three most difficult recipes

Three difficult recipes made easy

Three difficult recipes made easy. There had been many that had challenged me, frustrated me and had made me curse and throw stuff and tantrums in my kitchen. I have still not perfected the art of dishing out a perfectly crisp dosa. Bakery is one branch of cooking that I am yet not comfortable with. Most of my experiments with choux pastry have come to nought, except for one instance when my profiteroles turned out surprisingly well. Although most of the egoistic chefs look down upon those blokes in bakeries as lesser mortals, I have nothing but respect for anything related to patisserie.

However, the reason I am mentioning these three recipes in this blog is that I have mastered them with relative ease, though they can be tricky. My point is, do not get intimated by blogs that almost invariably mention these as the most trying to accomplish. Follow the recipes below to the minutest detail and I can assure you none would believe that you were a first-timer.

Consommé

Consommé is a rich clear soup made with lean meat, egg whites, eggshells, tomatoes, spices and herbs and stock. It is believed to be one of the most difficult dishes to prepare. The degree of clarity of the soup defines the skill of the chef. Many experienced chefs have been known to falter while clarifying the soup with egg whites and egg shells wherein the impurities are skimmed by allowing to form a “raft” on the surface.

I had my first encounter with beef consommé in the first year of my catering college. How could they expect us to make consommé in the very first year as none of us knew anything about cooking? However, it was one of the most interesting cooking techniques to learn. The first attempt was of course a disaster as all of us ended up with some weird and ugly cloudy broth. Bringing the liquid to simmer without rolling and not allowing the raft to disintegrate was tricky business. Amazingly, I mastered the art quickly. During our internal assessment, of all people, I was tasked with making consommé. Surprisingly, the product came out so well that our instructor simply lost his wits and refused to give me credit for the effort that was solely mine. He suspected I had surreptitiously taken help from one of his assistants who used to assist him during his classes. In fact, I virtually had to draw them by their ears to admit that they did not help me at all. The world indeed was untrustworthy.

Three difficult recipes made easy

Ingredients

For the broth

  • Lean ground beef (Sirloin)- 500 g (you can also use ground chicken or lamb)
  • Egg whites with egg shells- 4 nos.
  • Malt vinegar- 30 ml
  • Fresh thyme (chopped)- 1 tsp
  • Bay leaves- 2 nos.
  • Black peppercorns- 10 nos.
  • Parsley stalks- 1 bunch
  • Canned tomatoes (Roma or San Marzano)
  • Celery- 1 bunch
  • Onions- 50 g
  • Carrot- 150 g
  • Turnip- 100 g
  • Green part of leeks- 1 tbsp
  • Beef stock (cold)- 1 litre
  • Salt- to taste

For Brunoise garnish

  • Diced carrots- 1 Tsp
  • Diced onions- 1 Tsp
  • Diced celery stem- 1 Tsp

Method

  • Put thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns and parsley together in a cheesecloth and make a spice bag.
  • Chop all the vegetables for making the broth.
  • Mix together ground beef, chopped vegetables, egg whites and crushed egg shells and vinegar.
  • Put all this in a Dutch oven, add beef stock, stir well and bring to simmer on low heat stirring occasionally.
  • Once the liquid starts simmering stop stirring and adjust the heat such that it continues to simmer without rolling. A raft will form on the surface with all the impurities (refer to the picture below).
  • Keep simmering for one and a half hours taking care not to disturb the raft at all. And no stirring at all. If the raft disintegrates the result will be an unappealing and undesirable cloudy soup. This is the trickiest part in the whole process where many giants have fallen from grace.
  • Turn the heat off and rest the consommé for 30 minutes before straining. The consommé will be clearer.
  • Strain the consommé carefully through double cheesecloth. After straining remove all the fat from the surface by dabbing the surface with an absorbent kitchen towel.
  • Garnish with brunoise (cubes of about 3mm each side) of carrots, onions and celery stem.
  • Bring the consommé to boil and adjust salt.
  • Garnish with brunoise vegetables and serve hot.
Raft formed while making consommé

Tournedos Bearnaise

Bearnaise sauce is a classic French sauce and one of the most delicious steak sauces. Tournedos is a small round fillet of beef cut from the end portion of beef tenderloin. However, the challenge lies not with the tournedos but with the silky Bearnaise Sauce which is a derivative of Hollandaise Sauce. One wrong step and you will end up with either a runny uncooked flavourless sauce or an overcooked and coagulated product.

