Thursday, January 29, 2009

Silk Purses's been over a month since my last post. Bad blogger! Sometimes the words just don' t come that easy. Oh well...forgive me. Now, on with it!

I have been trying to think out of the box lately with the understanding that my clientele is firmly entrenched in a "meat and potatoes" mentality that is hard to get them out of. Stockton is not exactly the kind of place where it is easy for a chef to push the culinary envelope. Not that I have to cater to an unsophisticated palate, it's just that some Stocktonians are not very interested in the challenge.

I have to try to reach a balance between what they want to eat and what I want to cook. So, I take what's IN the box and try to move it out to the place that makes ME happy while still offering a menu that is easily approachable.

This brings me to where I am now...developing a new menu for roll out in mid February.

The last few days in the kitchen have been fun for me because I have been "playing with my food". I was thinking about beef and the current trend in the culinary world that is making use of, what one would consider, under appreciated cuts. "Baseball Steak", Bistro Filet", 'Hangar Steak" and "Butt Steaks" are all making a big comeback in many fine dining Establishments across the country. Mostly because of economic reasons, chefs are utilizing these cuts to make sure that the bottom line is at a reasonable level. The only problem is, is that none of that crap excites me. they are just not that tasty (well...hangar steaks are tasty but VERY ugly).

So, I asked my dad. Well...not really. He passed away 10 years ago. But, as I often do, I thought about what he liked.

SKIRT STEAK!!! that tasty belt of meat that is dead center on the plate (belly) of the steer. The only problem is that it is one of the "ugly" cuts. But, geez, it is probably the tastiest cut of meat short of the rib. What can I do to make a silk purse out of this little sow's ear.

If you've never had skirt steak, you have missed out on a fantastic cut of meat. it has long muscle strands like a flank steak but is less dense so it is MUCH more tender. I is also about 1/3 the price of rib eye so it is a cheap griller. Argentinians use it, marinated in chimichurri, for their churrasco and Mexicans use it for fajitas. The only problem for fine dining applications is that it is about 20 inches long and 2 inches wide. So, plating is an issue.

It is covered in a think fat and membrane cap that needs to be trimmed. Once trimmed the steak actually expands to about 26 inches. It takes marination very well and is one of the best grilling cuts I have eaten. So...I need to make 'ugly steak'. pretty. Time to break out the Activa.

Activa is a transglutaminase powder that, when applied to two or more pieces of meat or other protein, forms an unbreakable, cookable and sliceable bond. It is, in a phrase, Meat Glue.'s what I did this morning. I took three pieces of skirt steak and two slices of Applewood smoked bacon. I pounded the meat until it was about 1/2 inch thick. then I dredged the meat and bacon in Activa and stacked it up...meat ...bacon...meat...bacon...meat. Vacuum sealed it and rested it in in the fridge. (Activa needs time to work its magic) then I cooked it, still in the bags, in a water bath at 158f for 15 minutes and quick chilled it. Then, I removed it from the bags, marinated it in our house "rub" and grilled it. It is utterly fantastic. I get a nicely grilled thick cut of meat that is infused with the smoky bacon flavor, perfectly pink, juicy and tender.

I love it when stuff works out on the first try.

More Stuff...

Greg is actually Superman. After undergoing rather major surgery, he is home, a week early, already recuperating and will be back at the restaurant in no time. "We miss you, man"

Better make your Valentines Day reservations NOW. We are booking up quickly.

Look for upcoming wine makers' dinners. We are gearing up for a whole series of them starting in the spring.

COMING SOON "Top Shelf at Le Bistro" is the new Jazz venue in our showroom. We have actual professionals turning the showroom into a first class jazz club.