry is puffy and golden.

13

12 2016

Hadskis hits sweet spot of great casual bistro fare

Hello from the kitchen at Hadskis in Belfast
Chef and restaurateur Niall McKenna bet on Belfast’s revival and won. After opening the posh James Street South in 2003, he got hammered with the economic downturn of 2008. So he transformed the upscale dining venue into a great-value steakhouse, The Bar and Grill. As Belfast began to climb out of the economic doldrums, he followed up in October 2014 with Hadskis (33 Donegall St., 28 9032 5444, hadskis.co.uk) in the suddenly desirable Cathedral Quarter. Once again, he hit the sweet spot of serving the kind of food people want to eat at a price they’re happy to pay.

You might have to do a little looking to find Hadskis. It’s off Donegall Street in Commercial Court, one of those alleyway cul-de-sacs in the Cathedral Quarter warren. The name honors 18th century iron foundry founder Stewart Hadskis, who made pots and pans. Hadskis loved to make them, and chef McKenna loves to use them.

Simplicity made manifest


It’s a refreshingly nonsense-free place. Cooks work in an open kitchen near the entrance. They have a single line of two flat-top grills, two stoves with big open gas-fired hobs, a couple of ovens, and a deep fryer that mostly churns out chips to accompany the protein-centric plates. The room is long and narrow, which means that no table has more than one or two neighboring tables.

Ribeye steak at Hadskis in Belfast Like The Bar and Grill, Hadskis is known for grilled beef, which McKenna buys from Hannan Meats (hannanmeats.com). Top chefs affectionately call Peter Hannan the god of meat. He sources the animals from about 120 Irish farms, most in Northern Ireland, and dry-ages the beef in cold rooms lined with slabs of Himalayan salt. It sounds all hocus-pocus, but it’s not. The animals are pasture-fed and humanely treated, and the meat is packed with flavor. The Irish do love their beef—maybe even more than the English—and Hannan provides truly great products.

Hadskis handles most of its meat simply by cooking steaks and chops on a charcoal grill. The grilled ribeye shown above is accompanied by a bowl of fried potatoes and a small pot of Béarnaise sauce. The latter must be included so the diner doesn’t feel shorted on cholesterol.

Spicy meatballs with orecchiette at Hadskis Hannan meats find their way into more humble dishes as well. “Hannan’s spiced meatballs” is a gorgeous plate with orecchiete pasta, a harissa-spiced tomato sugo, and grated parmesan. Neither Italian nor North African nor Irish, it works as a warming combination of all three. The meatballs, naturally, are the star.

Equal time for fish


The kitchen also treats fish to searing heat. The menu almost always features two or three roasted fish options.

Monkfish with chickpeas at Hadskis When we visited they included bream encrusted in herbs, pollock roasted in a spicy crust with fregola (known better to most Americans as Israeli couscous), and roasted stone bass with braised fennel and crab orzo. Usually served as a starter, an entrée portion of monkfish and spiced sausage with chickpeas (above left) right was a nicely warming dish on a cool night. Vaguely Moroccan in the flavor profile, it was also a nice way to highlight the local catch.

What was perhaps most striking about dining at Hadskis was how local all the products were. Sure, the menu says in fine print “We source our ingredients from local suppliers.” But everyone says that and few follow through so thoroughly. There’s an economic method to the locavore obsession, too. The pound sterling has taken a beating since the Brexit vote, but McKenna doesn’t build his menu on items he has to buy in euros or dollars. As a result, his costs stay constant even as the pound slides.

06

12 2016

Belfast’s OX treats Irish food with hugs and kisses

canape of butternut squash, onion galette, ricotta, and fennel pollen at OX in Belfast
We weren’t surprised to eat foie gras and truffles at OX in Belfast, which won its first Michelin star last spring after opening in March 2013. (It’s one of two starred restaurants in Belfast.) Restaurateurs believe that foie gras and truffles must appear on a menu before Michelin will award even one star. No doubt there are exceptions, but we haven’t encountered them. What was a delightful surprise was that such highfalutin ingredients were the exception rather than the rule at OX (1 Oxford Street, 28 9031 4121, oxbelfast.com).

interior of OX in BelfastThe truly defining moments in the spectacular autumn tasting menu were those dishes where humble, local ingredients sang. OX aims to serve brilliantly conceived, highly seasonal food. The price is low for fine dining (£50 for the tasting menu) and the dishes are easily understood. There’s no need to brush up on the precepts of Structuralism before making a reservation. Just bring a hearty appetite, an appreciative eye, and an open-minded palate.

