This picture isn’t pretty, I know. It’s leftovers. This food may have looked nice the night before, but cold and unarranged and in plastic containers it loses something. But! At the top are patates savoyard made with potatoes we pulled out of the earth ourselves that were cooked until crisp and bubbling on top with Dubliner cheese. To the left is a top sirloin roast purchased at Sunterra Market, which was braised in that orangey-red mess you see is at the bottom, cherry tomatoes from our own garden that, after three hours cooking in beef juices then reduced, had the rich, full flavour of fat and a spine of tomato tang that popped with garlic and just a hint of (home-grown!) rosemary. And that white mass you see on the left was once a light cloud of horseradish whipped cream that we made with fresh horseradish purchased at a farm outside the city. It ain’t pretty, but it was almost as lovely the day after as it was the night before.
It seems like there’s been a bit of blogging ennui going around these days. I can identify. I don’t know what’s come over Carlo and me lately, but it’s not just that we can’t muster the enthusiasm to write about our food. Lately we haven’t even been cooking. I’m not exaggerating about this, sadly. Our larder has emptied out bit by bit, and on nights when Carlo is working late, I’ve filled my belly with marshmallow melted onto saltines under the broiler, Nibs candy, or frozen burritos. We’re in a funk.
That’s why this meal, ugly as it is, was a celebration. Things weren’t perfect. The beef braised too long and got a little dry. My feet ached from standing in one place while I sliced and whipped and grated. We set off the smoke alarm. I made Carlo come talk to me when he strayed out of chattering range. We don’t have four matching fancy plates, so we served our guests on mismatched china. I suddenly realized that I didn’t have almond meal as I was making dessert (grape cake!). There was a hockey game on while we ate (first game of the season), and the Oilers lost. But the house was warm after a cold, grey day. We had company. I mixed cocktails, and we had wine. We talked about work and TV shows and our family and the food. I’m starting to remember why I cook.
Speaking of food, please try the horseradish whipped cream. We were all a bit unsure, but my Gourmet cookbook (speaking of which, RIP Gourmet mag) promised an “ethereal” accompaniment to beef or lamb, which sounded lovely, so we tried it. And it was lovely, and I will be making it again.. Made with fresh horseradish, it had a bit of a kick, but I imagine it would be more in-your-face with bottled stuff. It was especially good as a cool, smooth counterpoint to the gutsy, beefy tomatoes we served as the other condiment.
The braised beef was especially simple, though maybe I used too lean of a cut. My favourite part is its simplicity. It was about three pounds, and three hours in the oven at 300 degrees, four cups of fresh tomatoes, half a head of garlic (the cloves peeled and left whole), and a sprig of rosemary was all it took. After it was done cooking, I took the meat out to rest and brought the tomatoes, now swimming in juices from the roast to a very fast boil for about 10 minutes until the sauce reduced to something thick and hearty.
The potatoes were similarly easy. I followed, though not very closely, Julia Child’s recipes for patates savoyard, slicing about four potatoes thin, then layering them with dollops of butter and generous handfuls of Dubliner (I didn’t have Gruyere, which was a lucky accident). To finish I poured about 1 1/2 cups of boiling beef stock over them and popped them in the oven for an hour and a half (at 300 degrees, obviously, to go with the beef). They came out crispy on top with soft layers underneath, rich and cheesy.
Whipped Horseradish Cream
As I said, this is a recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook. The book says that vinegar helps stabilize the volatile oil that gives horseradish its kick. I guess the cider vinegar here does two things, then: it keeps the horseradish pungent and it balances the honey’s sweetness. If I were to change anything, it would be to pull back a bit on the honey, which was almost over-sweet.
3-4 tablespoons grated and peeled fresh horseradish or bottled horseradish
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey (go light here)
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Stir together 3 tablespoons of horseradish with vinegar and honey in a small bowl
In a larger bowl whip the cream. When it holds soft peaks, gently mix in the horseradish mixture.
Taste cream mixture, then add more horseradish to taste. Put the prepared cream into the fridge for at least an hour so that the flavours can mellow and spread.