January 25, 2003

Rewarding Oneself

The other night I made one of my favorite low-key dinners. It's pretty fancy by lots of people's standards, but since the cooking is mostly about waiting, for me it's not a big deal.
- Slow Smoked Rib Roast
- Saffron Rice Pillof
- Sauce Foyot
I'll call it special. I had a good day at work, and wanted to reward myself. Something out of the ordinary was called for, and I hadn't made this in probably a year. Normally, I would have opened a nice bottle of wine with this, but instead I had a bottle of pilsner beer.

I used about a 3 rib roast, but unfortunately it was boneless. I often will coat the roast with various herbs and/or garlic, but this time I chose to just use salt and pepper. I build a medium fire in my Weber kettle grill and let the coals burn down to ash. Then, added about 4 chunks of hickory wood, placed the roast offset from the coals and closed the cover. I roast this size of roast for a total of between an hour and 15 minutes and an hour and a half. I turn the roast every 30 minutes, and add more wood as needed. I like to keep a fairly heavy smoke going.

I normally like my meat fairly rare. I pulled the roast this time at 115 degrees, which was quite rare in the center, but less so on the outsides. It's difficult to get a real strong smoke flavor and still have a very rare roast, especially with one this small. It's also difficult to have an even doneness throughout -- but that is a plus if you have guests -- unless they all want rare. I let the roast rest for 10 minutes while I finished the rest of the dishes (during this time, the temperature continues to rise about 10 degrees), and then carved it very thin.

This is a very basic recipe as well. Rice, about 1.5-2 times the amount of some liquid (I used chicken stock), some butter, minced shallots, and saffron. You cook the rice in butter with the shallots until you get a nice brown color on the rice -- maybe 5 minutes. Dump in the liquid and saffron and bring to a boil. Cover, place on low heat, and cook for 20 minutes. The rice will hold for a long time, but this time I finished it well before the meat was done. So, into a 200 degree oven with the heating plate. Don't uncover the rice at all until you are ready to serve.

Other methods can include: dumping into a rice cooker after the initial sautee (good for large amounts), or placing in a 325 oven for the cooking (frees up a burner).

Sauce Foyot is basically a hollandaise sauce with the addition of meat glaze. The first time I read about it, I thought it was sort of a strange idea, because I think of this family of sauces as mostly a fish/white meat/vegetable thing. But, with a good hit of lemon in it, this sauce is fantastic with smoked meats. Which, you'll notice, is what I'm making above.

This entire family of sauces (emulsion of egg yolk and melted butter) terrifies many people, but there's no real reason to fear them. Maybe some folks try too hard when making these. A simple approach works best, I find. Here's how I do them now:

Place the egg yolk in a stainless steel bowl. Add water or other liquids from the recipe (in this case, juice from half a lemon). Whisk briskly to combine. Place the bowl over medium-low heat, tilted to one side. Whisk like mad. Keep moving the bowl around, trying not to let any one spot get too hot. As the edges of the bowl heat up, be sure to stir around broadly with the whisk. Basically, what you are making at this point is a zabaglione. When the egg/liquid mixture gets to the desired (thick) consistancy, and is fairly hot (but never above 140, which is where the yolks will cook) to the touch, remove the bowl from the heat, and whisk again strongly to cool it down just a bit. This will all go quite fast, especially with only 1 yolk. You'll really be able to see the sauce thicken as the egg cooks.

Next, drizzle in the melted butter (a bit slow at first) and whisk to combine. Add more butter (it can be done quicker once the emulsion is well taken) and keep whisking until you have the consistancy you wish (for 1 yolk, I think I end up using a little under a quarter of a stick). Then, stir in any flavorings (in this case, about a tablespoon of oxtail beef glaze), and adjust seasonings.

Notice: no double boiler, no 14 pans, no weird starting one way, then adding stuff, then doing yet something else. One bowl, some melted butter, and a whisk.

These sauces don't hold particularlly well, but from start to finish, it probably takes less than 5 minutes to make the entire thing -- so you do them right before you are ready to plate. The first time you do one, you'll be nervous. As added protection, keep a glass with a few ice chips in it. If you think the sauce has gotten too hot, too fast, during the first step, remove from the heat and toss a few small chips in to help it cool off.

The reason this is a low-stress meal for me is that it goes together quickly. When I get home, I start up the fire and pull the roast out of the fridge. Put the butter on to melt, chop the shallot, measure out the rice and liquid (putting the saffron into the liquid to steep), get out the items for the sauce.

Once the meat is on the grill, I'm pretty much able to just relax. I start the rice after the meat as been in for about 45 minutes. It'll be done well in advance, and keeps well. By now the butter is also fully melted, so I turn off the low flame there. Then it's just keeping an eye on the smoker until the meat is ready to come in the house. The sauce goes together while the meat is resting, and then it's all about the carving and eating.

The meat comes out smokey and juicy. The rice is a nice counterpoint with the medicinal/floral scent from the saffron, and the tart and meaty-flavored sauce blends well with both. Heady stuff, to be sure, but one can't eat alot of it at once.

Posted by dowdy at January 25, 2003 03:52 AM