Picture perfect


Chef Stephen Toman’s food looks as good as it tastes. The canapés shown at the top of this post were feats of legerdemain. The cracker is an onion galette. Mounted on it are a few dabs of fresh ricotta cheese freckled with fennel pollen. The “pastry” draped over the cheese is perfectly cooked, thinly sliced butternut squash. The whole plate is sprinkled with marigold petals. It is about as sunny looking and tasting a plate as you could find in gray November in Belfast—and it was all accomplished with local ingredients.

550px-ox03-beet-venison-kohlrabi Flowers are one of Toman’s tools to make the dark foods of winter look brighter. After a great celeriac soup (more on that later), Toman lit up a dark dish with pansy blossoms. Called “beetroot, wild venison, fermented kohlrabi, black garlic,” it combined several elements we rarely use at home and often avoid when we go out. We shouldn’t have worried. The beet was rich and sweet, the venison was butter-tender and savory, and the kohlrabi was a truly inspired pickle. It was the ideal foil to the unctuousness of the other ingredients. A glass of pinot noir from Germany’s Baden region (on the border with Alsace) had the austerity and spiciness to bring out the best in the food.

Nuanced wine list


The synergy between the owners—Belfast native Toman and Brittany-born Alain Kerloc’h—gives OX an international sensibility that places it directly between classical French dining and the New Nordic cuisine emanating from Copenhagen. Kerloc’h manages the restaurant and often serves as maitre d’ but his background is as a sommelier. A handful of wines on the list are there for big spenders, but most are food friendly choices from all over Europe, often without regard for prestige appellations. We tasted six with the dinner, and each was a surprise.

Chateaubriand and truffle at OX in BelfastFoie gras appeared in a supporting role in the most classic dish of the night—a slice of Chateaubriand served with foie gras, artichoke, and hop shoot. The dish seemed to be Toman’s nod to his lineage as a classically trained chef who worked extensively in Paris, including at the legendary Taillevent. The accompanying wine—a 2013 Faugères—was fruit-forward and uncomplicated. The inclusion of a small percentage of Syrah gave the Grenache-dominated red a spicy finish. The wine made the steak and liver course actually seem light!

Like Toman, we often exalt vegetables over proteins when we’re cooking at home. We thought we could best replicate his celeriac soup—minus the swirl of black trumpet mushrooms and generous shavings of truffle. (The inspiration is pictured below.) The recipe that follows is our adaptation of a French standard with the addition of diced apple at the bottom—a trick we learned at OX. It’s more rustic than Toman’s version, but it’s a cinch to make at home. If you feel it needs some extra oomph (lacking truffle), try stirring in some crumbled pieces of bacon.

celeriac soup at OX in Belfast

CELERIAC SOUP AND DICED APPLE


Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
sea salt
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
3 pounds celery root, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch cubes
6 cups chicken or mild vegetable stock
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and cut in 1/4-inch dice
crumbled bacon (optional)
extra virgin olive oil to garnish

Directions
In large soup pot over medium heat, melt butter and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add sliced leeks and a pinch of salt. Stir and cook until leeks begin to soften. Add garlic and another pinch of salt. Cook slowly until leeks and garlic are soft but not brown. Add celery root, stock, and ground pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook about 45 minutes until celery is very soft. Using an immersion blender, purée until creamy and smooth, adding extra stock if necessary.

To serve, cover bottom of each bowl with diced apple. Pour in celeriac soup, and add optional bacon. Garnish with a few drops of extra virgin olive oil.

