Monday, March 7, 2011

Spring is Here

The weather has been beautiful here in Austin. It's been sunny and mild and the bright feeling of springtime is in the air.

To celebrate the arrival of the season, I came up with a meal designed to capture the essence of Spring.

Seared Foie Gras with Strawberry Rhubarb Gastrique
Seared Hudson Valley foie gras. Strawberry rhubarb champagne gastrique with wildflower honey. Duck demi-glace. Endive. Candied ginger crisps. Black pepper.

Farmer's Market Spring Salad
Butter lettuce. Baby arugula. Pea micro-greens. Radish micro-greens. Easter egg radishes. Meyer lemon & Saint Germain vinaigrette. Celtic sea salt. Black pepper.

Lamb Tenderloin with Minted Flageolet Beans and Wild Mushroom Leek Polenta
Lamb tenderloin. Minted flageolet beans with carrot, fennel, and onion. Baked polenta with wild mushrooms and heirloom leeks. Mustard lamb jus.

I invented/adjusted most of this as I went along. I didn't write down quantities, so I am not going to post explicit recipes. 

However, here are some tips and observations:
  • Flageolet beans can take an absurdly long time to cook. I was estimating 45 minutes, but they were still quite al dente after 1 1/2 hours. Make them ahead and reheat when serving so that they won't throw off the timing of everything else.
  • A few quick pulses with an immersion blender is fantastic for making a vinaigrette that holds for a long time... I used a ratio of 4 parts good olive oil, 1 part fresh squeezed meyer lemon juice, and 1 part champagne vinegar along with a minced shallot, a dash of Saint Germain (elderflower liquor) and salt and black pepper to taste. 
  • For the lamb, I took a full rack of lamb and used a long Yanigaba (sushi) knife and cut carefully along the line of the rib bones to extract the tenderloin. I then carefully cut off any excess fat, focusing on cutting a clean cylinder of tenderloin. Next, I seasoned with salt and pepper and rolled the loin in cheesecloth, twisting the ends tightly as if making a torchon. I tied the cylinder off tight with butcher's twine and let sit in the fridge for 12 hours.

    This technique forms the tenderloin into a nice uniform cylinder and encourages an even distribution of density and thickness lending to more uniform cooking. When ready to cook, remove from cheesecloth and proceed.

    I roasted the rib bones and remaining meat with carrots, celery, onion, and leek and then simmered them with a bouquet garni to make a stock to be used for my mustard jus.

  • When cooking meat, it is important to first temper the meat. You should never put cold meat directly in a hot pan. Doing so will "shock" the meat, causing the muscle fibers to tense up resulting in tough meat. Cold meat will also not cook as evenly.

    Depending on the size of the piece of meat, you should remove from the refrigerator anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour 
    prior to cooking and allow to come to room temperature covered on the counter. Note that there exceptions to this, such as foie gras, which you generally want to sear cold.
  • Equally important to tempering meat is resting meat. Meat should be taken out of the oven about 5-10 degrees below the desired final temperature and should be allowed to sit for 10-30 minutes (depending on the size of the piece of meat) before serving/slicing. The meat will continue to cook after being removed from the oven. As it cools, moisture will draw back towards the center resulting in juicier meat.
Foie gras + strawberry + rhubarb + champagne + ginger + black pepper = FANTASTIC flavor combination. Really, just wow. Equally awesome was the meyer lemon with the pea micro-greens and radish. 

The lamb dish came out very good as well, though it suffered from some timing issues primarily due to the unexpected long cooking time for the flageolet beans. This resulted in me over-reducing the sauce a bit and it consequently being a little to salty. I did somehow manage to keep the lamb and polenta fresh using a 200 degree oven and some aluminum foil. 

Anyhow, this was a great dish overall and a true celebration of the season.


  1. that's a beautiful meal Dan.
    I love your tips instead of recipes



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