Real Potato Salad

No personal vendettas against potato salad, but the stuff, all things considered, is pasty goo that I have never been fond of. 

What I am fond of, are very hearty salads with hot and delicious stuff added to them.  Some of the best salads I’ve ever made or have been served contained hot ingredients – from spinach salads with hot currants, duck confit, and andouille sausage to salads filled with fried gnocchi and mushrooms.  The hot-cold combination is amazing, and for some reason, as spring is springing, Aurora and I have been eating this salad like it’s going out of style. 

In a sense, it is going out of style.  Aurora’s jaw surgery is less than 2 weeks away – wired shut for 12 weeks.  I’ll be joining her by doing an old-school “milk diet” for the first month or so.  No salads for us.   

Anyway, we’ve made this salad a half dozen ways over the past month.  In the video, I keep saying that hard-boiled eggs will be added, but in the end Aurora got the eggs and I opted to have my salad without them.  They are part of the “official” salad.  We’ve also made the salad with grilled beef (amazing), beef carpaccio (excellent), and so on.  But no matter how you choose to get down with this full-throttle “dinner salad,” the fried potatoes are a must. 

When done correctly, there is no better salad on earth, or in the words of Mr. Miyagi:

“When do right, no can defense.” 

Here is the REAL potato salad…

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 diced Yukon Gold potatoes fried in coconut oil, beef tallow, lard, or a combination
  • 6 strips bacon
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, still warm
  • 3 ounces of your favorite cheese grated or crumbled
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar and olive oil
  • 2 chopped Romaine “hearts” 
  • A little arugula or field greens
  • Fresh-picked herbs (optional) 

Prepare as shown in the video, adding your hot ingredients at the very end so the lettuce stays fairly crisp. 

Simplify by making it with just potatoes and cheese and/or a little shopped salami.  Olives would make a nice addition I would imagine.  I also think it’s easier to bake the bacon in the oven on a large sheet pan (with sides), 1-2 packs at a time so you can make this salad several times but only cook the bacon once. 

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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! 

Rendering Beef Fat for Tallow

Making beef tallow isn’t exactly a difficult or skillful process.  You are basically exposing solid fat to high temperatures to extract all of the fat in liquid form from the rest of the meat and muscle fibers.  Then you pour off the liquid fat and save it for cooking.  Beef tallow is an excellent fat, and has pearly, ivory-like texture at cold temperatures.  Good for cooking vegetables and searing meats in which you want to impart the rich flavor of beef into the food.  Mmm, mmm good.

In the following video, I do not cut the beef into smaller pieces, which would’ve cut down the cooking time and yielded a larger amount of fat.  Probably a bad habit.  But I got 2 cups of good-quality beef tallow nonetheless. 

As an interesting factoid – beef tallow was the most frequently-used household fat in the early 20th century prior to the earliest documented cases of heart disease.  So much for saturated fat clogging your arteries…

As the causation of heart disease science has evolved over the past couple decades, we now know that heart disease is a disease of inflammation, oxidative damage from free radicals, and certainly not a matter of having something we eat jump into our arteries for lack of a better place to go.  What increases oxidative damage and inflammation?  Lots of things, but mostly polyunsaturated fat – omega 6 in particular, the type of fat we embraced while shunning the beef tallow and butter that never did us any harm.  Make friends with tallow.  Its incredibly low concentration of omega 6 makes it a perfect household fat along with coconut oil and dairy products.

Best temperature is probably slightly lower than the temp. I began with.  350 degrees F is probably better.   

