Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Recipe: Hollandaise Sauce - I have found my bliss. Thank you.

Last night Mr Tabubil and I both suffered a severe case indigestion.  And this morning we are united in the confidence that we don't need to eat for, like, a week.
            We have started evening cooking classes.  Our first class was held last night - it was such fun and the food was was sooooo good that I had planned to write all about it but, frankly, my abdominal region is feeling sort of wobbly just thinking about it.  It wasn't that we ate such vast quantities of food - it was just that what we ate was so terribly rich.
            I shall try.
            It's a great class: ten happy students and Saul, a chef who chef who oozes enthusiasm for butter and fresh vegetables and expectorates disdain for pacojets and vacuum chambers.  We were three minutes late arriving and found everyone already there and knee-deep in a passionate discussion - about butter, naturally.  Everyone beamed and shouted hello and ran about showing us where to find our aprons and knives and the chef cracked three jokes at us in a row - it was all so friendly and jolly that we relaxed at once and set ourselves to having a marvelous time.
            We are doing 6 weeks of French cooking, so I stuffed my purse full of Lactaid - sensible forward planning, it turned out - I think even Mr Tabubil dove for the Lactaid bottle half way through crisping the potatoes.  As a simple opening lesson, we were taught how to do Chateaubriand - in classical fashion.  It was stunning and OMG (classically speaking) Mr Tabubil and I are such very very good cooks - better than I had ever imagined we could be!  
            At last I have learned how to cook beef without turning it into BBQ'd shoe leather.  (There was one memorable evening back in Toronto where I mistook pork chops for steak and cooked them until there was not one bit of pink left in them.  It took almost an hour. The apartment was black with smoke, and the steak was caramelized carbon with a leather inseam, but Mr Tabubil gallantly swore that if you put on enough BBQ sauce, you could scarcely taste the charcoal.  Things have never improved much since.)
            Saul taught us how to "turn potatoes" which is a horribly wasteful technique of chopping the ends off and carving them into barrel shapes - very traditional, but my Papua New Guinea-bred sense of "OMG Look- Fresh Vegetables! In the same room as me!" was appalled.  Also I stabbed myself with the tiny paring knife.
            We learned how to trim and season and sear the meat in a pan full of oil and whole udder's worth of butter- and then popped it into the oven to roast.  And then do the same for the root vegetables.  Sizzle sizzle sizzle.  (That's the sound of my arteries clotting.  Not the potatoes.)
            And while they were cooking, we learned how to make genuine OMGoodness (see previous classical allusions) Hollandaise sauce.  Mr Tabubil couldn't move his right arm at all this morning, it was so stiff from all the whipping, but a right arm was a sacrifice well borne.  The sauce tasted like memories of mornings on the Gold Coast with Dad - when he and I would creep out early and sit in the sunrise at one of the little cafes in Main Beach and order Eggs Benedict and read the paper and drink orange juice for hours, until the sky was flat and blue above us.
            Saul passed out silver (TM) trays and taught us how to carve the meat and lay it out surrounded by the vegetable in radiating array and drape hollandaise all over all.
("Why don't you just say 'pour?"  "Because it's not classy, that's why!  And this meal is classy!  So you drape!")   We ladled on beef jus (a good jus takes all day, so this one was prepared ahead of time) and then we moved into a dining room and ate and ate!
            We weren't particularly elegant - it was eight o'clock by the time we sat down to dinner, so we simply wolfed it all down and a blessed person (peace be upon her) went back for a bowl of hollandaise and we all behaved quite disgustingly and ate spoonfuls of the stuff.
           And talked hugely.  Everyone is lovely and we were sort of high on the amazing food - okay, and also on the microbrewery beer Saul brought.  And the bottles of wine everyone else brought.  But mostly the food.
            And then we rolled home and sat on the sofa and undid our trouser buttons and groaned.
I may manage half a cucumber a few hours from now, perhaps, but this is not an eating sort of day-after!

And now the recipe:

Sauls's Chateaubriand with Root Vegetables and Hollandaise Sauce

(as compiled by Tabubilgirl in between spooning up the butter and beef jus)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.


Take3  or 4 Juicing Carrots (small and fresh and juicy!) and 3  or 4 Lady Cristal Potatoes per person (or another potato suitable for roasting).  

