Monday ... what a lovely day in Chef School!!
On Saturday last I was ready to just cut off my hands and give ‘em away ... felt useless, inept, letting everyone (self included) down. Phooey. Who needs cooking when you can get perfectly OK take-out?
Well, how times have changed. A little sleep does a world of good ... our class spent the morning (from before 9 to after 1) with Chef Maestro Silvio Salmoiraghi in his teaching kitchen ... three dishes, each done to, or nearly to, perfection. We worked on a Beef Sirloin with Herbs, au gratin (which includes making a standard ‘Italian Sauce’), an absolutely georgeous veal fillet following the structure and idea of Chef Maestro Gualtiero Marchesi, and Chicken Kiev. Chef is a superb teacher, making each instruction clear, taking one dish at a time and unpacking it effectively.
As my students at MONARCH Park would say, Oh. My. God. !
Here ... try this at home. Here’s a recipe for the Beef Sirloin.
Take about 100 gm of fine white lard and cut up into thin squares of about 1 cm per side and half of that for thickness. Put into a tall container that will fit a hand-mixer (blitzer). Add some parsley, part of a white onion, some fresh basil (don’t anyone DARE use that ghastly dry stuff!), and some white wine (not much). Blitz this mess to make a sort of ooze ... it will be green and pasty. Take it all out of the container, put it onto a piece of plastic wrap and roll it up to make a tube about the size of a toilet-paper roll, and bung it into the refrigerator for about 1 hour to chill so it can be sliced up.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Have about half a cup of fresh breadcrumbs handy for finishing touches.
Take the nice piece of sirloin about the size of your fist (not huge, not petite), and trim it up of all visible fat and connective tissue. Reserve the trimmings. Tie the sirloin with a piece of string around the vertical grain so it does not come apart in the pan, and salt all sides. Reserve on a small late next the stove. Heat a sauté pan to get butter well melted but not browned, and put the sirloin in so it cooks well on one side, then the other. Takes about 2-3 minutes a side. Do not overcook! When the sides are done, turn the meat on the tied-up edge and slowly rotate around so every edge is sautéed. Put the meat on an ovenproof plate and pop into the oven for about 7 minutes. When this is done, remove to counter and reserve.
At the same time you are doing this, make the Italian Sauce ... it will be needed for the final garnish, and takes time to render properly. Take a couple of tomatoes, a white onion, one shallot (a small one is fine) and some thyme, a bottle of white wine and some butter. Roughly cut up the tomatoes and the onion, perhaps some fresh parsley if you have it about the kitchen, and get it all sautéing with the butter in a fairly wide pan. You will need a bit of brown stock (the low sodium stuff, no name from Loblaws will work...heat it up before using), and some OK quality balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. While the tomatoes and onion are breaking down with the lard, toss in a bit of the beef trimmings from the preparation of the sirloin. Stir occasionally, or give it a wrist-flip or two. Poke the entire thing to get the tomatoes to really break down. Let it al bubble a bit. Add the brown stock (about 150 ml) and about half of that of balsamic. Let it reduce a bit, then pour the entire contents of the pot into a fairly fine, strong sieve (or chinoise) held over a saucepan. Push against the hard stuff that is left to get all the juices out. Add a bit of finely-minced black truffle. Reduce to a gravy that will coat the back of a spoon, and add a little fresh-ground black pepper and salt. Just before using (by about 1 minute, no more than two, add about 1/3 of a very finely cut shallot.
Take the rolled-up green paste out of the frig, and open it on a cool cutting board. Slice off about 4 – 6 slices. Re-heat the sirloin (if needed) for about 1 minute a side in fresh butter in a saucepan, then take the sirloin and top it with the rounds. If you happen to have a truffle handy, add a single thin slice of truffle on top of the green paste. Drizzle a few breadcrumbs on top and put it back into the oven for about 1 – 1.5 minutes, then plate to a suitable dish. Garnish with the Italian sauce on the plate, with a tiny bit over the meat if you wish.
That is one of three dishes we did today! Try it ... enjoy it! Take time to read everything and assemble all the tools you'll need before you begin, and become familiar with all the ingredients. You may choose to go out and buy some items, like the truffle.
After lunch we spent over 2 hours with Prof. Sinigaglia, reminding ourselves of what is important in various Italian cuisines, and how regional or local variations or specialties developed or got that way.
Finally, questions were answered about our rapidly-approaching stage (rhymes with badge, not guage), then off for dinner. I spent part of the lovely evening here on a bicycle ride with some other cooks, and we enjoyed riding the castle perimeter. (Remember, our Chef School is in an old castle!)
Tomorrow is a day-long trip into Tuscany, featuring Sienna wineries and an olive-oil factory. We rise before 5 to be on the bus before 6, so good night all from Colorno.