January 23, 2011

Wagyu steak with béarnaise sauce

when i was little, i was a very difficult eater, my mom must have worried so much!

the only sandwiches i took to school for lunch were slices of white bread with some butter and a stick of milk chocolate (who remembers those Perettes?). i only wanted the white meat of roast chicken. cooked potatoes? yuck, but with a little butter and salt? well, ok then. spaghetti could only be with Miracoli sauce (that s out of a packet). a soft-boiled egg? EEEEHW! steak, no fat or gristle, and well done! oh, and those little cupcakes my mom used to bake, please without the candied peel!

at my grandparents place here in Belgium, i refused to have sour cherries with my meatballs (that s a typical dish over here, will post recipe sometime), i only had tomato soup or chervil soup, never ever the vegetable soup with those chunks in it...

and my grandparents in Japan! the things they went thru to make me eat. i remember so clearly how they always tried to make my brother and i feel 'at home' by cooking us Western style food. imagine...! we were not rich, but they made sure we had some meat everyday! which is definitely very unusual in Japan!
so you can imagine their surprise when i last visited, when i told them i was crazy about sushi and sashimi and grilled fish and soba (it was always udon before, always)...

but now, OMG, i have changed so much! i ve learned so much! i think my brother became a foodie much quicker than i did, even tho when he was a kid, he only wanted to eat his spaghetti with ketchup! but he makes a beautiful chawan-mushi, just like a pro!

so, as i mentioned earlier, i hated rare steaks, just the thought of it made me squirm, but i ve since discovered the joy of a correctly cooked steak, TG! adding a classic béarnaise sauce was something you would never have seen me do either, but again, tastebuds can develop in a good way ;-)

a few days ago i saw a picture on FB by another foodie friend of mine, and that inspired me to try making that béarnaise for the first time (i must admit, i had only tried it in restaurants and bought prepared ones before).

the steak i used was Wagyu beef (admittedly from Australia, but good enough for me), because it had been such a long time since i had some 'meltingly' good steak. i went for a tenderloin, but next time i think i ll go for a rib-eye, cuz i m sure it contains even more flavor.

for the béarnaise i adapted a recipe from Gordon Grimsdale s 'The Book of Sauces'

here s how it went:


1 tenderloin Wagyu steak (+/- 150gr) per person
some groundnut oil to rub the steaks with
a griddle pan

for the sauce:
1 shallot or small onion, finely chopped
2 or 3 stalks of chervil, finely chopped
2 or 3 stalks of tarragon, finely chopped
1 stalk of parsley, finely chopped
5-7 black peppercorns, crushed
3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons of dry white wine
3 egg-yolks
180 gr very cold butter, in cubes
salt and pepper
some more chopped tarragon and parsley


1. take the steaks out of the fridge and bring to room temperature... never ever cook steaks straight from cold because they will seize up and not relax, which means tough, and probably, still cold meat if cooked to medium rare
2. meanwhile, begin by heating the chopped herbs, the shallot or onion, the crushed peppercorns in the wine and the vinegar and reducing the liquid until about half
3. put the yolks in a bowl above a pan of simmering water (au-bain-marie) and whisk together
4. thru a sieve, add the wine-herb-vinegar reduction and whisk well as you would a sabayon
5. add the cubes of butter to the egg mixture (still au-bain-marie), whisk each time until well incorporated before adding another cube
6. the sauce will slowly emulsify to the consistency of mayonnaise. then add the rest of the chopped herbs
7. turn off the heat, but leave the bowl on the pan to keep warm and let the herbs infuse some more
8. heat a griddle pan (you know, with ridges) until quite hot
9. rub the steaks with some oil on both sides and lay into the pan
10. WAIT and do nothing until you can easily lift the steak off the ridges without it sticking (it will do this when it s exactly ready)
11. turn over (please do this without sticking a fork into it, you ll lose the juiciness if you do)
12. WAIT
13. turn over with a quart-turn to give the steaks that criss-cross pattern, and turn over again without the quart-turn so the other side gets a criss-cross pattern too (it always looks nicer, doesn t it?)
14. take the steaks out of the pan, season with salt and pepper, and leave to relax for a minute or so (although, with wagyu, it s not really necessary)
15. serve with the warm béarnaise and some classic French fries, and a salad if you like (in summer i always like thinly sliced tomatoes with very thinly sliced onion and a dash of white wine vinegar)

i surprised myself yesterday, the béarnaise was total bliss (ofcourse it would be, with all that butter) and the wagyu was amazing... once in a while, a little extravagance is allowed i should think

i wish my mother could see me now, she was a great cook, but we didn t get the chance to share that passion... i have to believe she s watching from somewhere and guiding me with a smile ;-)

