Beef Wellington

This concludes our month of mega-gourmet filet action.  It’s about time.  Next month I’m going to try to go to the opposite side of the fence with the easiest, quickest, most ghetto food that I make for myself. 

This is definitely the most fancy pants of ’em all.  Beef Wellington is an old-school French preparation made by stuffing beef tenderloin (ideally with foie gras, but we’re not all jillionaires), wrapping it in Puff pastry, and baking it to perfection. It’s not as difficult to make as it seems at first, and can be greatly simplified as well by stuffing it with something simpler.

In the video I decide to stuff the Wellington with grilled asparagus and cream cheese.  I made it again two weeks later with wilted spinach, Cambozola, and cream cheese and it was even better.  If you want something really easy, a little creamy cheese is probably all you need – like Brie or Camembert.   I leave that call up to you. 

To make Wellington you will need:

1) A big hunk of beef tenderloin

2)Something to stuff it with

3) 1 Puff pastry sheet, rolled out pretty thin

4) 1 egg yolk and a splash of water (egg wash)

Then you:

1) Cut it open

2) Stuff it

3) Sear it in hot coconut oil, ghee, or beef tallow

4) Wrap it and egg wash it

5) Bake it.  In this case 425 degrees F made it slightly overdone before the pastry got fully browned. 450 is probably a better temp. – granted, I’m cooking at 6,200′ in elevation which makes a difference. 

If you dare to make this you won’t regret it!  What a treat for a small gathering of 4-6 people! 

Friday Night Menu

This past Friday I cooked for a party of 20 – it was a paid, pro gig for a family friend’s birthday party.  Things went really well, although being on my feet for 12 hours in a day isn’t something I’m no longer immune to.  I was feeling it by the end of the day for sure.  Sorry no pics, but my next post will be on making really good homemade truffle fries similar to the potatoes used in the main course.  My totally experimental “jalapeno-saffron nage” is probably worth a post too. 

But here is the menu for you to fantasize about.  Note, nothing I made was really all that special or superhuman.  Anybody can cook really well when using fat!  The secret of the pros! 

Hors d’oeuvres

Panko-Fried “Dynamite” Shrimp ~ Black Sesame

1st

Pan-Seared Alaskan Halibut ~ Parmigiano Grits ~ Jalapeno-Saffron Nage

Main

Bacon-Wrapped Beef Tenderloin ~ Twice-fried Tarragon and Truffle Potatoes ~ “Melted” Shallot Bordelaise 

Ninja Kitchen Knife Skills

At 180degreehealth, the general sentiment is that the primary determinant of health is the quality of the diet. The two biggest concerns in the standard modern diet above all else are vegetable oil and refined sweeteners. Well guess what? Refined sweeteners and vegetable oil are the two primary sources of calories in the modern diet. Why? They are the cheapest to produce. It is all produced from massive corn monocrops in the American midwest.

This means that restaurant food, even at great restaurants, is often highly compromised with the addition of these two substances. Even in savory dishes, it’s hard to escape the use of refined sweeteners. The use of cheap cooking oils is pervasive in the restaurant industry – foods that have been sauteed, marinated, or deep fried are always chock full of cheap vegetable oil. Salads are almost as bad as the fries due to the vegetable oil base of the dressing.

The solution of course, is to cook your own food predominantly – and keeping vegetable oils and refined sugars out of your kitchen. But this seems inaccesible to most people. The greatest hindrances are know-how and time. That’s what the following video is all about.

To make your quest to become a home chef a reality, one of the most important things to master is the art of cutting. Most people are using techniques that are not only slow, but dangerous, and knives that fit that description as well.

There is only 1 proper way to cut, and this is it. If at first it takes you longer, be resilient. Learning new skills is hard and challenging. It is also rewarding for those with the perseverance to get past mistakes, nicked fingers, and drudgery.

My instructions are simple. To make home cooking a tangible reality, you must learn how to use a knife properly. When you have, you will be empowered and enjoy cooking more than ever before – while spending less of your precious time doing it. Buy a large, and good-quality wooden cutting board, 1 quality knife and steel, such as the 7″ Hollow-ground Wusthof Santoku knife featured in the video (Click here to view it for purchase), and practice these basic techniques until you have mastered them. You won’t regret it!

Baby Back Ribs

There is little in life that I enjoy more than ribs. Yes, I admit, much has to do with the sweetness of the sauce – which takes an otherwise good chunk of tasty, fatty meat and makes it like sheer crack cocaine.  But I have some good remedies for that: make your own sauce and make it REALLY spicy.