24

11 2016

Bargain reds from Lafite ward off the fall chill

Lafite bargain reds
It’s almost scary how we start craving heavier meals the moment that there’s a nip in the air. With November already hinting of the winter to come, we’re digging into the wine closet for reds instead of whites. Like many wine lovers, we find several massive reds that need more age before drinking and very few wines really ready to drink. Moreover, we’ve learned the hard way that cheap reds usually deliver exactly what you pay for—along with some additional next-morning misery.

Lafite Rothschild (www.lafite.com) has come to our rescue with some superb reds that don’t require a special occasion. Listed at under $20 each, the Légende 2014 Bordeaux, Los Vascos Grande Réserve Cabernet 2013 from Chile, and Amancaya Gran Reserva 2013 from Argentina actually cost closer to $15 at better wine warehouse stores. (Those are Massachusetts prices; your mileage may vary.) We alluded to the quality of Lafite’s secondary lines in a post in May 2015, but we thought we’d put this group of bargain reds to the test with some of our standby autumn meals big enough to cry out for red wine. Because all three wines are on the young side, we double decanted to smooth out any rough edges with aeration.

Légende 2014 Bordeaux


Légende with roast chickenOne of our go-to fall dinners is a simple roasted chicken breast with roasted creamer potatoes and garlicky roasted peppers. The flavors are strong and satisfying, and the dish demands a fruity red. Légende from 2014 has the great blackberry fruit and vanilla/cocoa nose to complement the garlic and sweet red peppers. Purists might pooh-pooh the idea of drinking Bordeaux with roast chicken, but if the bird is mature and of high quality, an unfussy claret is a perfect pairing. Sure, we’d all like to drink Chateau Lafite Rothschild on a regular basis, but sometimes simple country Bordeaux is just right. This example (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot) is nicely structured with generous, rounded fruit and a lip-smacking, spicy finish. The summer of 2014 was cold and wet, but a sunny September and October miraculously ripened the grapes.

For the accompanying dinner, brine a large chicken breast (2 pounds and up) for a day in the refrigerator, then roast it with potatoes at 425°F. Broil the red peppers and peel them, then sauté strips with the creamy pulp from a roasted head of garlic. When the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 145°F, layer the peppers over the breast and return to the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 155°F. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

Los Vascos Grande Reserve Cabernet


Los Vascos with arroz con polloThis Calchagua Valley wine was estate grown and bottled, and the grapes were handpicked and sorted. It shows a classic Chilean expression of Cabernet Sauvignon, with dark, plummy fruit notes complemented by cherries and strawberries in the nose. The herbal notes in the mouth make it a nice complement to the saffron intensity of a good arroz con pollo. We published a Super Bowl version of arroz con pollo back in 2010. See this post for the recipe. The dish can be a little overwhelming, so we cut the Spanish paprika in half to let the fruit of this delicious Cabernet come through. This wine has the soft tannins and acidity to age well, but it also drank nicely against the spicy pork of the Spanish chorizo.

Amancaya Gran Reserva 2013


Amancaya with Patagonian shepherd's pieWe’ve been very pleased with wines from Bodegas Caro, which is a joint venture in Mendoza between Lafite and the Catena family of Argentina. This particular wine balances the power and intensity of Argentine Malbec with the refined fruit of Cabernet Sauvignon. The modest price belies the sophistication of the wine. At 65% of the blend, the Malbec dominates. It presents the classic high-altitude Uco Valley combination of cloves and white pepper on the nose and a finish of dry cocoa and cured tobacco. The Cabernet Sauvignon contributes distinctive raspberry and cassis notes to the nose and a supple fleshiness that hangs nicely on the Malbec’s bony skeleton. Double decanting definitely helped this wine. It continued to grow in the glass as we drank it with dinner.

We went with a humble recipe adapted from the great Patagonian chef Francis Mallmann. It’s really just a fancy shepherd’s pie. But just as the French and Argentine winemaking traditions combine in Amancaya, so do the British and Spanish culinary traditions of Argentine’s coldest region. The piquant spices and dark olives completely remake the flavor profile of the pub standard. Mallmann’s recipe in Seven Fires is a little different. It’s also meant to feed four to six people. This version serves two—just right for splitting a bottle of Amancaya.

