Jim Poris - April 2007
Three chefs reveal the culinary possibilities wrapped up in a beef chuck roll while wrestling a grab bag of ingredients.
Thanks to Dr. Beef (aka Bucky Gwartney, Ph.D.), executive director of research and knowledge management of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, this is the most mysterious Mystery Basket installment yet. In casting about for something that would cause the intrepid chef/participants--Waldy Malouf (Beacon Restaurant and Waldy's Wood-Fired Pizza & Penne, NYC), Donald Link (Herbsaint Restaurant and Cochon, New Orleans), and Thierry Rautureau (Rover's, Seattle)--to engage in a bit of head-scratching, Gwartney suggested beef chuck roll, or Item No. 116A on the industry chart of cuts. To clarify, Gwartney surgically slices through the Latin nomenclature and techno-jargon of an official description written as if for a medical study: "Basically, the beef chuck roll is a large sub-primal in the chuck, it being one part of the two piece chuck, with the other being the chuck clod. It contains several muscles that have potential value-added opportunities". The task of breaking down the 25- to 30-pound beef chuck roll, giving its muscles marketable names to go with their Latin designations, and suggesting how they can best be cooked should be completed by Gwartney's department within a few months, he says.
So let's hear it for these three chefs for flying blind, so to speak. Or even being able to procure a beef chuck roll, which left a lot of suppliers flummoxed. Press on, they did. And with great success, too, considering Mystery Basket's strict dictum to use at least 19 of 25 ingredients, an amount participants claim is way too high. Ah, but then start cooking. Suddenly, making use of the beef chuck roll with all-purpose flour; salt and pepper; lasagne sheets, fresh or dry; soy sauce; garlic; shallots; red wine; olive oil; tomatoes; carrots with tops on; Idaho potatoes; savoy cabbage; marinated black olives; blue cheese; Tabasco jalapeño pepper sauce; portobellos; prosciutto; bitter chocolate; kumquats; heavy cream; and any four of bay leaves, mint, marjoram, cilantro, saffron, rosemary, thyme, lavender, parsley, tarragon, basil, red pepper flakes, coriander seeds, cloves, and nutmeg doesn't seem so over-the-top at all. Witness the results!
Beef chuck roll; all-purpose flour; salt and pepper; lasagne sheets, fresh or dry; soy sauce; garlic; shallots; red wine; olive oil; tomatoes; carrots with tops on; Idaho potatoes; savoy cabbage; marinated black olives; blue cheese; Tabasco jalapeño pepper sauce; portobellos; prosciutto; bitter chocolate; kumquats; heavy cream; and any four of bay leaves, mint, marjoram, cilantro, saffron, rosemary, thyme, lavender, parsley, tarragon, basil, red pepper flakes, coriander seeds, cloves, and nutmeg.
Herbsaint Restaurant and Cochon
"This was an interesting experience for me, as my dishes generally consist of much fewer ingredients. In the absence of stock, the wine and tomatoes added the liquid that was needed, as well as the cabbage, as it tends to release moisture when cooked. I think the aromatic spices such as the cloves and coriander add a unique element to a great piece of meat. The chuck roll is wonderful for slow roasting because of its fat content. I considered using the indirect heat grilling method (down here it's known as a Cajun microwave) but decided that a lot of people probably don't have those. I've done briskets and chucks before with that method, and they come out beautifully. I have an outdoor grill that has a compartment built next to it that fits the meat so that it cooks slowly by residual heat. It takes eight to 10 hours using this method. The meat creates its own jus, and it's really great in tacos. It's important that this cooks slowly so that the meat becomes tender."
Prosciutto-wrapped beef chuck roll with portobello choucroute & tapenade potato chips. "Rub a mixture of two teaspoons salt, one teaspoon black pepper, two tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, one teaspoon jalapeño Tabasco pepper sauce, one tablespoon ground coriander, and a half teaspoon ground cloves into a four-pound, tied section of beef chuck roll. Place in a hotel pan; add four sliced shallots, five sliced garlic cloves, five bay leaves, three Roma tomatoes sliced into half-inch rounds, and three cups red wine; marinate overnight.
"Remove from marinade and dry with paper towels. Sear the beef on all sides in olive oil to achieve a good coloring. Place in a roasting pan with one cup red wine and the sliced tomatoes. Cover; braise in a 275 degree oven for three to three and a half hours; remove from pan; cool to room temperature. Strain the jus into a saucepan and reduce by half, to yield about one cup. Cut the beef into six-ounce portions; reserve, keeping warm.