Peel the potatoes, or turn them with a paring knife (but the latter only if you are being silly and have lots of time to waste and a good stock of bandaids in your medicine cabinet.)  Peel the carrots and slice them in half (or turn them - see note above.)
Put the vegetables onto a plate and cover with glad wrap.  Microwave until they offer no resistance to a knife.  Remove from microwave, remove glad wrap and let the vegetables steam for a few minutes.
(For really SERIOUSLY good vegetables - nuke until they're practically falling apart.)

Prepare the Steak:

Acquire lovely eye fillet (plan 250g uncooked meat per person.)

Take a boning knife and holding it with the blade pointed away from the meat, slice off the sinewy bit along the edge of the steak.  Slide the boning knife underneath the strings of sinew across the face of the meat and carefully shave them off.

Over a hot flame, put a slug of neutral-flavored oil (ie vegetable oil) into a pan.   Add approximately one whole udder’s worth of butter.  Toss (by shaking the pan rather than stirring with a spoon because that is how real chefs do it) until hot and bubbly.

Season the steak: cover profusely with salt - roll the steak around so that salt gets all rubbed in to the meat.  Cover liberally with pepper – apply the same way.  Do not season the meat until just before it is needed, or the spices will begin to cure the meat and draw the moisture out of the flesh.  

Drop the steak in the pan – sear all over (all the edges and corners!), until the meat is crusted brown-black and the butter is brown and caramelizing.  Yum!

If you are using a solid iron non-teflon pan, pop the pan containing the meat into the oven.  If you don't have a plain metal pan, transfer the steak (and buttery goodness) in oven-proof dish (pre-heated for real Saul-style chef-cred) and put the dish in oven.

Start another pan full of bubbling oil and butter.  Once bubbling hotly, season the veggies with salt and pepper (mild-to-moderately, this time) and drop into the pan for a few minutes, until crisp and crusted looking, then put the veggies into the pan in the oven along with the meat.

Keep the meat in oven for 15-ish minutes till medium rare.

Remove the pan from oven and wrap the meat in tinfoil or a tea-towel and let it sit for a while - at least 10 minutes. (If you cut and serve meat straight away, the inside will be raw and there will be a distinct gray line between cooked and raw meat.  Also, it will not ooze delicious meaty juices when you cook it.  Letting the meat sit allows the cook-ed-ness to  move all the way through the meat!)

 And now the really good stuff:

Hollandaise Sauce:

Separate 4 eggs.  Do whatever you want with the whites.  Put yolks into cheap metal bowl with 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons water and one tablespoon French mustard (good quality brand).

Whisk with a nice whisk till comprehensively blended.

Melt 250g of butter in the microwave and set it aside to clarify.

The hollandaise must emulsify over a water bath, so set a pot of water to boil -with only an inch or two of water in the bottom of the pot so there can be an air space between the boiling water and the bowl of ingredients: the emulsion must not be cold, and must not be too hot or it will separate and the eggs will cook (but you will probably have amazing scrambled eggs.)

Put the bowl containing the egg mix over the water bath.  Whisk like blazes and do not stop whisking.  Watch the emulsion thicken.  Pay attention to the sauce at the edges of bowl – it might get all nasty and coagulated up there.    

Have someone pour in a very generous pinch (or even two pinches.  Or three) of white pepper.  

Continue whisking till the sauce becomes all ribbony (which means that a drop will stand on top of the mix for a couple of metaphorical beats (shorter than seconds but longer than whisks) before vanishing back into it.)

Take your sauce off the heat and while whisking continuously pour (or preferably, have someone else pour) the butter into the mix in a thin, not necessarily continuous, stream.  (The butter must not be too hot – or it will curdle the eggs)  Pour until you are down to the clarified milk solids and stop.   You don’t need the milk solids.  

Add more pepper if necessary.

Dice a handful of parsley.

Taste, say mmmmmm, taste again, have someone take the bowl of perfect hollandaise away from you and put it in a warm place to rest until the meat is ready. (on top of the oven is lovely.)

Get out a silver tray. (very important.  The negative aesthetics of copper, ceramic and melamine affect the digestion.)  Slice the meat and lay the slices along the middle of the tray.  Arrange the potatoes and carrots around the meat in an elegant radial assembly.  Spoon hollandaise generously along the meat in an elegant yellow ribbon.   

Sprinkle with parsley.   

Take a photograph because it is so very pretty, then take the bowl of hollandaise sauce and leave the steak and veg to everyone else!

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