Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Saucepans don't make a Saucier

I'd bought myself a set of new, decent quality saucepans with vouchers I got for my birthday - no more mismatched, thin-based relics from my flatting days! I'd been thinking about what Edmonds recipe I could make using a new saucepan, when I received a gift from my brother and sister-in-law: meat thermometers!

Well then, clearly I had to cook some meat to try these out, so I went home via the supermarket and treated myself to some Angus rib-eye. That's not the Edmonds recipe though - I planned to make a béarnaise sauce (p185) to go with it.

I didn't want to be rushed while making my sauce, so I decided to get that underway first, boiling peppercorns, bay leaf and chopped onion in a small amount of vinegar until the liquid had reduced my half. I then strained off the liquid and added it to a 'double boiler' (in my case, bowl over pot of water) with an egg yolk (the full recipe uses 2, but I was halving it).

I began adding small amounts of butter as I whisked the egg yolk and vinegar. Either I was too slow in doing this, or the bowl was too hot, because the egg cooked and clumped up around the whisk. It wasn't salvageable - start again.

This time, I used a shallower bowl so the sauce mixture wasn't as close to the water, and added the butter a bit more quickly. It seemed to work quite well, because I soon had a fairly thick yellow sauce, which I took off the heat and finished off with some seasoning and a bit of chopped parsley.

I'd been concentrating a bit much on the sauce, and hadn't really got the steak organised. The pan was heating up on the stove, but I had my sauce finished when the steak still had to be cooked and rested. Never mind, just get the steak on. I stuck in one of my new thermometers, and cooked it till the little dial was sitting around medium rare.

While the steak was cooking and resting, I sorted out some mashed spuds and salad, and took another look at the sauce. I'd tried to keep it warm, but it had kinda congealed and wasn't looking too pretty. I decided to risk reheating it slightly, with a bit of extra butter to thin it down and keep it from overcooking like my first attempt.

At first, it seemed to work. The sauce thinned down again and still looked pretty good. But as soon as I stopped whisking, it seemed on the verge of splitting. Just the reheating, or too much butter? I didn't know, but I slapped the steak on the plate and poured over the sauce. Too late: it was totally split. Oh well, it was on the steak now - I'd have to eat it.

Actually, considering it looked quite awful, it didn't taste bad at all. The creamy, buttery, but slightly tangy sauce would have been perfect with that lovely steak (delicious, by the way) if I'd only got it right. It was really a matter of timing - my decision to do the sauce first was a poor one. If I'd cooked the steak first and done the sauce while it was resting, it would all have worked out fine. You live and learn, right?

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