This being our first non-vegetarian truffle meal, we decided to do a few of the really classic truffle dishes and see what they were like. Chicken with truffle under the skin, truffle-stuffed pasta, roast beef with a perigueux sauce. Not being able to leave well enough alone, we fiddled with the recipes a little. But that's the On Golden Fond way.
And of course, there was more truffle. Buckle in for a big post, folks.
The first appetiser was salmon tartare canapes, made by me. Take some finely minced salmon fillet (skin, remove bones, roughly chop, finely chop, finely chop, repeat until a fine mince has been achieved) mixed with finely chopped cucumber and chives and with just a tad of finely shredded preserved lemon skin in it to provide citrus and sharpness. Portioned out in the trusty 1/2 ounce baller and plop! out onto a Chinese spoon. In hindsight, a tiny bit more lemon would not have gone astray, but I was happy with the fresh but rich salmon meat and the crispy and sharp cucumber, chives and lemon.
And finally, a truffle dish! This one was a collaboration between Manto and me. Earlier in the day I made some chicken leg sausages :
- 500g minced chicken leg meat (most poulterers will have some or can make some for you. Leg meat is important as it has more texture and flavour than breast meat.)
- about 100g of pistachios (weight in the shell), shelled, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 shallot, peeled and very finely minced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- a couple of pinches of salt and white pepper
- mix them all together
- form into two large, thick sausages about 4-5cm in diameter and about 15cm long
- wrap them firmly in glad-wrap and tie off the ends
- poach at 85 C for about 25 minutes; let cool in the wrapper.
- unwrap, finish in a frying pan or oven to brown and crisp the skin a little, then cut into nice even slices about 3cm thick. Keep the ends as a little bonus to yourself for being such a good host!
Then in the evening, we jointed up some 500g poussin, taking out the spine and the outer wing joints but leaving in the ribs. They help keep the shape of the breast, and also to keep moisture in. The hind quarters were reserved for another day.
Each breast had a thin slice of truffle and a little butter pushed gently under the skin. We cooked them in a pretty hot (190 C) oven to get the outside nice and brown, about 20 minutes plus a couple under the grill
Meanwhile, we were reducing some chicken consomme with some dry white vermouth for the sauce with a little finely grated truffle, and sauteing some spinach with some (cooked) chestnuts. While the poussin was resting, the roasting juices went into the sauce. A nice spoon of veggie in the middle of the plate, a slice of sausage on one side and a cute little poussin breast on the other, and a dash of sauce. The poussin was meltingly tender and infused with butter and truffle, the sausage gave a firmer texture and more complex meat flavours, and the mild sweety nuttiness of the chestnut was a balancing component between the rest. The spinach .... was green. A most satisfactory dish.
Cooking a fresh-made, soft-filled pasta for seven people at once is not without risks, and maybe a few bits were a little soggy. Overall though the pasta was well textured and the filling rich and complexly flavoured. And who can say no to sage and brown butter sauce? Not I.
The next course was the main and I had decided to do a very classic roast fillet of beef with perigueux sauce. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but your dear old Ecumer has a bit of a patchy record as far as quick-cooked lean meat goes. The astute reader will have noticed that almost everything I put on the pages of the blog is a slow braise or a forgiving roast like chicken. I reckon I get lean roast meat or steaks right about half the time, and overcook the rest.
But here I was, cooking for some of my most discerning friends, and with some very expensive ingredients. How can I combine the certainty of slow cooking with the quality of ingredients that I needed to do justice to the truffles? I did some research and found ...
Four Hour Roast Beef Fillet.
Yes, you read right, four hours.
- get a full beef fillet from your friendly butcher. This was a 1.7kg Angus fillet and it was a tad north of $30 per kilo. Not dry aged or wagyu or anything fancy, although if you had those I expect it would be even better.
- heat your oven to 70 C. Yes, 70 C. I strongly recommend getting an oven thermometer to check the calibration of your oven, because there's a good chance it wasn't designed to go that low and you may need to adjust your dial. Gladly ours checked out nicely - 70 C on the dial, 70 C on the thermometer.
- take your lovely fillet and fold the floppy end in on itself until it makes an even shape. Tie it along its length with string so it keeps its shape.
- give it a quick spritz or rub down with olive oil and put it into the oven. It's a bit of a leap of faith but trust me.
Here's what it looks like at the start :