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6th Annual Truffle Dinner – Part 2

2009/12/17

Tuesday’s post covered the first half of my annual truffle dinner and included possibly the best risotto I’ve ever prepared. Today’s post takes care of the main course.

The recipe came from Gordon Ramsey’s 3-Star Chef cookbook. It’s a stunning book, particularly for the full-page photos of every recipe at the front of it. It’s definitely not a simple book to cook from. Many, many steps are required, but I planned well and was able to spread out the prep over several days.

While the recipe was entitled “Roast fillet of beef with truffle and root vegetable infusion,” there was much, much more in the final dish. Not only was beef tenderloin involved, there was also braised beef shank as well. I guess more accurately it could be called a duo of beef? Due to the time it takes to braise a shank, I took care of that the night before. I varied the instructions for this portion as I’m a firm believer in McGee’s technique for braising that was outlined in my Braised Waygu Short Ribs post. Mirepoix, wine, stock, herbs and the seared shank were added to my Le Creuset and braised until fork tender, the beef allowed to cool in the liquid to allow for some reabsorption. The whole pot went into the fridge overnight to allow the fat to solidify, making it easier to skim off the next day.

The braising liquid with all its fantastic flavour was then converted into a consomme that would act as the base for the “truffle and root vegetable infusion.” Unfortunately the process was a little awkward due to how I handled the braise and defatting situation overnight. Due to the gelatin content in the shank, the braising liquid effectively turned solid. After defatting, I needed to slightly warm everything so I could easily remove the shank and strain the liquid. The beef shank was shredded finely and just enough braising liquid was added to moisten it. The meat was portioned out into small ziplock bags and flattened into rectangles about 2.5″ x 5″ in size. This component was complete and tucked away in the fridge to set.

To properly clarify a stock for consomme, however, the stock needs to be cold. The slightly reduced and strained braising liquid had to go back into the fridge to chill thoroughly while I started to prepare the ingredients for an egg white raft.

I find the concept of an egg white raft and how it works quite interesting. You add the egg white mixture to cold stock, turn the burner to low, and whisk constantly. You need to keep whisking to prevent the egg mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pot and scorching. When the raft starts to form, you need to keep the heat at a level where the liquid stays just below a simmer. As the temperature increases, the proteins in the egg whites start to bind with one another and turn into a “raft” or mesh. The raft then floats to the surface, and as it works it way through the liquid it traps any impurities or particulate matter in it. The problem is that even though it gets rid of particulate matter (that we don’t want), it also removes some flavour (which we do want). To combat this, more than just egg whites are included in the raft. Most often, a bit of ground beef or beef trimmings, whole peppercorns, and perhaps some herbs are added (in this case, thyme and rosemary leaves). These ingredients are blitzed in a food processor and added to the cold stock as stated above. After about 15-20 minutes (it sometimes longer, depending on the quantity of stock being clarified), the liquid is ladled into a sieve lined with several layers of the finest cheesecloth that is available. The result – liquid gold! A beautifully clarified beef consomme to serve as the “sauce” for this dish.

Those two components of the dish were clearly the most time-intensive. The rest seemed like a relative walk in the park! Carrots and turnips were blanched, later to be re-blanched to warm through along with some peas. Chanterelle, oyster, and shitake mushrooms were sauteed in butter. The “infusion” was created by steeping a few pieces of carrot, turnip, black truffle trimmings, a sprig of thyme, and a bay leaf in the consomme. Two very large bunches of swiss chard were braised in the leftover chicken stock from the risotto, and finally a gorgeous 11-week aged beef tenderloin was pan seared (whole) and finished in the oven, resulting in a perfect medium-rare piece of meat.

The assembly was pretty straight forward. On the bottom of the very, very warm bowls was the beef shank. A bit of the truffled consomme was ladled on top to warm it through. Braised chard was next, followed by slices of beef tenderloin that had slices of black truffle layered in between. Mushrooms and vegetables were scattered and more of the consomme was ladled around. The dish was finished with a sprinkle of fleur-de-sel and a very, very (did I mention very?) healthy shaving of truffles.

Roast fillet of beef with truffle and root vegetable infusion

Roast fillet of beef with truffle and root vegetable infusion

Roast fillet of beef with truffle and root vegetable infusion

Roast fillet of beef with truffle and root vegetable infusion

I loved this plate. It was absolutely sublime. Was it easy to prepare? Hell no. Was it worth the effort? Definitely! Every component worked so well together and the quality of beef was absolutely fantastic. Generally speaking I’m not a fan of tenderloin (I much prefer ribeye or striploin), but this good lord this was effing awesome. It is a surprisingly hearty dish though and a couple people had leftovers for the next day. Plenty of room for dessert, however, as that goes in a different stomach.

A pair of 1998 Nebbiolo were nice accompaniments to the beef. The 1998 Paolo Conterno Barolo Ginestra is just a shadow of what it will be with additional cellaring. Rich fruit and hints of tar and truffle popped when the beef absorbed some of the relatively firm tannins still present in the wine. The 1998 Pio Cesare Barbaresco Il Bricco was much more approachable but has a long life ahead of it.

  • 1998 Paolo Conterno Barolo Ginestra – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (12/5/2009)Decanted for 3-4 hours. On opening, the wine was very tannic, almost painfully so. The tannins mellowed significantly with air but they were still very, very firm. Big nose of tar, roses, leather, crushed black fruit, and hints of truffle followed through to the palate. Moderate-long finish. ~35-40s with dark fruit and earth notes.Considering this wine is from Ginestra in Monforte d’Alba, I shouldn’t be terrible surprised at its state of evolution. This wine needs significantly more cellaring and I wouldn’t revisit before 2014 in hopes of a more mature wine. Drink 2014-2022+. (91 pts.)
  • 1998 Pio Cesare Barbaresco Il Bricco – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco (12/5/2009)Decanted 3-4 hours. Dark ruby/black colour; opaque. Aromas of crushed black plums, blackberries, vanilla, leather, mint. Full-bodied, rich, surprisingly approachable with replays from nose and a hint of spice. Moderate-long finish, ~35-40s, with dark crushed fruit. Very nice, and significantly more approachable than the 1998 Paolo Conterno Barolo Ginestra served alongside it. Drink now-2018. (91 pts.)

I had initially decided to include dessert in this post, but the process for the main was pretty lengthy! You’ll have to wait for tomorrow for dessert and a postscript. Sorry folks!

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