Week 40: Steakhouse – Prime New York Strip, Portobello Mushroom & Blue Cheese Scalloped Potato Pizza

Having honed my steak making techniques for years, this week’s “Steakhouse” challenge was a chance to apply my accumulate knowledge to a pizza, a more recent DIY fascination. The main challenge: all toppings need to be able to be torn apart sans knife, a steakhouse necessity. For steak, a quick sous-vide bath was worth exploring as a potential solution as it would soften the tissue without overcooking the meat, allowing for additional heat both in forming the crust stovetop and in the oven playing nice with other toppings. The same potential solution was applied to the preparation of scalloped potatoes, which would normally require lengthy cooking time in a casserole dish.

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A single ugly duckling russet potato was sliced thin using a mandoline and placed in a vacuum-sealed bag for a 30 minutes sous-vide swim. Truffle oil, salt and pepper were added in before sealing.

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A simple blue cheese sauce was made with shallots, butter and cream. Saint Agur undeniably superior to all others in its category, thus

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The cream sauce was applied below and above the layering of potatoes. The potato pie was cooked on its own awaiting the remaining toppings that joined in for the last 2-3 minutes in the oven. The majority of their preparation took place beforehand.

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To make up for any loss in quality by cooking at home, the finest cut of meat is the only option to meet basic steakhouse standards. When the occasion arises to throw down the money and stomach space for a steakhouse experience, what comes better surpass the prime cuts that are very simply prepared in my cast iron. With this prime New York cut, a one hour bath at 53°C kept the meat rare and ready for more heat.

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The steak was finished in a cast iron to achieve a crust and sliced after a bit of rest.

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A portobello was given some time on the cast iron followed by a final roasting in the oven.

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The plain potato pizza was pulled from the oven just minutes before it finished cooking and the portobello and steak slices were applied for the final stretch in the oven.

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Now this is a steakhouse meal in pizza form. Not meant for the everyday, but certainly worth honoring with a bit of a splurge in wine as well.

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Two Hands Shiraz out of Barossa Valley is a style with some definite umfph. It has spice and power and a surprising balance that makes it so enjoyable on its own. Here with the steak it meets the earthy, meaty flavors with its own savory components but counterbalances with boldness in fruit. While Australian Shiraz doesn’t see the same attention it did a decade ago, there are still great examples of it being made, this being one of them.

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Week 2 – Sous Vide: Short Rib & Mashed Potato pizza

Upon the insistence sous vide websites or books everywhere, short ribs are the showcase piece for this next pizza project. According to these various resources, short ribs can take anywhere from 12 to 72 hours, depending on preferred texture.

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I decide to try a 72°C bath for about 24 hours so the meat would be just beginning to fall off the bone. As short ribs are new to my kitchen, a 24-hour projection allows wiggle room for mistakes, one of which almost flopped the entire pie in its final stages.

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The half-pound of bone-in short rib purchase looks somewhat scant, but for a single pizza it proves to be plenty. To keep to the classics, mashed potatoes a la sous vide seems a fitting accompaniment for the ribs. Getting saavy with russett potatoes, the outsides are cut for potato skins for immediate enjoyment.

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Meanwhile, the fleshy insides were wrapped up and tossed into the sous vide in the final hours of the short ribs’ bath. After taking the short ribs out to begin building the sauce, I upped the temperature to 90°C for the final 20-30 minutes for the potatoes to soften just enough.

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For the sauce, I made a red wine reduction steeping yellow onions, shallots, garlic and thyme aromatic richness while amping up the savory elements by adding in short rib juices, duck fat and a quick dribble of sherry vinegar.

IMG_7006While the reduction finished, I shredded the short ribs and hand-mashed the potatoes to a chunky texture.

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Preheating the oven to 550°F with pizza stone in place, I rolled out a homemade whole-wheat dough and built the pie using the reduction both as a sauce and a short rib glaze.

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To accent the mozzarella base, I topped off chunks of St. Agur, a winner of a blue cheese, and Marco Polo, a cheddar that derives its personality from cracked green and black peppercorn.

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When it came time to pop the pizza into the oven, I realized I had made a huge mistake. The weight of the ingredients and the crust itself can be enough to cause the dough to stick to its resting place, especially when not enough flour and cornmeal is used in preparing the peel. This can also be remedied by using parchment paper.

The whole night’s effort came dangerously close to getting scrapped, despite having poured all of the ingredients into the one pie. Fighting to maintain an already strained patience, I managed to salvage the majority of the pie, cutting off a crescent sliver, which eased my ability to flour underneath section by section until the pizza came loose from the peel.

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The end result is not the prettiest, but the flavors are still in tact. With eyes closed and wine in hand, the end result is still rather satisfying.

With notes of peppercorn and savory richness, this pizza calls for a bold red with the same kind of instant gratification that comes with comfort food built upon comfort food. Starfire (Columbia Valley, Washington 2006) is a fleshy, indulgent Bordeaux blend with a moderate range of more exotic aromas such as black licorice, fresh mushrooms and wet forest leaves. The splotches of blue cheese can be pushy and challenging, but the wine overcomes with creamy waves of plush dark fruit. The red wine reduction mirrors the inherent sweetness of the fruit while occasional bursts of peppercorn on the pizza enhance the earthy aromatics.

If I could change anything about this pie, I’d switch out the whole wheat flour for bread flour to gain a smoother texture, distracting less from the winning topping here, the mashed potatoes. That and I would have remembered the damn parchment paper.

favorites of lately: June

ahi poke5. ahi poke: A refreshing summer snack best featured at Chris’ Ono Grinds, though the ambiance at Common Theory is also worth the trek.
quince paste
4. quince paste: A magic cheese accompaniment making even the less-scrumptious styles a revived treat.
común
3. Común: Dishes here are electric with flavor, a notch below the extreme levels of cracked out cuisine as embraced by Puesto. Intensely delicious food without gambling with peoples’ insanity. The downtown J Street line-up is becoming an ever-more tempting crawl.
duck
2. duck: Indulged heavily in a cherished pastime of engulfing all manner of duck. Many personal favorites contributed to collection such as Bahn Thai’s #19 red curry duck and Jayne’s duck confit salad. Meanwhile, sous vide duck breast made its way into my repertoire as the next step in new culinary delights.
sous vide experiments
1. sous vide: A revival in experimentation has the majority of our meals revolving around what is essentially a fancy modern crockpot.
BONUS: pizza & wine of the month
davanti'spizza: Spicy sausage & rapini happy hour pizza from Davanti’s is a reliable Del Mar escape from traffic and other torments of the area
radikon
wine: Radikon – “S,” Pinot Grigio, Fruili-Guilia, Italy 2010 ($36) is a vibrant copper-colored Pinot Grigio that falls into small but polarizing category of orange wine, a style drawing deep color expression from the skins of white grapes. Each sip comes with a jolting acidity emphasized by a piercing minerality and tart cherries. It’s as good as it is geeky.