Saturday, 8 January 2011

A sauce of pride

It was the first Broadway Market of 2011 this year – and a real pleasure it was too, as regulars, producers and retailers alike all greeted each other for the first time since the festivities.

There was a really enjoyable sense of freshness in the air – and that wasn’t just the blustery wind and the wannabe rain that kept trying to fall.

It was also a successful trip – and the results weren’t stored away for long before the cooking began.

All that caramelisation and Maillard reaction business that I mentioned yesterday cropped up again straight away.

For various reasons, I couldn’t see myself having the opportunity to try Bruno Loubet’s recipe for daube for some weeks, and that rather peeved me.

It needs a 48-hour marinade and, because I’d always simply assumed it was a dish to cook at the weekend, that sort of complicated matters. Or put another way, it meant that I’d have to do the initial preparation on a Friday.

But that’s further complicated by the question of where and when I’d be able to get the beef.

Loubet recommends either beef cheek or blade. Now strangely enough, those are not the sort of cuts that supermarkets sell, so it would pretty much have to be either a Broadway or Borough Market purchase.

Then I had a radical idea. If I could get the meat today, then I could do the initial prep after I’d done my shopping – and cook it on Monday evening.

As luck would have it, Richard of Wild Dartmoor Beef had one piece of cheek on the stall this morning.

I’ve not cooked cheek before, but you see at a glance why chefs would like it. It was a beautifully marbled piece of meat and, at just a fiver for 500g, hardly an assault on the pocket.

The recipe I’m using, which appeared at caterersearch.com, is more like brief notes than what most of us would consider a recipe.

Having got my ingredients ready, I found myself having to start filling in the gaps.

For instance, it doesn’t give an instruction for cutting up the meat or chopping the vegetables. And when it says: “Sauté the vegetables for the daube in oil until golden brown”, it doesn’t actually tell you whether that includes the tomatoes (and whether to skin them or not) or the bouquet garni.

On the other hand, when it says to cook the vegetables until they’re “golden brown”, I now have a better clue about why and how to do precisely that.

So, opting to include the tomatoes in that instruction, I prepared the vegetables, made up a bouquet garni, cut the meat into large pieces, put everything in a large bowl and then covered it all with the white and red wines, and added the Worcestershire Sauce too. It’s now sitting in the fridge, topped with cling film.

This really was a day of early prep. I also split eggs for making macarons tomorrow – apparently the whites age over 24 hours, helping make these delicate little gems.

Which left me with the question of what to do with the yolks.

There was some salmon in the fridge that needed using. It crossed my mind that a hollandaise sauce goes rather well with fish. Here was the big moment.

I roasted garlic and did crushed, garlicky potatoes. Then, feeling that I should make the effort to use the griddle pan more often, hauled that out for the fish and some thick slices of courgette, which were pre-boiled and then dried.

For the sauce, it occurred to me to use Delia – or even John Tovey’s very quick ‘cheat’ that she also includes in the Complete Cookery Course.

But no. If you’re going to do it, then follow the instructions in that Sauces book that you bought by Michel Roux for exactly this sort of thing.

Okay, it meant playing around a little with the amounts, since I didn’t want to use four, as per the book.

After finding that the end of my bottle of white wine vinegar was full of sediment (do I really use so little?) I reduced tarragon wine vinegar and water (ration of one to four tablespoons), with some ground white pepper in it.

That went into a bowl and was allowed to cool, before the yolks were added and whisked in. Then the bowl went on a pan with just a little water simmering away in it, and was whisked until it changed into a lovely thick, velvety texture.

You take it off the heat and start adding the clarified butter. It soon became clear that I hadn’t prepared enough butter. I rapidly melted some more and gave up being too concerned at clarifying it.

Aware that everything else was about ready, I decided that, for today, it would have to be too thick to pour. I gave it a squeeze of lemon juice and served up.

You really do have to keep whisking away as it heats – which is a little dodgy when you’re on your own in a kitchen and trying to do loads of other things. Amazingly, I’d just about managed to plan stuff that didn’t require too much time away from the whisk.

It might have been thick, but it didn’t split – and it tasted lovely.

Okay, the sense of achievement isn’t perhaps quite as high as after Christmas Day’s consommé, but it’s not far off.

There. I’ve done it. I’ve just about cracked another of the French mother sauces. I am seriously chuffed. And knackered!

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