Categories
beef recipes sandwiches

The Pastrami Project

Short Rib PastramiPastrami made with a short rib slab. (second attempt)

Pastrami is one of my favorite things to eat in the whole world, but it never occurred to me that I could actually make it myself until I read Asian Jewish Deli’s Pastrami Reuben post. What caught my attention was that AJD used a slab of short ribs instead of the more traditional brisket or beef plate that is used to make pastrami, and short ribs are my favorite part of the cow.

Pastrami (brisket)Pastrami made with brisket.

A couple months later, I was reading through Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio and in the chapter on brines, I saw a recipe for corned beef with an additional pastrami variation. I decided I would give that version a shot, especially since the dutch oven bread I made previously from Ratio turned out to really well. Ruhlman recently posted his version of short rib pastrami using regular boneless short ribs, but I kinda took the wind out of his sails a bit when I mentioned AJD’s version to him on Twitter a couple days before it went online.

Pastrami (short rib)
Short rib pastrami made with a standard cut of boneless short ribs. (first attempt)

The pastrami-making process is broken down into three steps: curing, smoking, and steaming. Curing is basically how you make corned beef. When you smoke and steam corned beef, you get pastrami. In fact, if you bought a prepackaged corned beef at the market, you could easily make this into pastrami, but I’d bet that doing it yourself will yield a better result.

Curing takes four days and is usually done with a wet cure, i.e. brine. Ruhlman prefers brining, especially for larger cuts of meat like a brisket. I also saw some examples on other Web sites where a dry cure didn’t penetrate all the way to the middle of the meat, so I decided to stick with a brine. After brining, the meat is rinsed, dried and then coated on all sides with a ground pepper/coriander rub before it is smoked and steamed.

Pastrami (brisket) sandwichBrisket pastrami sandwich (first attempt).

The first pastrami I made used a brisket point, and it was good, but not as salty as I expected it to be. I also had a couple pieces of boneless short ribs that I threw on the brine, and those smaller pieces of meat were closer to the flavor I was looking for. Upon reviewing the recipe in Ratio, I found a typo in the recipe that affected the ratio of water to salt. I guess I could have figured out the math since tere is a specific ratio for brines, but math was never my strong suit. ;-) I mentioned the discrepancy and verified the correct ratio with Ruhlman via Twitter and proceeded to make a second pastrami a couple weeks later.

Since my goal at the outset was to make short rib pastrami, I set out to find some a slab of short ribs for the second attempt. I found one at Baron’s Meats in Alameda, but if you can’t get your hands on one, you can simply use boneless short ribs since these are easy to find at your market or butcher. Also, since boneless short ribs are smaller, they’re much easier to handle than a short rib slab or an unwieldy brisket.

PASTRAMI RECIPE
adapted from Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio
This version of the recipe corrects the typo in the first edition of Ratio and converts the corned beef recipe into dedicated pastrami variation.

INGREDIENTS
1 4-5 pound brisket, short rib slab, or boneless short ribs.

Brine
2 liters water (half gallon)
25 grams of pink curing salt* (1 ounce or 5 teaspoons)
50 grams sugar (1¼ ounces or scant ¼ cup)
100 grams kosher salt
10 cloves garlic, flattened with the flat side of a knife
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon whole allspice
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick, crushed or broken into pieces
3 bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon whole cloves
½ teaspoon ground ginger

* The key to preserving pastrami’s familiar red color is using pink curing salt (i.e. sodium nitrite). You can order it online at butcher-packer.com. You can omit it, but the pastrami will be brownish gray instead of red.

Dry Rub
Equal parts ground pepper and ground coriander, preferably freshly ground (enough to cover the meat)

DIRECTIONS
In a pot large enough to hold the entire piece of meat, combine all the brine ingredients in a large pot. Simmer and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature before refrigerating. When the brine is completely chilled, place the meat in the pot. Use a plate to keep the meat submerged, if necessary. Refrigerate for four days.

Remove the meat from the brine and rinse well. Dry the meat and then cover completely it in the pepper/coriander rub. Smoke the meat until the internal temperature of the meat is 165F. This will take a couple hours or so. After smoking, steam the meat for a couple more hours until tender.