"For the choucroute, marinate 10 large portobellos in two tablespoon soy sauce, two tablespoons olive oil, one teaspoon salt, and one-half teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Remove from the marinade; reserve marinade; dry portobellos on paper towels; thinly slice; sear in olive oil with one teaspoon chopped garlic, one tablespoon chopped shallots, and five crushed Roma tomatoes. Add the marinade; simmer 10 minutes; add one pound sliced savoy cabbage; simmer seven minutes; remove from heat; reserve.
"Deep fry one peeled Idaho potato cut into one-eighth-inch thick slices in olive oil until golden brown. For the tapenade, blend one-quarter cup cured black olives, three kumquats, two tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, one-quarter teaspoon garlic, and one-quarter teaspoon fresh thyme in a processor; season with salt and pepper.
"Peel four baby carrots, reserving their green tops for garnish. Halve the carrots lengthwise; coat with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper; place on a sizzle platter; roast 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven [if you have access to a grill, which would be better, grill four minutes on each side].
"To serve, wrap each braised beef portion with six slices of prosciutto; warm in a 400 degree oven for eight to 10 minutes; arrange on a plate with warm mushroom/cabbage choucroute, two potato chips topped with tapenade, and carrots; spoon the sauce over the beef; garnish with carrot tops. Drink a Châteauneuf-du-Pape with this."
Thierry Rautureau ("The Chef in the Hat")
"When Food Arts sent me the list of ingredients for Mystery Basket, I started laughing, thinking someone was trying to empty their fridge and their pantry. The list looked like a family's shopping list for a week. Obviously this challenge called for some serious brainstorming. Do I go thinking Italian? Classic French? Mexican? Or perhaps a bit of everything? Questions without answers rolled in my head. So I headed for the new Whole Foods in downtown Seattle, where some helpful employees helped me find everything on the ingredient list.Back in the kitchen I spread everything on the counter and started thinking of what each ingredient would become. I first concentrated on the beef chuck roll and decided I was going to roast it and make a rub to go on it toward the end of its roasting time. The rub blend started with sautéed portobellos and finished with marinated black olives, some cilantro, and bittersweet chocolate. The cabbage and carrot filling idea in the potato came from the Asian salad usually finished with sesame oil and seeds that's commonly found in restaurants around Seattle. Here, I added prosciutto and fried garlic and stuffed it between two layers of already cooked and crisped potatoes. The next move was to mix the kumquats, cilantro, and soy sauce to fabricate a ‘pesto.' The classic Provençal baked tomato (thinking Provençal-style) came to mind and was topped with the ‘pesto.' For the sauce, it was easy to make a red wine reduction and finish it with blue cheese. Overall it was a great exercise for the brain and the palate."
Roast of rubbed beef chuck roll with potato cake, baked tomato & red wine/blue cheese sauce. "First make the ‘pesto.' Cook 15 sliced kumquats in one tablespoon olive oil for three minutes; add about a quarter cup tamari soy sauce, one teaspoon chopped thyme, and two tablespoons chopped cilantro; cook two minutes; blend until it reaches the consistency of a classic basil pesto. Fill two halved and seeded tomatoes with pesto and bake 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.
"Now for the potato cake. Lightly color two thinly sliced, peeled Idaho potatoes in olive oil; place on paper towels to drain. Sweat two sliced garlic cloves in olive oil; add two cups julienned savoy cabbage and one cup peeled and julienned carrots; cook three minutes, tossing frequently. Place the mixture in a bowl and mix in two ounces julienned prosciutto. To form the cakes, stack the potatoes one-half-inch deep in a one-and-a-half-inch-tall ring mold; pack in a one-half-inch layer of the cabbage/carrot mixture; finish with another one-half-inch layer of potatoes.
"Reduce by half one cup red wine, four bay leaves, one teaspoon thyme leaves, and one teaspoon chopped shallot; remove bay leaves; add three tablespoons blue cheese and one tablespoon heavy cream; bring to a boil; blend until smooth; if too thick, add a few drops of water. Keep the sauce warm.
"For the rub, heat olive oil in a skillet; add one thinly sliced portobello; cook until golden brown; add two teaspoons chopped shallots, three tablespoons chopped cilantro, and two tablespoons pitted and chopped cured black olives; add two tablespoons of the olive oil used to cure the olives, one teaspoon salt, and two tablespoons bittersweet chocolate; blend in a processor.
"Season about two pounds beef chuck roll with salt and pepper; sear on all sides in olive oil; roast 20 minutes in a 425 degree oven, flipping it over after 12 minutes. Remove from the oven; reduce oven to 350 degrees; pat the beef all over with the rub; roast to an internal temperature of 130 degrees on a meat thermometer, about 10 to 15 minutes; remove from the oven; let it rest 20 minutes.
