Saturday, June 12, 2010

Where's the Beef?

A few years ago a recipe in the New York Times’ Dining section caught my eye. The recipe was for George W. Bush’s fillet of beef with three-peppercorn sauce, 2001, and if memory serves me correctly, the beef was prepared for either President Bush’s Inaugural Dinner or perhaps a State Dinner at the White House. The recipe is adapted from Walter Scheib, a former White House chef.

I clipped the recipe and promptly put it aside wondering ‘Can a lifelong, liberal Democrat recreate a dish designed to please the palate of a controversial Republican President and still look herself in the eye?’This may sound absurd but I am as passionate about my politics as I am about my food, so I put the clipping aside and tried to ignore it…until now.

I have to admit, it looked like a tasty dish. I guess that’s why I’ve kept it in my testing file for nine years.

I’d invited some friends for dinner. One couple is devotedly carnivorous; we’ve been close friends for decades and nine times out of ten, a good cut of beef is our meal of choice. The other couple is a cardiologist who enjoys a juicy steak, and his wife—a self-professed very picky eater. I’ve learned through trial and error that the one safe protein to serve her is a fillet of beef. This was the group I would serve this very special meal.

We would begin the evening with a Chilled Avocado Soup with Spicy Breadcrumb Topping, served in the tinted crystal stemware we purchased at the Murano glass factory in Venice, Italy.

Our friends were supplying the fixings for an antipasto platter to be enjoyed with a glass or two of wine. The beef, our entrée, would be accompanied by individual tomato gratins and roasted fingerling potatoes with lots of garlic and fresh rosemary from my garden. For dessert, Maple Layer Cake with sinfully rich Maple Syrup Frosting.

Normally when a recipe instructs me to braise a mix of chopped vegetables and herbs that serve as the foundation for a stock or sauce, and then to strain the solids from the liquid, I overlook it, leaving them in, thereby enhancing the richness and texture of the sauce. (And really, why waste perfectly tender and savory ingredients?) However, upon removal from the oven and allowing ten minutes or so for the meat to rest, this beef looked deeply flavorful and perfectly roasted. Wanting to keep the elegant appearance of the plattered, sliced meat, I opted to strain the sauce. The result was a delightfully tender fillet with a depth of flavor, heightened I believe, by the inclusion of a splash of balsamic vinegar, not often enjoyed outside a fine dining establishment. As my friend the cardiologist declared “This is the best piece of beef I’ve ever had!”

learned: There WAS something good—no great--that came from that administration! Don’t let your politics persuade your palate. Bon appétit!

(To view this recipe, copy and paste this link),0,3819595.story

1 comment:

  1. I am SO trying this. I will also try, while eating it, not to recall the smirky jerky face of the man who enjoyed this in the White House...Jessica