Here is a short video on how I prepare the ribs. Note: in the video I do make an error – the time and temperature required for making perfect ribs. In the video I mention that the ribs will be done in a few hours at 275F. Even at sea level, it would probably still take 4 hours at 275F. To make sure your ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender, in hindsight I would have recommended to cook them for at least 4 hours at 300 degrees F.

Anyway, really, really tasty stuff – especially during American Football playoff season. I will shred at least a half dozen slabs of ribs, this batch included, by the time the Super Bowl rolls around. Give these a try someday when you need to heat your house and you’re in need of an air-freshener that makes you salivate. Share them with friends, or people that you would like to be your friends. Works every time. It’s like giving bacon to a dog, or chocolate to your grandkids.

Homemade barbecue sauce recipe follows:

Chipotle barbecue sauce (monster batch)

Ingredients:

1 can chipotle peppers en adobo sauce

2 regular-sized cans of tomato paste

½ cup honey

½ cup molasses

½ yellow onion, peeled and cut into 2 or 3 chunks

6T mild chili powder and/or Hungarian paprika

6 whole garlic cloves, peeled

6 Bay leaves (optional)

¼ cup apple cider, balsamic, or rice wine vinegar

Sea salt to taste

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together well and simmer on low heat for at least an hour – preferably longer. Add water if consistency if too thick. Remove lid to allow excess water vapor to escape if too soupy.

When it’s finished I don’t even bother straining it or attempting to fish out bay leaves before pureeing it, but you can if you want to. I just scoop around the whole chunks of onion, garlic, and chipotles.

Note that these amounts are not set in stone, they are just ballpark estimates. Tweak the flavors to your liking. A good barbecue sauce is smoky, spicy, and has a sweet n’ sour tang to it – a synergy of tomato, vinegar, and the added sweeteners.

This is sauce is very high in sugar, so don’t abuse it. It’s damn good though and beats sauces with too many chemical flavor enhancers and enough HFCS to ruin your day.

Thai Massaman Curry

Well folks, the time has come to post my most favorite-est thing to eat in the whole world except for, you know, foie gras, lobster, pecan-crusted sweetbreads, creamed corn, and a few other treats. And that chunk of tongue heaven is Massaman curry.

It is a Muslim-influenced curry with extra spices such as cardamom and cloves and less zesty lime juice and Kaffir lime typical of other Thai curries. In Thailand I ate it almost every day for an entire month. This is a great dish to make as a staple in your household, with an incredible and never-gets-old flavor and a fantastic ratio of saturated fat to unsaturated fat – a hallmark of 180-style dining.

Please don’t be deterred by the apparent complexity. Once you’ve made your curry paste you can make a small batch of Massaman curry from scratch in 20 minutes and pour it over a bowl of cold, day-old rice for an amazing meal. Eating healthy certainly can be less complicated than this, but for any food nerd, this is no sweat. Enjoy!

Massaman Curry Paste (big batch – keeps for 3-4 weeks refrigerated)

Ingredients

-2T each: cumin, cardamom, coriander, black pepper (pre-ground or ground fresh in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle as shown in video) 

– Small pinch of whole cloves or ground cloves

– 1 pack of mild red chili pepper from the Mexican food section at the store (add warm water until a paste forms)

– 2 4-inch strips of lemongrass

– Thumb-sized piece of ginger (peeled)

– 3 whole shallots or ½ yellow onion – 2 garlic cloves

– Root end of 1 bunch of cilantro

– 1T cayenne pepper

– Splash of extra virgin olive oil

Directions

1) If using whole spices, toast in a frying pan on high heat until smoke starts to roll off of them, then grind into a powder.

2) Chop cilantro, ginger, onion/shallot, and garlic into small pieces. Really cut the lemongrass well, as large pieces often remain fibrous in the curry later on.

3) Blend all ingredients in a food processor for at least 20 seconds. Scrape sides and blend again – the more it’s blended the better. Blend for up to 5 minutes.

4) Stir in a little olive oil at the end to moisten and preserve the curry paste.

 Making Massaman Curry (for 4):

1) Just like making Tom Kha Gai, begin by sautéing on medium heat (sweating) some sliced onion and sliced red bell pepper in ½ stick of butter.

