June 1st, 2008, by Francesca
Chef started off with a demo of how to clean a beef tenderloin. First, he separated the chain from the tenderloin…
… then cut off all the elastin, the yellowish connective tissue that, unlike collagen, does not break up with cooking…
… and portioned off the meat for individual dishes.
Then he showed us two ways of tying a piece of meat: loop knots and square knots. I like things easy so I'm going to stick with regular (square) knots. After the tenderloin demo, we cooked a pot roast dish, using a cut of beef called chuck, which is beef shoulder.
We rendered some pancetta in a pan, removed it and seared the meat – seasoned with salt, pepper and dried herbs – on all sides. We removed the meat from the pan, added the mirepoix (chopped onion, carrot and celery), put back half of the pancetta and added some minced garlic. Deglazed all with red wine reducing to demi-sec (reduced by about half) and added a bay leaf and equal parts of tomato sauce and brown veal stock. Brought it to a simmer, covered with foil and put in the oven at 350º F for about two hours. If you have 5-6 hours available (yeah, right) you can also cook it at a lower temperature, as low as 300º F.
When the meat was ready, we took it out, strained the sauce and put everything back in the pan on the stove to adjust the consistency of the sauce. This sauce should not be seasoned, because it gets reduced a lot and ends up concentrated and flavorful from all the ingredients and the seasoning on the meat. Don't say I didn't tell you.
We served the pot roast with a bunch of vegetables, alas, to be cut mostly as tournés. Cutting tournés is not one of my favorite pastimes; it's time consuming and wasteful and I take issues with both things. We parboiled the potato and carrot tournés, sautéed the zucchini, squash, eggplants, red bell peppers and onions, added the potatoes and carrots and some dried herbs and finished roasting all in the oven (6-8 min).
Although I am not a beef fan – I only cook beef to make ragú – the pot roast was really tasty. They call it Italian pot roast, but honestly, I've never known anyone in Italy who uses dried thyme or dried basil. And the only way I've ever used dried oregano before has been on pizza alla marinara. Here, if any form of oregano appears in a dish, it's automatically labelled Italian. Go figure.
Yeah, I went a little overboard with the plating; I should have done the rustic thing and mixed it all together. I actually prefer rustic cooking and presentations; I don't know what came over me.
Every Monday includes a written and practical test and tomorrow we'll have to cook a beef dish for our practical. After that, no more beef until finals week, something I am actually relieved about as I find the smell of raw beef mildly unpleasant. Starting Tuesday we'll be cooking fish. Yay! I love fish and am really looking forward to the fish and shellfish dishes.
I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote this post, but the cut of beef we used for our pot roasts was chuck, a cut from the shoulder, not tenderloin. Sorry about the confusion!