If you’re eating the pastrami right away, you can remove it from the steamer and start slicing it up. If you’re not serving the pastrami right away, you can let it cool and then wrap it up in plastic wrap and refrigerate it. Cooling the pastrami also makes it easier to slice thinly if that’s how you like it. Whether you keep it whole or slice it up, steam the pastrami for 5-10 minutes to warm the meat and give it a bit more moisture before serving.

I normally prefer a traditional New York-style sandwich of pastrami on rye bread with brown deli mustard or a pastrami reuben with melted and sauerkraut (as pictured above).

Beef Pastrami on Foodista

Categories
Hawaii Hawaiian Oahu reviews

Helena’s Hawaiian Foods – Honolulu, HI

When a hole-in-the-wall place like Helena’s Hawaiian Foods wins a James Beard award for outstanding American regional cuisine, you know there’s something special going on over there. In Helena’s case, it’s definitely the pipikaula short ribs and as many of you know, I’m a freak for short ribs. Pipikaula is a Hawaiian version of beef jerky, but this is the first time I’ve seen it made with short ribs. They’re crispy on the outside and tender on the inside and even better if you dip it in the chili pepper water that comes on the side.

Short ribs curing above the oven at Helena's.

Here’s a rundown of the rest of our order, which included familiar Hawaiian standards:

  • kalua pork – good but could have been smokier
  • squid luau – squid content was low but the flavors were spot on. My wife’s friend said this was just like the squid luau she grew up eating.
  • lomi salmon – not normally a fan, but I actually liked Helena’s.
  • chicken long rice – strong ginger flavor, which I liked, but it masks the chicken.
  • beef stew – solid
  • fried butterfish collar – rich and fatty…excellent.
  • poi – Nice purple color, but we don’t like poi. Our friend and her two-year-old daughter loved it, though.
  • haupia – the pipikaula had me in their trance and I forgot to have some! :( My wife liked it and said it was smooth and not watery like some haupias.
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Helena’s is an a weird location for out-of-town visitors, but if you can make it over there, the pipikaula short ribs are definitely worth a try. Plus, everyone there is super nice, and they’ll make you feel at home.

INFORMATION
Helena’s Hawaiian Foods
1240 N. School Street
Honolulu, HI 96817 map
808.845.8044

Categories
Anthony Bourdain beef French Northern California recipes

Beef Bourguignon

After the success I had with the Momofuku-inspired Braised Beef Short Ribs a couple weeks ago, I thought I’d give braising another try, this time with Beef Bourguignon. There are so many ways to prepare this classic dish, but I was looking for something quick and dirty. This is where Anthony Bourdain comes into the picture. Bourdain’s Boeuf Bourguignon recipe has been hailed for being both delicious and incredibly easy, so I went looking for it online since I don’t own the Les Halles Cookbook yet. A little Google-fu led me to the Washington Post, and I was on my way. Here’s a picture of the final product, and yes, it was as good as it looks.


Beef Bourgignon

I had to tweak the recipe a bit to accommodate the ingredients I had one hand. To start, I used four pounds of bone-in English cut short ribs. I only had one onion, but we did buy an enormous leek at the farmer’s market that morning, so I used that to compensate. I also didn’t have a bottle of Burgundy handy, so I used a bottle of Magnificent Winery’s House Wine that was left over from our 2005 wedding.

To finish the dish, I strained the braising liquid before reducing it down a bit, and then roasted some carrots and potatoes in a separate pan before adding it to the meat. This finishing step ensures that you have freshly cooked vegetables in the stew and not the mushy ones from the braising liquid.

The recipe that follows after the jump is basically how it was printed, but with my modifications.

Categories
beef Best of Inuyaki David Chang Momofuku recipes Thomas Keller

Braised Beef Short Ribs

A couple weeks ago, I bought some short ribs but was at a loss at how I was going to prepare them. Normally I prepare them sous vide, but I wanted to do a traditional braise this time. I contemplated doing the Beef Bourgignon recipe in Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook, but I didn’t really have the time to do such a meticulous recipe.

