Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Steak Sauce

I have a passion that I learned about in culinary school. The concept is that you use the most complete form of your ingredients to make everything and your food will have more flavor. The Tomato Bowl came at a good moment for me to make use of this passion in a post. When I go shopping, I try to get as much as possible for my dollar.

This past week, I bought a whole beef tenderloin. I always buy the big sub-primal cut because you save all the labor cost, plus I feel like I get higher quality steaks that never have silverskin on them. It's the little things in life for me, really. When you break it down, you end up with three distinct sections: the tenderloin, the abductor major (the large roast-sized muscle at the one end), and the chain. Now, I thought that the chain was just a normal waste of the loin, but I learned how wonderful this piece of meat was when it was cooked for family meal at one restaurant where I worked.

Now, in my own home, I find myself always trying to come up with ways to use the chain. Its tricky. You see, the long piece of meat is stripped with tendons and tough strings of silver skin which make it especially tough to cook. Some bits will breakdown, but most will become like rubber-bands. I work to get out the strips of just meat that I can, then I threw all the junk: the silver skin, the chunks of fat, and the membrane that helped hold the various pieces together into a hot stock pot with some duck fat on the bottom. I used duck fat because it has a very high smoke point, but also because I was lucky enough to have some on hand & it's so delicious. Liquid gold makes everything more wonderful! Otherwise, use canola oil or vegetable oil.

The strips of silver skin and chunks of fat sizzled and rendered on the bottom of the pot for a while until they browned & I threw them out, reserving the fat. Next I tossed in the meat that I was able to get out of the chain, cut into smallish chunks. When these had browned somewhat, I added 1 whole diced onion, 5 sliced mushrooms, and 2 crushed cloves of garlic. After a good stir, spices were added to toast them slightly: just under a Tbsp each of basil, cumin & coriander. For the base of the sauce, I used 3 cans of Red Pack whole tomatoes, cut into big chunks, plus one big can of sauce & one of paste. I gave it a good stir and allowed it to come to a simmer before tasting it.

At this point I tasted the sauce and adjusted everything. I always do the same thing: If the sauce is bitter, I add brown sugar. To counter overly acidic sauce, I add powdered dark chocolate, usually a concoction I got from Chocolate Modern in NYC. If it's bland, I add salt & pepper. This batch got a good 2 Tbsp of sugar, 1 Tbsp chocolate, and a couple pinches of salt & pepper. I also added some parsley for their fun color, but they really don't add much as far as flavor.

The sauce continued to simmer for a couple hours, and the first bowls we had with penne pasta & shredded Parmesan & Romano cheeses. From the chain alone, I got enough sauce for 3 meals for my family. I also cut the loin into 8 steaks, reserving the ends to dice or strip for stir-fry, fajitas, or Stroganoff. The large side muscle was left whole to use as a roast. For about $40, I get enough meat for about 7 meals, and with this pasta sauce recipe, I don't have any waste. The Red Pack tomatoes are great because they are firm, plump, and add a perfect texture to the final product.

Grocery List:

Beef chunks (see method above, or just get the pre-diced in the grocery store; Stew Meat)
Duck fat or Canola oil
Red Pack Whole Canned Tomatoes
Red Pack Canned Tomato Sauce
Red Pack Tomato Paste
Brown Sugar
Cocoa Powder
Salt & Pepper
Cooked pasta & shredded cheese to serve

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