Bearnaise Sauce is prepared by the bain-marie technique. The container containing the food to be cooked is placed over an open larger container containing steaming water over a low flame and the food is cooked very gently by the steam escaping from the container below. Maintaining a constant temperature while cooking and whisking at the correct pace is extremely crucial to achieving the correct consistency of the product. Too fast and the sauce will split. Too hot and the eggs will scramble. Too cool and it won’t thicken properly. Tricky! It requires skill and experience to perfect a Hollandaise sauce or any of its derivatives. But it is definitely not as tricky as it is made out to be. I perfected it in my very third attempt.

Three difficult recipes made easy

Ingredients

For tournedos marination

  • Tenderloin fillet- 500 g
  • Malt vinegar- 10 ml
  • Red wine- 30 ml
  • Worcestershire sauce- 15 ml
  • Salt- to taste
  • White pepper powder- to taste
  • Refined oil (for frying)- 15 ml

For Bearnaise Sauce

  • Butter- 150 g
  • Egg yolks- 2 nos.
  • White wine vinegar- 15 ml
  • Freshly crushed black peppercorns- 5 nos.
  • Shallots- 30 g
  • Tarragon leaves- 1 Tbsp
  • White wine- 20 ml
  • Lime juice- of 1/2 lime
  • Salt/Pepper- to taste

Method

  • Slice tenderloin fillet into roundels of 1-inch thickness and 2-inch diameters.
  • Prepare a marinade by mixing together malt vinegar, red wine, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and cover and coat the steaks with it uniformly. Keep them marinated inside the refrigerator for at least four hours.
  • After the steaks are marinated for the required duration, take them out from the refrigerator and allow them to come to room temperature.
  • Meanwhile, mix together wine vinegar, white wine and crushed peppercorns and reduce over heat till the reduction becomes one tablespoon in volume. Strain the reduction through a cheesecloth and keep ready.
  • Melt butter over low heat till it starts frothing on the surface. Be careful not to brown it. Allow the butter to rest for a while. The solids will settle at the bottom leaving golden liquid on the top. This is clarified butter which will be required for the sauce.
  • Get the bain-marie ready. Whisk egg yolks in a glass bowl and lightly blend in the vinegar reduction, shallots and tarragon.
  • Position the glass bowl over the bain-marie such that the bottom of the bowl gets heated up slowly and evenly by the evaporating steam.
  • Here comes the trickiest part. Keep on whisking the mixture neither too fast nor too slow and keep pouring clarified butter very slowly initially and then increasing the pace. Cook the sauce till it thickens to a silky consistency and coats the back of a spoon evenly. Add lime juice and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Your Bearnaise sauce is ready. Keep warm.
  • Heat refined oil on a griddle over medium heat. Shallow fry the steaks to medium-rare. Do not overfry as they will lose the juices and will become dry and chewy. The meat should be slightly charred on the outside and bright reddish pink and moist inside when you slice through with a knife.
  • Rest the steaks for five minutes for the flavours to develop.
  • Place the tournedos on a large plate and pour Bearnaise sauce on top of each.
  • Serve with boiled/grilled vegetables, though my personal favourite is grilled asparagus.
Bearnaise Sauce

Yakhni Pulao

Yakhni pulao is one of the most sophisticated rice delicacies and according to me, demands extreme skill to get it right. The challenges extended by a pulao may be one of the reasons why biryanis are more popular. The real test of a good pulao is how perfectly the rice is cooked. The rice grains should be fluffy and fully cooked, yet separate, not mushy and not sticking to each other. The most crucial imperatives for making a pulao are premium quality aged (at least one year) Basmati rice and the ratio of rice to water/cooking liquid. The rule of thumb is the volume of water/cooking liquid should be twice that of rice when prepared the traditional way.