Beef Tartare

This post is more of a display than anything, as few of you own an essential piece of kitchen equipment needed to make this dish – a meat grinder.  But tartare is something that is divine beyond words, and if you’ve never had it, maybe you’ll jump off the raw meat cliff the next time you see it on a menu.  Making it couldn’t be simpler.  Simply grind 4-6 ounces of raw beef tenderloin per person in a meat grinder, and mix it with tartare flavoring base, which is comprised of roughly:

1) 2 parts tomato paste

2) 1 part dijon mustard

3) 1 part ground horseradish

4) Plenty of salt and cayenne pepper/black pepper

5) A dash of Worcesterhire sauce

Blend these ingredients together into a paste and mix in 1 heaping spoonful with each 4-6 ounce portion that you grind.  You’ll know when you get the taste just right.  It’s amazing, and the meat is buttery smooth.  Best served with toasted bread, crispy french fries, or something else with some good complementary starch and crunchy texture. 

Blackened Filet Mignon

The Mignon Man March is going strong.  Here’s the next installment – quick and easy (and smoky) blackened beef tenderloin.  This one combines several prior episodes of 180 Kitchen, as I dust the tenderloin with the seasoning blend from the last post, and serve it with parmesan polenta (a former post) and wilted spinach (the first 180 Kitchen post). 

Directions:

1) Coat top and bottom of the tenderloin with blackening spice.

2) Sear on high heat until a nice crust forms on both the top and the bottom.

3) Lightly sear the remaining sides.

4) Place in oven at 350 degrees F until cooked to your liking. If rare, you can skip the oven step.

5) Slice in the middle and serve with some yummy starch and a side of vegetables for a perfect meal.

Next in the Mignon line up is tartare!  Stay tuned!

Mignon Man March

It’s March, a month I’ve decided to dedicate to one thing and one thing only on the 180 Kitchen blog…

Filet Mignon.

Most assume that beef tenderloin, or filet mignon is just not an everyday food.  It’s for a special occasion.  Too damn expensive.

Well, I’ve cut the costs of filet mignon to just $4 per portion, and have been enjoying it several times per week for nearly a month.  Beef tartare, bacon-wrapped tournedos, beef wellington, blackened tenderloin… I’ve been having good food and good fun and don’t plan on quitting my mignon habit any time soon.

Anyway, look for some tasty posts over the next 30 days.  The first step is butchering a whole tenderloin in your home kitchen – the key that makes this doable for the advertised price, and that allows you to do a wide variety of things with tenderloin – from roasts to stews to rendering beef fat into tallow for frying. It’s not as hard as it looks, so don’t be a wuss and try it!!! 

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 

Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin

I hated to torment you guys with this impressive display of yumminess, but the urge to do so overwhelmed any and every moral I may possess. 

Unfortunately, the video I filmed last night came out sideways.  Bummer.  It was good (I’ll update this post if I can figure out how to fix it).  No matter, the process of wrapping some cow with some pig  just ain’t that difficult of a concept to understand. 

First you get yourself a whole tenderloin, trimming it up by removing some of the hard, exterior fat and removing sinews.   This takes practice, but isn’t rocket science.  It’s not unlike whittling a stick really.   

Next, you cut off the thin tail and trim up the bulky ‘head’ so that the whole tenderloin is close to uniform in size.

From there you:

1) Season tenderloin with plenty of salt and pepper, or in my case, paprika, cayenne, sea salt, and garlic powder mixed together in a “blackening spice.”

2) Lay out enough bacon strips to span the length of the tenderloin.

3) Place the tenderloin on top of the bacon strips.

4) Wrap the bacon strips snugly around the beef, not too tight or too loose, and pin each bacon strip with a toothpick or metal pin such as the kind I have in the pics.

5) Throw the whole beast on a barbecue grill, browning all the bacon on the exterior (you could bake this at very high heat if you prefer). 

6) Cook very slowly on a rack above the grill or in the oven until the meat just begins to tighten.

7) Let sit, away from the heat, for 30 minutes (called “resting,” it allows the center of the meat to get nice and warm, cooking it evenly, without the exterior getting overcooked).

8 ) Reheat for 10 minutes in the oven at say, 400 degrees F. 

9) Remove toothpicks.

10) Slice into nice portions and serve. 

Here are the photos of this amazing concoction, served with a Yukon Gold potato and Yam gratin and Caesar salad with homemade croutons and dressing. 

As always, click on the photos to enlarge.