2) When vegetables begin to get soft, but are not yet brown, add several tablespoons of curry paste and toast it on the bottom of the pan, stirring every few seconds. The more you add, the spicier and more powerful the finished product will be.

3) When the curry paste has cooked for a few minutes, add two cups or so of water or chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Heat on high!

4) Add ¼ cup of unflavored peanuts.

5) Next add 2-3 cans of good quality coconut milk depending on how much curry paste you added and how many people you are feeding (Chaokoh, without any emulsifiers like carageenan or guar gum is preferable). You may also add a splash of whipping cream, but that is optional.

6) Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then add chopped raw chicken, whole shrimp, sliced beef, or diced fish. Bring to a boil once more.

7) Season heavily with salt and/or fish sauce and additional cayenne pepper if needed until the flavors come up. Do not use cilantro or a lot of lime at the end like you do with other curries! Massaman should be sweeter and less sour than both Thai soup and other curries, so go easy on the sour flavors such as vinegar and lime juice. Use, at most, the juice of ½ lime at the end.

And here are the Massaman tutorial videos:

Crispy-Skin Sockeye Salmon

Ten or so days ago I talked about Vitamin D in wild-caught sockeye salmon on the 180 podcast.  Other than cod livers and herring, both things you’ll be hard pressed to find or be able to eat in large quantity, Alaskan sockeye seems to be the richest whole food source of vitamin D in ze world.  It is even more important this time of year (in the Northern Hemisphere), to get as much vitamin D from your diet as possible.  At any kind of latitude, winter sun is insufficient to simulate vitamin D synthesis in the skin – our primary source of this mighty vitey.

So now that we’re deeply into the dark days of winter, it’s time to go salmon crazy.  It is thought that humans need, between sun and diet, up to 4,000IU of vitamin D each day – maybe more.  While this is easy to get in summer months while basking in the sun (a highly recommended 180 pastime), it is almost impossible to get through diet.  I won’t stop you from chugging cod liver oil, but I can tell you that I’m eating at least one pound of salmon per week – sometimes two, and will be keeping this up until at least early March. 

Although estimates differ, a 100 gram portion of sockeye can have up to 1,000IU of vitey D.  That means a pound has close to 5,000IU, give or take.  While this is certainly not 4,000 per day at a rate of 1 pound per week, it’s something substantial (the average American is lucky to ingest 200IU of vitamin D per week from whole food sources), and can hopefully tide me over until spring where I will be baking out in the sun, sans sunscreen, and getting well over 10,000IU per day.  Vitamin D is a beautiful thing, and the vast majority of modern humans are thought to have major D deficiencies according to blood serum levels.  This is particularly true if you are dark-skinned, live at far Northern or Southern latitudes, and don’t spend much time in the sun, minimally clothed without sunscreen.

And we’re just talking vitamin D here.  This says nothing of the potentially vital long chain omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA – salmon being among the best if not THE best source in the world, or salmon’s off-the-charts content of vitamin B-12 and the mineral selenium, both thought to be nutrients of equal importance.  Selenium is thought to be one of the greatest assets in avoiding heart disease.   

So, without further ado, here is a video on searing up some nice, crispy-skinned wild Alaskan sockeye salmon.  Enjoy with some vitamin A-rich butter, spinach, fried yams, and so forth. 

Note, to get Vitamin D in salmon, the salmon must be wild-caught salmon.  Amongst wild-caught salmon, sockeye has the highest level. 

For more on Vitey D, check out this short post at 180 Bloggie-Style

Crank your volume a little so you can hear me over the sizzle. 

180DegreeHealth Kitchen Action

Oh it’s on!

The calorie slayer is live on wordpress, ready to throw down all things edible.

For starters, I’ll be posting tidbits here and there about my own personal diet.  From time to time we’ll get into some recipes and techniques, complete with instructional photos.  I’ll give you some choice links to some of my favorite things at what is hands down the best cooking website on earth at the moment – www. rouxbe.com  By 2010, I’m going to do some filming as well, getting into some excellent and 100% free cooking instruction to help you spank food’s ass like a pro. 

Welcome to the 180 Kitchen!  Get ready to splatter some grease! 

For a primer to the site, please read my February, 2009 eBook release: 180 Kitchen: 180 Tips, Recipes, and More.  Available HERE

For more on 180DegreeHealth, visit:

www.180degreehealth.com

www.180degreehealth.blogspot.com

Beef and Bleu

Bacon-wrapped ribeye with "melted" shallots, grilled asparagus, and Maytag bleu cheese