FRANCIS MALLMANN’S BEEF AND POTATO PIE


Serves 2

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 pound lean ground beef
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet Spanish smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried mustard
1/2 cup dry red wine
2-3 medium salad tomatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1/2 pound)
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
1/2 cup whole milk
3 large egg yolks
2 hard-boiled large eggs
1 teaspoon white sugar

Directions

In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, combine olive oil, onion, and carrot. Sauté over medium-high heat until vegetables soften and begin to brown (about 5 minutes). Crumble in the ground beef and cook until it begins to brown. Stir in the bay leaves, rosemary, oregano, cumin, Spanish paprika, pepper flakes, and mustard. Add red wine and let mixture bubble gently a few minutes.

Stir in tomatoes and olives and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the meat is very tender and the liquid is reduced but not completely evaporated. (The finished dish must be moist.) Remove from heat and set aside.

While meat and vegetables are cooking, place potatoes in a medium pot and cover with cold water. Add salt to taste and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently until potatoes are very tender when pierced with a fork (12-15 minutes). Drain the potatoes thoroughly and press through a food mill or potato ricer.

Bring milk to a boil, and beat it into the potatoes. One by one, beat in the egg yolks, and continue beating until well blended, fluffy, and yellow.

Set oven at 375°F with rack in the bottom third.

Slice the hard boiled eggs into six slices each and arrange them over meat mixture in cast iron skillet. Spoon mashed potatoes on top and smooth the surface with a spatula. Use the tines of a fork to create a pattern of narrow decorative ridges. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until potatoes are nicely browned.

14

11 2016

Cattlemen’s Steakhouse upholds Western ways

Stockyards City in Oklahoma City shows a Western air
Every time a server places a grilled steak before a hungry diner at Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, the refrain is the same. “I’ll have you cut right into that,” the server says, “and make sure that we cooked it right.”

It’s hardly a surprise that beef gets special treatment at Cattlemen’s. It’s Oklahoma City’s oldest continuously operated restaurant. Originally called Cattlemen’s Cafe, it opened in 1910 right in the midst of Stockyards City to serve the ranchers, cowboys, and cattle haulers involved in sending beef to the markets back East.

Located slightly west of downtown, today’s Stockyards District remains the home of one of the biggest livestock markets in the West. Shops specializing in jeans, boots, 10-gallon hats, and belts with big buckles line the streets. In this cowboy corner of town, Cattlemen’s is a legend. During Prohibition, owner Homer Paul served homemade alcoholic libations in defiance of the Revenue men. The restaurant even changed hands in a game of dice in 1945. Putting up his life savings against the establishment, rancher Gene Wade rolled double threes to win—hence the “33” brand displayed prominently on the walls. The Wade clan owned Cattlemen’s until 1990, when it changed hands in a more conventional manner—in a sale.

Still point in a changing world


Interior of cafe side of Cattlemen's STeakhouse in Oklahoma City Cattlemen’s has expanded and gussied things up over the years. At some point it started calling itself a steakhouse. But the cafe room on the north side has changed hardly a whit since the Wades won the place. Grab a stool at the counter or slide into a booth with red vinyl seats and you get a feel for what Oklahoma City was like when it was a dusty cattle town on the Plains instead of a big city with a downtown bristling with skyscrapers.

The menu at Cattlemen’s is surprisingly long. We say “surprisingly,” since only a rookie or a vegan would order anything but steak. Even the breakfast menu has an entire panel of steak options, each of which comes with two eggs, home fries, and toast.

Lunch steak at Cattlemen's Steakhouse in Oklahoma CityThe beef ranges from chewy club steak (the lunch steak as shown here) to big T-bone steaks to the daily prime special. Like most restaurants, Cattlemen’s serves USDA Choice meats, but every day it has at least one cut that’s USDA Prime, which represents the top 2 percent of beef. Degrees of doneness are spelled out on the menu, just so there are no misunderstandings. Choice or Prime, it’s full of flavor, and the accompanying baked Idaho is flaky and comes with a copious supply of butter. (Cholesterol is not a big concern at Cattlemen’s.) For lunch and dinner, Cattlemen’s also has a really great selection of reserve wines, including Tim Mondavi’s Continuum and Blackbird Arise.