I have made Yakhni Pulao both in the pressure cooker as well as by the traditional method. While pressure cooked pulao also produces good results, nothing can beat the heavenly bliss of a pulao made the traditional way. The pulao rice of a pressure-cooked pulao will never achieve the lightness, texture and flavour of that cooked in the traditional method. In the following recipe, I have detailed the traditional way of making Yakhni Pulao. If you follow this recipe by the book, I can assure you, your guests will leave not a single grain of rice on their plates.

Three difficult recipes made easy

Ingredients

For the yakhni

  • Mutton with bone (from the shoulder)- 750 g
  • Crushed garlic- 8 cloves
  • Black peppercorns- 1/2 Tsp
  • Cloves- 6 nos.
  • Cinnamon 2.5 cm each- 3 nos.
  • Black cardamom- 3 nos.
  • Bay leaves- 2 nos.
  • Water- 3 cups
  • Salt- 1 and 1/2 Tsp

For the pulao

  • Aged Basmati rice- 2 cups
  • Onions large- 2 nos.
  • Cloves- 6 nos.
  • Cinnamon 2.5 cm each- 3 nos.
  • Black cardamom- 3 nos.
  • Bay leaves- 2 nos.
  • Refined oil- 30 ml
  • Water- 1/2 cup
  • Cooked mutton- (from above)
  • Yakhni- 4 cups
  • Salt- to taste

For garnish

  • Barista (golden fried sliced onions)- 2 Tbsp
  • Hardboiled eggs (cut lengthwise into quarters)- 2 nos.

Method

  • Wash rice thoroughly and soak it in water for 30 minutes.
  • While the rice is getting soaked, wash meat and place it inside a pressure cooker.
  • Add all other ingredients required for the yakhni, place the pressure cooker on medium heat and bring it full pressure.
  • Reduce heat to low and pressure cook for 8-10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and place the cooker on a vessel containing cold water such that the water covers two inches of the cooker from the bottom. Keep the cooker in the water for 2 minutes.
  • Open cooker and separate the meat pieces from the stock (yakhni) through a strainer.
  • If required add more water to the yakhni to make it four cups and reserve.
  • Cut the onions into thin slices.
  • Pour refined oil in a Dutch oven and place over medium heat.
  • Add bay leaves, cloves, black cardamom and cinnamon and fry them till they become fragrant.
  • Add sliced onions and fry on medium low heat to a nice golden colour.
  • While the onions are getting fried, place another vessel containing the yakhni on medium-high heat and bring to boil.
  • When the sliced onions attain the right colour, pour in half a cup of water and stir and cook for a few seconds.
  • Add meat pieces and stir fry to mild brown.
  • Add soaked rice and fry along with the meat and the masala stirring occasionally for about three minutes or till the rice grains become opaque.
  • Now pour the boiling yakhni over the rice and bring to boil.
  • Reduce heat to low, adjust seasoning and cook uncovered. Never at any point of time after adding the yakhni should you stir it. It will break the rice grains.
  • The rice while getting cooked will slowly and completely absorb the yakhni.
  • This is the point where you need to keep a close watch that will put your acumen to test. You will find that the yakhni on the surface will be completely absorbed by the rice but beneath the surface the liquid will still be present and unabsorbed.
  • Now cover and keep cooking on low heat. Covering at this point will prevent the rice on the surface from drying up. Check occasionally whether the yakhni in the inside layers of rice have been absorbed completely by inserting the back of a spoon.
  • When you do not see any visible liquid, turn off the heat and rest the pulao covered for 5 minutes.
  • Arrange the pulao on a rice platter and garnish with barista (golden fried sliced onions) and slices of hardboiled eggs.
  • Serve hot.

Now that I have made the recipes easy for you, do not hesitate to venture into uncharted territory, get your utensils and ingredients ready and take a leap of faith. Oh yes!! And do not forget to share your success with us.


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