Sunday, July 2, 2017

"Secret Ingredients - The Magical Process of Combining Flavors" - Roasted Sirloin of Beef with Five Onions - for Iron Chef Gauntlet

Date I made this recipe – June 24, 2017 – Iron Chef America returns and a Father's Day do-over

Secret Ingredients – The Magical Process of Combining Flavors by Michael Roberts
Published by Bantam Books
ISBN: 0-553-05320-5; copyright 1988
Purchased at Magers & Quinn, Independent Booksellers, Minneapolis
Recipe:  Roasted Sirloin of Beef with Five Onions – p. 155

Before I get too deep into this blog post, let me get this off my chest:  aaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

There, I feel so much better!

Here's the deal:  I set this cookbook aside while watching the return of Iron Chef Gauntlet on the Food Network because how perfect, right, and was all set and ready to roll in a timely manner until I was not ready to roll in a timely manner because things happened.  For the record, this series aired in May.  We are now nearing the end of June and by the time I post this, it will be early July.  You do the math.

If you read my Father's Day post, you'll know that I erred big time in making a pasta dish instead of burgers and it has bugged me ever since.  So for "redemption," I thought I should finally getting around to making the dish I selected for an Iron Chef post – "Roasted Sirloin of Beef with Five Onions," and I did but it didn't quite work (or redeem me) as I intended and now I have to deal with the fact that I botched both Father's Day – twice! – and Iron Chef. Rats.

By the way, let me just say that I thought the show I was watching was the Next Iron Chef, but no, that's a different series:  same format, different title.  There is also Iron Chef America but this was not that.  This was Iron Chef Gauntlet,[1] not to be confused with "Iron Chef Hands Tied Behind My Back," or "Iron Chef Blindfolded," or any Iron Chef-titled series, real or imagined to which I say "Come on Food Network.  Come on.  These are variations of the same thing so let's keep it simple out there m'kay?"

At any rate, the premise of ALL Iron Chef shows is that two chefs (or two chefs with teams of minions) compete against each other making several dishes from the "Secret Ingredient." The reveal of the secret ingredients makes me laugh every time as it is so dramatic, and yet sometimes it makes me almost hurl because of the ingredient is so egregious. [2] Although the cheftestants don't always make a dessert with a secret ingredient, some do, and I am sorry, there is no world out there in which "fish" and "dessert go together."[3]  Not happening.

The secret ingredient for my own private (and singular) Iron Chef competition, taken from today's cookbook, Secret Ingredients was "Battle...Meat."

Well, okay, nothing like a broad category, so I decided that the five onions in my dish – Roasted Sirloin of Beef with Five Onions - were way more interesting than "meat" and so I changed the battle to Battle...Onions!  I can do that.  It's my blog.  Also?  My late fathered loved sirloin and loved onions so this to me was the perfect Father's Day redemption recipe.  (There might even be an "Iron Chef Redemption" show although I can't be sure.  What I do know is that some cheftestants who were eliminated on a previous episode sometimes do come back for redemption.  This is not that story.)

We were lucky enough to enjoy plenty of sirloin steak dinners in our house, but only if it was on sale.  My mother always did her homework and studied the Munising News when it came out on Wednesdays as if she was a librarian at the Library of Congress. (She actually did a stint as a librarian before she was married.)  Then with the sales price firmly in her head, she went to whatever grocery store out of three featured the sale on steak and ordered up.  Suffice it to say that the local butchers became very familiar with my mom and knew to cut her a beautiful 2-inch thick piece of sirloin. "On sale" sirloin.  If it wasn't on sale, we didn't have it, the end. (She also often applied this reasoning to clothing which drove my dad crazy because he could afford her clothes and told her constantly "If you like it, buy it."  Yes, well, my mother wasn't buying any of that argument, clothes or no clothes, steak or no steak!)

As these things go, while mom might have purchased the steak, dad was in charge of cooking it because that's what dads did back then.  My dad's preferred method of cooking was the broiler and to see him in action was seeing a master at work.  He was so good, he could have easily worked in any steak house in America

If my dad had his way, every steak would be cooked to rare as in "practically mooing" as in "Why bother to even put it under the flame?"  My mother didn't roll like that.  My mother feared that we would all die someday from eating raw meat and so insisted that he cook hers to medium.

To his credit, my father never cried about this abomination against nature (his words) but he came close.  My brother and I redeemed ourselves though by asking for rare steak (we still do when dining out), but dad compromised and gave it to us medium-rare lest my mother keep him up all night over how her children were going to get sick and die from eating "raw" (rare) meat.  Never mind that none of us ever got sick from our parents' cooking (we wouldn't dare) but these are the things that mothers stressed about besides the current price of steak.

This recipe eschews a broiler for an oven, and roasting instead of broiling and I should have taken that as a sign and run away from this recipe because roasting the meat requires a thicker cut than I purchased and could afford.[4]  In fact, the first directions are to "...sear the meat on both sides very well and then place it in the oven" and I'm not going to lie – I should have stopped right then and there.  Right then and there.  Seared meat is the equivalent of rare meat (according to the Gospel of Lou Verme) but I didn't stop there and like a good soldier, followed directions to the letter.  Well, almost the letter.

This recipe called for a 2 ½ - 3 pound piece of sirloin and hahahahahaha...are they kidding?  Not at current market prices.  The roasting time for that amount of meat was 30-40 minutes but I knew that was too long for my little (but pricey) steak so I cut it down to about 15 minutes and also got out a trusty meat thermometer so I could double-check.  The recipe said to cook until rare to medium-rare, approximately 130-135°. 