Cattlemen’s Steakhouse (1309 S. Agnew Ave., Oklahoma City; 405-236-0416; cattlemensrestaurant.com) opens at 6 a.m. daily and closes at 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, midnight on Friday and Saturday.

12

09 2016

Argentine poutine spices up Montreal Poutinefest

Sandro's at Poutinefest
Sandro Guerrero hails from Córdoba, Argentina. “It’s a good country with a lot of meat,” he says with almost ironic understatement. The average Argentine eats nearly 100 pounds of beef annually. That equals the annual consumption of an American and a Canadian combined.

When he moved his family to Montreal three years ago, Guerrero had never heard of poutine. He admits to an initial skepticism about the favorite dish of Montrealers.

Sandro Guerrero at Poutinefest “I thought it was impossible to eat potatoes with the sauce,” he says of the often nondescript salty brown gravy. “But when I tried it, I had to admit that this is a very good product.”

Guerrero’s regular gig is as a chef at Le Smoking BBQ (see previous post). His Argentine skills with meat and fire come in handy, even if the style of the food there is more American South than South American. But at the Poutinefest, he had his own stand to serve “Asado Argentino” poutine. The dish combines Argentine and Quebecois traditions. He marinates pieces of bavette steak in chimichuri, cuts them into large chunks, and grills them on skewers over charcoal. He then serves the meat on French fries with copious quantities of fresh cheese curds and a topping of chimichuri. (He also serves pieces of pork loin treated the same way, but the beef was more popular.)

“I first tried serving it at the Grand Prix,” he says, referring to Montreal’s annual auto race in early June. “It sold really well.”

All the rage in Montreal bistros these days, bavette is a perfect grilling cut. It is the flap of meat on a beef loin adjacent to flank steak. The cut is also known in New England and parts of New York as “sirloin tips.” Properly marinated and grilled, it is tender and deeply beefy.

bavette and chimichuri poutine at Poutinefest Guerrero marinates the meat in a version of chimichuri that emphasizes the vegetables, which makes it more Argentine than North American. The marinade (which doubles as a sauce) features roughly equal parts of vinegar and oil, along with plenty of salt, garlic, onion, and chopped fresh chile pepper. Fully half the volume of the marinade consists of chopped cilantro and Italian parsley. As a marinade, it tenderizes the meat. As a sauce, it wakes up your tastebuds.

“It’s like a salad for meat,” Guerrero says. “I think the cultural fusion is very good.”

We agree. It’s a little like steak-frites in a basket—and what’s better than steak-frites?

07

08 2016

Le Due Spade in Trento serves creative seasonal fare

Osteria a Le Due Spade in Trento
Batted back and forth between Italy and Austria over the centuries, Trento developed a cuisine informed by both traditions. Osteria a “Le Due Spade” (or “the two swords”) claims to have served pilgrims since the 14th century. An attendee at the Council of Trent wrote in his diary on December 11, 1545, that he ate at the sign of the two swords and found the landlord “merry company.” So the restaurant simply claims “dal 1545” on its sign.

The restaurant’s creative local cuisine flashes forward nearly five centuries. Chef Federico Parolari and his staff make everything on the premises, including pasta and bread. They also use highly seasonal ingredients. I ate at Le Due Spade on the third week of May when I attended the Mostra Vini del Trentino. The appetizer plate below demonstrated the dual culinary traditions and the kitchen’s commitment to seasonal local products.

appetizer at Le Due Spade in Trento

On the left stands a cheese puff—essentially a popover with cheese sauce and a trickle of basil oil. Four delicious slices of veal carpaccio make up the middle offering. A small drizzle of balsamic vinegar provides a sweet-and-sour complement that enlivens the flavor of the meat. Dairy farms dot the hillsides of Trentino that are not covered with vineyards. Free-range veal is plentiful, mild, and delicious.