"To serve, warm the tomatoes, potato cakes, and sauce; thinly slice the beef; fan the slices at the bottom of each plate; set one tomato half and one potato cake above it; drizzle the sauce over and around the beef. Make sure to take healthy sips of Domaine du Monteillet St.-Joseph Cuvée du Papy 2000 after every few bites."
Beacon Restaurant and Waldy's Wood-Fired Pizza & Penn
New York City
"While on a pleasurable trip to southern Italy to study the virtues of extra-virgin olive oil and Apulian food and wine, I heard about taking on the Mystery Basket via my public relations firm. Finding myself in sunny spirits there, I readily signed on to the challenge, forgetting, of course, that the moment I returned to New York I would be serving Thanksgiving dinner to 700 people and entering the banquet holiday season. At some point in the middle of December, I glanced at the ingredients, which, I'm convinced, were pulled out of a mystery basket of their own. I stashed the list, not looking at it again until the day after Christmas, when I was in between sessions (winning ones by the way) at the craps table during a family holiday aboard a floating casino in Florida. My mother, one of my culinary mentors and a New England Yankee, couldn't think of making anything else from the ingredients except beef stew. My father suggested grinding the beef chuck roll and making a great burger. Great ideas, except that I was required to use at least 19 out of the 24 ingredients on that damned list.
"The beef chuck roll runs from the rib into the neck and contains many different muscles and textures. So with Michael Smith, my chef de cuisine for over 15 years, we began reflecting on braised meat dishes I've eaten or served. A friend from India once served me a lamb dish, neck meat as I recall, that was braised with saffron and red pepper flakes, truly a great flavor combination. Over the years, I've hosted many game dinners, and one of the best dishes I've cooked for them is braised Scottish hare with black trumpet mushrooms and pappardelle. Other dishes that came to mind were classics such as daube de boeuf (Provencal red wine beef stew traditionally served with noodles) and braised duck with citrus. While in Apulia I had the opportunity to cook with Concetta di Cantoro, a great chef and restaurateur from Lecce. One of the dishes we prepared was a very simple handmade pasta called maltagliati, which translates into "badly cut" triangles of pasta, tossed with olive oil, pasta cooking liquid, olives, red pepper flakes, and a type of air-dried prosciutto.
"So after this trip into the dusty crevices of my brain I came up with a relatively simple braised beef and pasta dish. It may not consist of any foams or flavored molecules injected into edible paper, or require any overpriced equipment, but I think the result is an excellent use of the cut of beef and list of ingredients. It also doesn't require a staff ratio of three cooks per customer to prepare and serve. Have fun and enjoy!"
What the !#@$ is beef chuck roll item #116a? or Spicy red wine braised beef chuck roll, crisp portobellos, dried prosciutto, preserved saffron & kumquats with maltagliati. "Two days before you want to serve this dish, cut the beef chuck roll into two-inch squares, season with black pepper, cover with red wine, and marinate overnight. Drink a glass of the wine. The day before serving, drain the beef, pat dry, and season with salt and pepper. Lightly flour the beef and brown it in olive oil. When finished, discard the oil and wipe out any burnt particles from the pan. Add fresh extra-virgin olive oil to the same pan and lightly brown some chopped shallots and garlic. Add portobello stems, carrots, saffron, and ground coriander seeds; cook one minute. Stir in roughly chopped tomatoes, deglaze with red wine, and reduce by half. Return the beef to the pan; add some parsley stems, fresh rosemary, and enough water to cover; bring to a boil; cover; finish cooking in a 350 degree oven for about an hour. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine sieve; reduce to sauce consistency; strain the sauce over the meat; cover; refrigerate overnight.
"Three hours before serving, gently heat the beef; using tongs or forks, roughly shred the beef. Meanwhile, lay thin slices of prosciutto on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and place in a low oven to dehydrate. Cut portobello caps into quarter-inch-thin strips; sauté in olive oil until crisp; drain on a paper towel; season with salt.
"Roughly tear lasagna sheets into three- to four-inch triangles. Roughly chop pitted cured black olives and parsley. Juice enough kumquats to yield one cup. Thinly slice one kumquat for each two servings into round disks. Place the disks in the juice with a little saffron; reduce to a syrup. To serve, bring a couple of gallons of water to a boil; season with salt and pepper; add a little olive oil; cook the pasta triangles to al dente. In a sauté pan, combine the shredded beef and some of its sauce with the preserved saffron and kumquat slices, black olives, some red pepper flakes, and the cooked pasta triangles. If it is a little dry, add a little pasta cooking liquid or more sauce. Bring to a simmer and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Individually plate in shallow bowls; garnish each serving with a sprinkling of the crisp portobellos, a couple slices of the dried prosciutto, and chopped parsley. Thinking that a Tuscan Syrah would do the trick with this."