So I took the meat out of the oven, and even took it out a few minutes early and...140.  The meat's temperature was at 140°. Crap!  Crap, crap, crap!  I kept an eye on it but you know what, steaks are tricky; one second too long and it's all over but the crying.   Keep in mind that steak continues to cook while resting and I knew as soon as I starting cutting it (after letting it rest), I was screwed; it started pink but ended up brown. 

Now, would the medium (and brown) meat have satisfied my mother?  Naturally!  My dad?  Well, this is when I let out one great big "argh," which, when my father did it, sounded just Chewbacca, the Wookie (from Star Wars) and it is funny, but it is not a good sound.[5] It is the sound of pain, crushing disappointment, and overdone meat!  And I have to say it, but damn, I was mad!  Had my father taught me nothing?  I am not worth Obi-[Lou]-Wan Kenobi.  I am not worthy.

As to onions, this recipe called for a yellow onion, a leek, a red onion, scallions, and chives.  The yellow onions and leeks were to be sautéed but the red onion, scallions, and chives were added as garnish.

Now, I like red onion but not raw and so I sautéed the red onion with the yellow onion and the leek, and then at the very last minute, threw in the scallions and the chives and let them cook for about a minute and the result was pretty good.

In my opinion though, all the onions could have all benefitted from longer cooking times, particularly the leeks as they remained crunchy and I hated that.  If I made this again (assuming I raise enough money for my sirloin budget), I would sauté the hell out of the three key onions until they were almost caramelized and then still throw in the scallions and chives just to soften them up for a bit.

Needless to say, I did not redeem myself for my late father, nor did I pass an Iron Chef test and dammit all, I was so ready, was I not? (!)  Exactly! Next time around, I'm going to "study" and then look out!

As to alternatives to the beef "secret" ingredient, you can also select a dish from more overly-broad categories such as:
  • Soups
  • Salads
  • Raw, Marinated, and Cured First Courses
  • Pancakes, Fritters, and Croquettes
  • Sausages
  • One-Dish Meals
  • Quick Stews
  • Meats
  • Poultry
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Vegetables and Side Dishes
  • Desserts
  • Kitchen Pantry (Stocks, Dips, Condiments)

There's also a chapter titled "Pep Talk to the Reader" which I skipped (bad decision) but which I am pretty sure did not contain the directive "for best results, ensure that your steak is as thick as a wedge-heel sandal!"

Here then, is the "Secret Ingredient Sirloin" with Five Onions.

Roasted Sirloin of Beef with Five Onions – serves 4 to 6
1 tablespoon salad oil
2 ½ - to 3-pound New York sirloin
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium leek, white part only, finely sliced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced (about ½ cup)
1 ½ cups veal stock or 1 ½ cups canned low-sodium beef broth
24 chives, finely minced
4 scallions, finely minced
½ small red onion, finely diced(about ½ cup)

Ann's Note:  what follows below is how the author wants you to cook the sirloin, but as I advised above, I don't think I would roast it at all as you are unlikely to get a piece of steak thick enough to withstand roasting.  Instead, I would broil the meat and/or sear the meat a little longer than required until you achieve the steak doneness that you want, and then move on to the onion mixture.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Heat the oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet or small roasting pan over high heat.  When the oil is very hot, sear the meat very well on both sides.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in the oven.  Roast 30 to 40 minutes for rare to medium-rare, turning once.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 1-quart saucepan over low heat, add the leek and the yellow onion, and cook gently, without letting them color, for 8 minutes.  Add the veal stock (beef stock), raise the heat to high, and cook until liquid reduces and thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon.  Remove from heat and whisk in the remaining butter.

Remove the steak from oven when cooked to desired doneness and let rest on a carving board for 5 minutes before carving.  Slice the steak against the grain into ½-inch thick slices, arrange on a platter, and spoon the sauce over it.  Garnish with the chives, scallions, and red onion.  Ann's Note:  I decided to cook all the onions as I wasn't that fond of them raw, particularly the red onion.  My recommendation is to cook the yellow and red onions and the leek until almost caramelized and then add the chives and scallions and cook them for about 1 minutes.

[1] On this season's Iron Chef Gauntlet (was there another season?), Chicagoan [chef] Stephanie Izard beat out several highly-talent chefs for the chance to become an Iron Chef.  Once she won all her cheftestant rounds against fellow chefs of similar caliber, Stephanie had to compete in three separate rounds against current Iron Chefs Morimoto, Flay (Bobby) and Symon (Michael) in order to become a true Iron Chef.  Spoiler alert:  she did, she is!  Stephanie also won Top Chef, season 4.  She is a one to watch.  Another one to watch is fellow Chicagoan, Sarah Grueneberg, top chef at Monteverde in Chicago.  This year, Sarah walked away with a coveted James Beard Award as the Best Chef: Great Lakes.  Even though she lost to Stephanie, she was mighty impressive and I need to eat at her restaurant, STAT!
[2] You cannot tell me that some of the cheftestants don't have the same reaction as I do. You cannot tell me that.  Oh sure, they act all giddy and jump up and down about having to use fish fins or eel eggs as a secret ingredient but I know this is not so.  I know it.
[3] Ibid.  Which is to say "ditto."
[4] I paid nearly $12.00 for a one-pound piece of sirloin that wasn't the correct thickness – yikes!
[5] After Star Wars came out, I noticed the startling similarities between Chewbacca and my dad when they were upset about something.  Chewy raised his arm when he bellowed and so did dad plus, they both made a similar sound.  My dad was not at all upset about this comparison which was a good thing because I teased him about it until the day he died.  He'd always chuckle and say "Yeah, you're right!"

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