Saturday, May 31, 2008

Talkin' 'bout ... and their pan-fried steaks. (Pan-seared steaks and sauce)

Come on and eat one, no matter what it takes. They got big bowls of peanuts, Texas taters and ice cold brew. And some animal heads on the walls staring back at you. If you take a friend here, he'll say thanks for bringin' me here. Cause this is a place that's just eat up with atmosphere. So if you're lookin' for some for some food and a place that's neat. Come on out to ... and eat some meat.
Just a blast from the past, circa 1991-1992 from the ATL's very own Longhorn Steaks.
A couple of things to mention about beef tenderloin, and tenderloin in general. I think "Tender is the Loin 1" is one of my favorite Good Eats episodes, and it inspired me to think about things differently. The very thought that you would cut up your own tenderloin that cost 80 bucks seems like heresy. I mean, beef tenderloin should only be roasted at Christmas, right? Wrong. Second is that tenderloin is best when served with a pan sauce. Therefore, tenderloin is one of those things that you wouldn't usually do on the grill. Unless you have a side burner. The other program that I highly recommend is the "High steaks" episode this past week of Top Chef. A lot of information and technique. If you notice the Top Chefs that pan seared their steaks, their pans were at least 1/2 inch deep in oil/butter, mostly butter.

Pan seared tenderloin medallions "au poivre" with demi-glace reduction sauce

If you haven't seen Tender is the Loin part 1, you don't know what you're missing. Step by step video instructions on trimming a beef (or other) tenderloin. The trick is separating chain from good stuff and cutting the pieces to a thickness that will allow them to finish within a similar timeframe. Somtimes you have to butterfly, but that's really a diameter issue.
1. Make your standard-sized medallions, allow them to come to room temperature, make sure they're bone dry. These are very important steps in searing any meat for anything, really. Any water will kill the ability to form a crust, and that's what you're looking for. The water converts to steam and will flavorlessly braise/poach the meat resulting in grey, rubbery nastiness.

2. Crack a bunch of peppercorns. This is the Alton Brown way. Put them in a cloth and beat the hell out of 'em with a rolling pin or some other object. Cracked, not ground. You could use ground pepper, but it's not the same. Cover you tenderloin cuts all over with the peppercorns. Salt them generously with Kosher salt. Nothing else will do, but then you're already exclusively using that anyway, right? If you don't coat your tenderloins with pepper, well then just drop the au poivre, and season as you normally would. Don't even think of adding garlic. It burns acidic.

3. Heat a large non non-stick pan and get it as high as you can stand it. If you don't have a hood, prepare for a smoke out. If you have a side burner on the grill outside, that's cool too. Forget the adage that you can't heat your pans without something in them. If you don't believe it, watch Mario Batali. Every time he puts his fat in the pan, it's already screaming hot.

4. For this, I hate to admit it, but pure butter gives the best flavor. If you do that, you need to run a lower temperature because of it's tendency to burn, and then it's not that great. Otherwise, you can lower the burning point a little by adding oil until it gets hot, then adding butter until the foam is gone. Again, I refer you to the Top Chef "High Steaks" but the point is to not get chintzy with the oil/butter combo. Use more than you think you need.

5. Throw the meat on and watch it carefully, 'cause it'll go quick from this point on. Keep in mind that Ruth's Chris cooks steaks with this ridiculous Salamander that gets temperatures well over 1000 F, and if you like hard outer crust, and uniform medium rare everwhere else, it's the only way to do it. That's why you have to have a super hot pan. You can use your temp probe here the first few times until you get it, and then it's by feel.

6. If you're going to be cooking a lot of meat, it's best to do it in batches and change the oil frequently. It's not omelette cooking (where you are supposed to change the oil after every one) but you don't want your stuff to burn.

7. When the meat's done, set aside to rest. This is a critical step, also. If you have a good crust, but the meat's not done, put it in the oven in foil at low temp (250 or so) while you're working on the rest of it. Don't just keep cooking it on the pan. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

8. When you're done cooking meat, you should have a nice pan full of semi-burned black and brown goodness. POUR OUT THE OIL, NOT THE GOOD STUFF, the so-called fond. Turn your heat down to medium, and deglaze the pan. You can do this by pouring your favorite red wine in there a cup or 2, and use a wooden spoon to scrape off the bits and clean the pan with heat and liquid. Once the pan is clean, throw in some dark stock, and change your temp to an small bubble simmer. If you have demi-glace or even oyster sauce (asian condiment) add it when you add the stock. Keep reducing until the sauce has the consistency of cooking oil. Slice the meat, drizzle the reduction, and voila!

Serve with home made french fries (JW see the Les Halles cookbook-remember blanch first, rest, then fry at 375), and like Tony Bourdain suggests, serve some expensive wine in Dixie cups just to show 'em who's their daddy.
The reduction possibilities are endless, so experiment. Balsamic vinegar reduction, port wine reduction, cognac reduction. You will be less impressed when you go out to eat. This s**t is TOO easy! I think it's one of the cheapest things for a restaurant to prepare, and I've stopped ordering it when I go out unless I just want to see how they did their sauce.

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