I was reminded of the soy/sake short ribs I had at Maru and set out to find something similar, eventually stumbling upon an easy recipe by Momofuku’s David Chang on the New York Times Web site. I’m a big fan of Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar, where I had the perfect bowl of noodles on our New York trip last May, so I was pretty excited to give this recipe a try.


braised beef short ribs

Overall, the dish turned out great. The meat was fork tender and delicious, and we even had fun with the plating. It was a bit on the sweet side, so next time, I think I’m going to cut the sugar since there’s already a lot sweetness from the apple juice and mirin.

Categories
Japanese reviews Southern California

Maru

We were in town to celebrate my dad’s birthday, and I was eager to find a place in Santa Clarita that was worthy of our attention so we didn’t have to drive out to LA for a nice meal. I found Maru after reading several glowing reviews on Yelp, where some reviewers admit to driving all the way to Valencia from all over the Southland just to eat there. People driving to Valencia just to eat? Now I had to see if it really lived up to the hype.

Maru is not your typical Japanese restaurant because in addition to a fairly standard Japanese menu, they also feature a seasonal Market Menu that features “modern California cuisine” and includes dishes like seared foie gras, crispy duck risotto, USDA Prime steaks, and other dishes you’d find at a typical upscale restaurant. Fresh fish is flown in daily from Japan, the restaurant is committed to using organic, free-range products, and all the vegetables are hand picked by chef/owner Jason Park at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Markets. You could argue that Maru serves the freshest food in Santa Clarita, but having a great meal there depends entirely on which menu you choose.

We decided to pick dishes from both menus so we could try as many of the inventive dishes as possible, as well as see how Maru handles some of the basics. For starters, we ordered their much-heralded crispy duck risotto and agedashi tofu. Creamy duck risotto was shaped like a puck and then seared to make it crispy and was an excellent appetizer. Unfortunately, the agedashi tofu we ordered was seriously lacking. The tofu wasn’t fried very well, and it was served only in a ponzu-flavored dashi. There were no bonito flakes or grated daikon to be found, so it felt incomplete and worst of all…boring. (The dashi was good though.)

Crispy Duck RisottoCrispy Duck Risotto

(Note: I read several reports that Maru frowns up on people taking pictures of the food (allegedly because the chef is paranoid about someone stealing his ideas) so I broke out my spy camera—er, iPhone—to get these pictures.)

Categories
Ad Hoc beef chicken fried chicken soul food sous vide Thomas Keller

A Comfort Food Christmas

This year, instead of a traditional Christmas dinner, we decided to do meal composed of comfort food, i.e. fried chicken, beef short ribs, flap steak, mac and cheese, bacon smashed potatoes, and chocolate cake. The fried chicken and short ribs were inspired by the food we’ve had at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc in Yountville, and in fact, the fried chicken recipe is based on the Ad Hoc version that was published in Food and Wine magazine in October 2007.

What this actually means, of course, is that we cooked all the entrees sous vide. I got a 60C/140F water bath going and started the beef short ribs on Dec. 22 so that it would cook for 48 hours. I added the flap steak, which I found really cheap at Costco, to the water bath about 12 hours before serving. The chicken was brined overnight as specified in the recipe and then placed in the water bath about two hours before we started frying. The 140F temperature is a little low for chicken, but we were still going to fry it so getting it up to the “safe” temperature of 160F wasn’t too much of a concern.


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Overall, these were the best sous vide dishes I’ve made to date. After getting some tips from Nick, Ad Hoc’s general manager, on a trip to Ad Hoc the day after Thanksgiving, the short ribs we produced were perfect. I might try them at a lower temperature next time so they’re a little more rare, but I stuck with 140 because we were working with chicken, as well.

The flap steak was initially a stop gap in case we didn’t have enough food, but they ended up being one of the stars of the dinner. After removing from the water bath, I seared them really quickly on one side for appearance’s sake and then cut them on the bias for presentation.

The chicken probably didn’t need to be cooked sous vide, but I’ve been doing it this way to ensure that the chicken is really moist and tender when it’s finally served.

I’ll post the recipes for the mac and cheese and smashed potatoes later, but in the mean time, you can see what they looked in the slideshow. My cousin brought corn and salad (not pictured) and the delicious chocolate tunnel cake that finished the meal.

