Thursday, November 8, 2007

Meat 101

Slow lately, I know. I have 6 entries queued up in the "Draft" stage that I need to push through. But in the meantime, I went to another class. This one was funded, in part, by a birthday present I received from my friend, John, so that made it kind of neat.

My Chopping Block course this month was Meat 101. This consisted of working with Beef, Pork and Lamb. The recipe items (and techniques) were:

Red Wine Beef Daube (Stew) [Braising]
Sausage and Mushroom Stuffed Pork Loin [Roasting]
Grilled Lamb Chops 'Scottaditti' [Grilling - obviously]

My God, this was good. Every one of these is on my list to make again. I need to scan and clean the recipes to post them.

Things I learned (which may be mind-numbingly obvious to anyone else):
  • When browning stew meat, particularly floured, don't overload the pan. Leave at least a little space between each chunk. Otherwise, you end up with stew-like stuff too soon and no carmelization in the pan.
  • Cheaper cuts work better for a braise than an expensive cut like a tenderloin. The less connective tissue, the faster the meat will break down into a mush.
  • Like chili, the braise is better the second day, after the flavors have had time to mingle. This is awesome for saving time the day of dinner.
  • We browned the beef in bacon fat. If you don't have enough of a given fat for a browning or saute, add some grape seed oil. It's flavor neutral.
  • Braising in an oven, instead of on a stove, gives you a more even heat (and less concern about an open flame, from my perspective).
  • The longer and slower the braise, the better. We used 350 for 2 hours (due to the class time constraint), but the chef recommended 275 for 5 hours, if possible.
  • Do NOT lift the lid during a braise, as it lets moisture escape.
  • When searing a stuffed roll, like the pork, start with the "seam" side.
  • Use a low or no sodium stock for a reduction (like a sauce). Like with salted butter, the concentration may get too high when the stock evaporates down.
  • Raw meat can be out for about 3 hours once it hits room temperature (70F) before the nasty bacteria start to form. The corollary is that buffet items should be taken off the serving line/table at about 2 hours, to be safe.

This was the first class I've ever had at the Mechandise Mart location. I have to say, I think I like the Lincoln Square one better for hand's on. The stoves and ovens are laid out much better for multiple groups. We had three groups crowded shoulder to shoulder when trying to use the burners. Our individual group worked together very well and the recipes lent themselves to swapping out or sharing the hands on parts. We split the prep work so that each person got to work with it. This was particularly useful when we ground out rosemary salt (for the lamb) in a morter and pestle, which it seemed no one had made before and it was easy to pass around the bowl.

My knife and prep skills are definitely getting better. I whipped through the prep very quickly and accurately. That was one of my personal frustrations, driven home by Top Chef when I'd see them finishing entire dishes in the time it would take me to chop.

I did execute the pan sauce (for the pork) well, a definite improvement over the chicken debacle before.

Also, I may need to get a bigger braiser some day, if this method sticks for me. I got one as an extra gift from my mom (they were on a super sale when purchased with a saute pan she was buying me), but it may be a little small for the size of this recipe. A covered casserole would work in the interim.

1 comment:

Sunnypalms said...

Nice blog Hal. Informative and fun to read. The not to serious down to earth approach is very readable. I added your blog as a link for others visit onto my blog, check it out sometime.
Look forward to more posts. Cook on.