Let’s talk about something ridiculous, shall we? I have 30+ cookbooks [a seemingly small collection to some]. Some I’ve spent $10 on and some I’ve spent $100 on. I look at them often, flip through them regularly, gaze at them lovingly while they lay, unfulfilled, on the shelf. But I rarely cook from them. I haven’t given them the life they deserve, and I think it’s about time I self-intervened and changed my ways so they can live out their lives (or more likely, mine) the way they were intended.
I’m sure at least one or two of you are guilty of this. Buying books, bringing it home just dying to open it, flipping through it 40 times in a week, and then retiring it to a shelf, to be seen once a year when you’re looking for some inspiration. Please! Tell me I’m not the only one!
I decided a few weeks back I was going to go through my cookbooks, starting with two in particular, and fold off some pages that I wanted to try. The two books, which I would highly highly recommend, are Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rogers and Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller. Both are beautifully written books, with inspiring photos and recipes that are easily attainable by the home cook. Of course, there are some recipes that are quite daunting. Some with ingredients I haven’t heard of, or ones that are extremely specific and that the recipe relies on for success, but a good many of them are not. Some require a little forward thinking in order to prepare all aspects (like a jar of preserved lemons or pickled watermelon rinds) but are fairly simple and straightforward other than that. I am really anxious to try some of the creative dishes in both books, Chicken Braised with Figs, Honey and Vinegar [Zuni] and Salt Crusted Striped Bass [ad hoc], to name a couple.
When Sunday came, I wanted to do something that challenged me a little. I really want to try and get better at the things that make me uncomfortable in the kitchen. Beef makes me a little weary. I don’t know why, but I am intimidated by it. Steaks, tenderloin, roasts… they make me sweat. I think it’s because I know how well my boyfriend, his dad, my dad, my mom…everyone makes them. I love (would-likely-ask-for-on-death-row kinda love) beef. It’s a treat for me since I rarely make it. I’d like to enjoy it more often, and I’d like to feel comfortable making it. So I gathered my courage, channelled Chef Keller, and bought a really nice hunk of meat from the best butcher shop in the west end of town, Pete & Gus. Which also happens to be the first place I was employed.
And how could I not notice a recipe titled “Blowtorch Prime Rib”? Blowtorch? Prime rib? Sold.
Because I’ve had a less than perfect past with barbeques and fire (I’m lucky to still have my eyebrows/eyelashes. Real lucky), I asked Mr Goudalife if he could be my knight in shining armour and blowtorch my roast for me. Naturally, he agreed. Just to explain, the purpose of the blowtorch is to start the fat rendering process so you can cook the meat at a low temperature and still achieve a layer of crispy, brown fat on the outside.
It was the most successful piece of meat I’ve cooked. Crispy on the outside but perfectly medium rare (maybe a little closer to rare, which is how I like it), moist and flavourful inside. And with only salt and pepper to season it, the flavour of the beef really shined through. We served it with horseradish cream sauce [Ad Hoc]creamy buttermilk mashed potatoes [Zuni Cafe Cookbook] and some low fat yogurt creamed spinach that I’ll share with you just as soon as I play with it a bit more.
I’ve typed this out exactly the way it was written in the book. If you do want to try it out, I suggest you follow it to the letter before making any changes. It’s perfect how it is. You got that? Good. Let’s set some beef on fire.
Note: Please please please be careful when making this. Blowtorches are not a laughing matter and can be extremely dangerous. Read instructions, and be smart. And be ready for some of the fat to flame up a bit.
Blowtorch Prime Rib
recipe from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller
One 2-bone center-cut rib roast (about 4½ pounds), trimmed of excess fat
Coarsely ground black pepper
Gray salt or coarse sea salt
Horseradish Cream (recipe follows)
Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 275°F.
Put the roast on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Hold a blowtorch about 1 inch from the roast and turn to lightly brown the fat on all sides; the idea is to start the fat rendering and to torch the meat just until the surface begins to turn gray. Season the roast generously with salt and pepper.
Transfer to the oven, with the meat toward the back of the oven, and cook until the roast registers 128°F in the center. The total cooking time will be about 2 hours, but begin to check the temperature after 1½ hours. Remove from the oven and let rest in a warm spot for at least 30 minutes for medium-rare.
To carve, cut the meat away from the bones. Separate the bones and put them on a serving platter. Cut the roast in half through the center, turn each piece cut side down, and slice straight down into slices that are about ½ inch thick. Arrange the meat on the platter and sprinkle with gray salt and pepper.
Serve with the horseradish cream on the side.
Horseradish Cream Recipe
From Ad Hoc at Home
makes about 1 cup
½ cup very cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
About ¼ cup drained prepared horseradish
½ teaspoon fleur de sel, or to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
Put the heavy cream and vinegar in a medium bowl and whisk until the cream holds a soft shape. Whisk in the horseradish, salt, and pepper.
Refrigerate in a covered container for up to 1 week.
Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
1 1/4 lbs peeled potatoes, cut into 1 1/2” chunks
2 tbsp. milk
2 tbsp. heavy cream
2 tbsp. buttermilk
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted Instructions
Place the potato chunks in a medium saucepan and add cold water, covering the potatoes by an inch or so. Add the salt and stir. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered until the potatoes are very tender, 8 to 15 minutes.
Drain the potatoes and mash them. Add the milk and whip. Add the cream, whip, add the buttermilk and whip and finally add the melted butter and whip until light and fluffy. Adjust the seasoning adding salt as necessary.