It’s been a couple years since my wife and I took over the cooking duties at major holidays, so the main goal is to make sure that my mom likes the food. So far she’s been impressed, but I’m trying to figure out if we should do something more traditional next year, or should we start a sous vide short ribs and fried chicken tradition for the holidays?

What do you think?

Categories
Ad Hoc beef reviews sous vide Thomas Keller

Ad Hoc (06.30.07)

Washington Street is an unassuming country road in the Napa Valley that also happens to be the epicenter of Thomas Keller’s culinary empire. His flagship restaurant, The French Laundry, put Yountville on the map, but Keller also operates Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, and the happy accident down the street known as Ad Hoc.

As its name implies, Ad Hoc was supposed to be a temporary six-month experiment before Keller opened a restaurant specializing in gourmet burgers and wine. But Ad Hoc proved to be so popular that it’s now become a permanent member of Keller’s restaurant family, and the “burgers and bottles” concept was put on the back burner.


ad hoc

Under the leadership of Chef Dave Cruz, Ad Hoc serves a different four-course set menu every night, showcasing the best of American comfort food, including braised beef short ribs, roasted Kurobuta pork, hangar steaks and their legendary fried chicken. Each meal consists of a salad course, main course, cheese course and dessert. If you finish your meal and want a bit more, you can always ask for seconds and they’ll happily bring you more. Wine selections are plentiful, and the young, energetic staff is happy to help you pick an appropriate wine.

When we arrived, I got excited when I saw that we were getting braised beef short ribs. I didn’t really care about anything else on the menu because there are only a few things I love in this world more than a braised beef short rib. This evening’s menu:


Frisee and Mache Salad
shredded Liberty Farms duck leg shaved celery, cornichons, fried capers,
duck skin cracklins and a creamy garlic dressing

~

Braised Beef Short Ribs
baby leeks and fennel, fingerling potatoes, sofrito,
orange zest and spanish black olives

~

Cana de Oveja
camembert with K & J Farms nectarines

~

Mixed Berries and Cream
house-made granola





The Frisee and Mache Salad was excellent, especially when you consider that I’m not much of a duck fan because I usually find it too fatty and the flavor can be overwhelming. But this duck leg was the exact opposite; it was succulent and flavorful without dominating the salad, and I forgot I was eating duck for a second. Fried capers were a revelation…they look like they burst open, kind of like miniature bits of fresh green popcorn (or would that be pop-capers?). The duck skin cracklins were a great substitute for bacon bits; there’s nothing like crunchy fried bird skin is there?

The main course of Braised Beef Short Ribs was an eye-opening entree. Our waiter said the meat was braised for 48 hours, which was confusing to me until one of our dining companions revealed that it was technically a sous vide. I had no idea what a sous vide was at the time, but soon learned that this technique produces some of the most delectable meat I’ve ever eaten. Cutting into the meat was like moving a hot knife through butter, but the meat didn’t fall apart. Each slice of meat melted in my mouth and had a really rich, beefy flavor with a hint of citrus from the orange zest. Not only was this among the finest meat dishes I’ve ever eaten, it made me curious enough about sous vide to explore the possibilities of doing it at home.

The cheese course consisted of Camembert wedges and slices of the freshest nectarines I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. You tend to forget how good fresh fruit really tastes if your only source is the local Safeway.

Dessert was a seemingly simple Mixed Berries and Cream with delicious house-made granola from Bouchon Bakery. The twist here is that the whipped cream is mixed with a little creme fraiche and buttermilk, which made it more decadent than one might think possible. I never thought I would go ga-ga over a blueberry and raspberry parfait, but in the right hands, anything can be positively sinful.

Ad Hoc’s casual atmosphere and easy-going staff make it easy to relax and enjoy a truly superb meal. What’s most striking about the dining experience was the simplicity of the food. It’s basically comfort food that’s been refined or redefined by using different techniques and fresher ingredients that elevate it to a higher level. If Ad Hoc is the low-hanging fruit in the Keller kingdom, then I can only imagine how good the food is at Bouchon and The French Laundry.

I think I’ll start saving my pennies now.

INFORMATION
Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St.
Yountville, CA 94599 map
707.944.2487
Ad Hoc on Urbanspoon