The third appetizer was yet another variation on canderli, the bread dumplings of northern Italy. They are kissing cousins of Austrian knüdeln. Parolari gave this dumpling a delightful twist. Hop shoots—not the flowers that go into brewing, but the new spring shoots of the plant—were the primary component of the dumpling. They tasted slightly bitter, intensely green, and rather nut-like. Parolari wrapped each soft dumpling in shredded phyllo dough and baked them in the oven. One bite through the crisp crust reveals the oozing soft dumpling inside.

pork plate Portions at Le Due Spade are much more Italian than Austrian. Since the dishes boast bold flavors, a small amount suffices. My main dish of roast pork came as small pieces with explosive flavor accompanied by colorful, equally diminutive vegetables. The sweet carrot was balanced by even sweeter roasted onion. The braised radicchio supplied a touch of bitterness countered by the artichoke stem. The rich flavor of the pork itself supplied the salt and umami. The plate nodded to tradition but seemed utterly up to date/

Osteria a “Le Due Spade” (Via Don Arcangelo Rizzi, 11, Trento; tel. +39 (0)461 234-343; www.leduespade.com) offers two tasting menus and a full a la carte menu, along with local wines. Nearly 500 years of satisfied diners can’t be wrong.

01

07 2016

Grill 23 bar menu demonstrates steakhouse evolution

Grill 23 launch party for summer 2016 bar menu
Grill 23 in Boston’s historic Salada Tea building launched 30 years ago to make sure that the business guys in Back Bay had a proper steakhouse where they could seal new ventures over a big, juicy slabs of beef. It’s still under the same ownership, but left the old steak-and-martini steakhouse formula behind years ago. With its succession of smart and inventive chefs, Grill 23 keeps refining what a steakhouse should be. These days the kitchen operates under corporate culinary director Eric Brennan, and just last week he launched an ambitious new bar menu with a party (above).

Grill 23 Six Shooters Since Grill 23 has only had a discreet bar area since 2014, the restaurant isn’t locked into tradition. The new menu is a smart cross between steakhouse classics and contemporary bites. It’s been years since we’ve seen deviled ham on chive biscuits on anyone’s menu north of the Mason-Dixon line—or dared to order a crab and artichoke dip with slices of grilled baguette. At the same time, Brennan has introduced a thoroughly decadent foie gras slider on a cinnamon-sugar-dusted apple cider doughnut with a dab of jalapeno jelly. (It’s great with a classic Manhattan, by the way.) The bar also serves a tasty Grill 23 Six Shooter—six shot glasses, each containing a Cotuit oyster marinating in a spicy blend of beer and lime juice with a spice and salt rim.

The charcuterie and cheese choices are almost a requirement of a contemporary bar, and the flatiron steak and steak tips are definitive steakhouse bar plates. But Brennan exercises some imagination with the burgers, serving the beef burger with truffle cheddar, black garlic, and “oven cured” (read: partially dried and extra sweet) tomato. The lamb burger comes with a small round of fried eggplant, some chevre, and a saffron tomato jam. Brennan was kind enough to share the recipe. Grill 23 is at 161 Berkeley St., Boston; 617-542-2255; www.grill23.com.

Grill 23 lamb burgers at launch party for 2016 summer bar menu

LAMB BURGER WITH SAFFRON TOMATO JAM

Makes four 8 oz. burgers

Ingredients

For the burger
2 lbs ground lamb
3 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp rosemary, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

For the jam
2 1/2 lbs tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 tsp saffron, bloomed in 1/4 cup sherry
2 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil

Directions

To make the burgers, slowly roast the garlic cloves in the olive oil on the stovetop until soft and light golden.

Puree the garlic mixture with mustard and rosemary and thoroughly combine with ground lamb.

Make a small patty and taste for salt and pepper; adjust seasoning if necessary.

To make the jam, stew the all ingredients over low heat. Once the tomatoes have completely broken down and liquid has become fully incorporated, set aside and allow to cool.

Divide the lamb mixture into four equal patties and grill.

Assemble the burgers by topping the patties with a slice of fried, breaded eggplant, fresh goat cheese, arugula, and a spoonful of the saffron tomato jam on a griddled brioche bun.

12

06 2016