Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Secrets of an Indifferent Home Chef

One of the cooking shows I love to watch is Chef Anne Burrell's Secrets of a Restaurant Chef I love watching it because of Anne Burrell's interesting personality, not because of any cooking tips I intend to pick up from it. My impression is that the secret to cooking like a restaurant chef is to be a restaurant chef, i.e., to have a staff of sous chefs that do prep work for you, to have a supplier that you can order the exact cuts of meat you want from, and to have a kitchen with several ovens and a six burner gas stove. I realize that there are some people who are not restaurant chefs who have double ovens and six burner stoves, but I'm not one of them.

Besides, I don't have recipes so much as procedures. There's the making hash out of anything procedure, the whatever parmesan procedure, the fried food procedure, the steamed veggies procedure, the braising procedure, the soup/stew/ sauce procedure, and the dice it up with onions, potatoes, bell pepper and garlic and cook it in the oven procedure. If I use an actual recipe, I will only use it once unless I can memorize it.

On one of her recent shows, though, Anne (may I call her Anne?) was cooking a beef brisket and it actually looked easier to cook than my standard pot roast recipe. First of all, she started off by salting and peppering the meat and throwing it into a pan to brown. When I make pot roast, I start off by marinating it in olive oil, red wine, lemon juice, shallots and bay leaf. Then I have to wipe it dry, then I put slits in it and insert slivers of garlic, and then it's ready to brown. So if I make Anne's recipe I've already saved 3 or 4 steps. 

Then she removes the roast from the pan and adds chopped slab bacon. That's where we run into that pesky supplier thing. I'm not sure Walmart carries slab bacon, but then, I don't see why regular old bacon wouldn't do; just stack a few slices and slice them crosswise. After that, she throws sliced onions and celery into the bacon fat to cook. I use chopped onions, celery, and carrots - slicing is much easier. Then add finely chopped garlic, not much harder than the slivering I do, especially since you can use the smash and peel method before chopping, which you can't do if you want to put slivers into slits in your beef. So so far, other than the bacon, she hasn't done anything I don't already do, plus she's left out a few steps. Easy.

Then add some sliced mushrooms, then add the liquid and aromatics. My liquid is beef stock, red wine, and coffee (yes, coffee). Hers is chicken stock (huh?) and balsamic vinegar. We both use thyme and bay leaves. Cover and put in the oven. I cook mine on the top of the stove, but my Le Creuset pot, a Christmas present from a bewildered husband ("It costs how much?") is ovenproof up to 500 degrees. 

Shorter version - I can make this. Heck, after one viewing I practically had the recipe memorized.

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