The Chef Cooks at Home
I still cook in restaurants at times, as a part of my consulting work. But these days, even more than cooking in restaurants, the chef cooks at home and in the homes of other people. The techniques and methods involved are not radically different. In both settings, I spend my time creating new recipes or adapting older ones.
Cooking at Home
This past weekend I cooked a couple of things that seemed suitable for the weather and the people I was feeding. It seems like the right thing to share them here.
First up is a variation on macaroni and cheese. Most versions of this classic are based on bechamel sauce, which basically holds the dairy-based components together and prevents them from “breaking” and turning into an oily mess. My version is a variation that uses only milk, cheese and a little sodium citrate (a sour salt) that accomplishes the same objective (this is a technique I picked up from Modernist Cuisine, which was the first time I saw macaroni and cheese made in this manner). I also use one of the great cheeses of France, Cantal, which comes from Auvergne. It is frequently used in fondue and in “Aligot“, which is a puree of potatoes combined with the cheese. It’s heady stuff.
Macaroni and Cantal
(This should serve 4 to 6 as a side dish)
480 g. whole milk
20 g. sodium citrate
580 g. Cantal cheese grated
Place the milk and sodium citrate into a saucepan and bring it to a strong simmer. Add the grated cheese and whisk continuously over low heat until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth. Taste it for seasoning. Set it aside in a warm place.
200 g. pasta (you can use any shape–I used Rummo Tubetti Rigati No. 72)
1 L. water
2 t. salt
Place the water and salt in a deep saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and stir it occasionally, cooking it as per package directions. Drain the pasta (don’t rinse it-we want to keep the starch intact to some degree) and add it to the warm sauce, stirring to combine it well. If you want it hotter, return the pan to low heat and warm the sauce and pasta, stirring continuously. Serve it as is, or top with some bread crumbs that have been toasted in olive oil and a copious amount of chopped fresh chives.
The Steak Narrative
Next, we cooked a steak. More specifically we cooked a two-pound prime, dry-aged rib steak. And, for the most part, we cooked it in water. No, we didn’t poach it. We seasoned it about an hour earlier with salt and pepper and then placed it in a Ziploc bag with a little olive oil, crushed garlic, and thyme. We set up a large pot with about two gallons of water and heated it to 129 degrees Fahrenheit with an immersion circulator. We slipped the bag into the water and cooked it for two and a half hours and then we plunged the bag into a large ice water bath to quickly chill it. We removed it from the bag and patted it dry and then added some additional salt and pepper to the surface. We heated a large cast iron pan over high heat with some olive oil and began to sear the meat on all surfaces. After about four minutes we started adding butter (about a quarter cup or so), crushed garlic cloves (5) and thyme (2 sprigs) and basted the steak with the browning butter for another three or four minutes. We removed it to a plate and bathed it in the brown butter and let it rest for about 8 minutes. And then we ate it. And it was good.
2016, Kevin Penner, All Rights Reserved