January 21, 2011

chicken ballotine with tomato sauce and couscous

last night i just couldn t think what i would make for dinner. usually, especially on school nights (when i need to be there on time), i try to make one-pot meals, quick and easy.

but yesterday i did have some time, and it had been a while since i d made something with chicken, so i came up with this.

i call it a ballotine, let me check if i was correct, because i just made up this recipe with what i had on hand... just checked, it is what it is, some might just call this stuffed chicken breasts though... oh well.

here s how i made mine:


for the ballotine:
2 chicken breasts, de-boned and skinned
100 gr ricotta cheese
1 clove garlic, crushed
300 gr young spinach
salt, pepper and nutmeg
olive oil and butter

for the tomato sauce:
4 tomatoes, cut into cubes
100 ml tomato passata
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
splash of water
splash of vermouth (i used Noilly Prat)
salt and pepper
pinch of sugar
some chopped parsley

for the couscous:
100 gr couscous
boiling water
tablespoon of butter


1. start by wilting the spinach leaves in a little olive oil, set aside to cool
2. mix the crushed garlic with the ricotta cheese, add the cooled spinach, and season with salt, pepper and some grated nutmeg
3. wrap the chicken breasts between cling-film and beat down to about 5mm thickness
4. spoon on some filling (i was able to use exactly half for one filet and half for the other) and roll into a sausage shape
5. most ballotine recipes call for the chicken to be wrapped tightly in clingfilm and poached in stock, but i wrapped mine in aluminium foil (i m sure cling would be fine too) and steamed the rolls for about 20 minutes
6. meanwhile sauté the onions and the garlic, then add the chopped tomatoes, the passata, water and vermouth, leave to simmer for about ten minutes, then season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar
7. for a very quick couscous, put the grains in a heatproof bowl, top up with boiling water until just covered and cover with clingfilm, leave to swell for about 10 minutes, then fork it through until the grains are separated (at this point you could add herbs, chopped onion, tomato, cucumber... but i kept it simple by just adding some salt, pepper and chopped parsley)
8. when the chicken has finished steaming (or poaching), unwrap and flash it in a pan with some butter (i do this because i think otherwise it looks a bit anaemic, the choice is yours)
9. plate up and enjoy!

ps. yesterday i did steam the chicken for a bit too long (i gave it more than half an hour) so it came out a little dry, but 15-20 minutes should suffice, depending on the thickness of the ballotine

now i have to start thinking about what to make for tonight! never-ending story, but i think about food all the time anyway ;-)

January 18, 2011

fudgie pecan brownies

OMG! has it been since mid-october that i wrote a post? i am constantly amazed at how quickly time flies, i must have said this so many times already but it s the truth. and the older i get...

anyway, i have finally been able to purchase an SLR camera, the CANON EOS 1000D, a basic one, i m not a real photographer, so this model was ideal to start with. my little compact PENTAX E60 worked a treat, but i just like looking thru the lens instead of at an LCD screen.

so, i ve been practicing and will be posting some new pics soon, as well as recipes, of course, but i had a friend on FB who asked me to post the recipe for my favorite brownies, so here goes:



125 gr dark chocolate (i use Callebaut dessert chocolate), roughly chopped
125 gr unsalted butter, in cubes
160 gr dark brown sugar (it s just more treacly)
2 whole eggs
the seeds of 1 vanilla pod or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (please don t use vanilla essence - it s just a vanilla-flavored alcohol)
75 gr plain flour
pinch of salt
150 gr pecan-nuts, roughly chopped
50 gr dark chocolate, roughly chopped

square baking tin: approx 20x20 cm


1. preheat the oven to 175-180°C
2. grease the baking tin with some butter
3. melt the chocolate and the butter au-bain-marie, until everything has melted evenly and leave to cool a little
4. beat the egss and the vanilla seeds
5. sift the flour and the salt
6. beat the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture, then mix in the flour, the nuts and the chocolate pieces
7. pour into the baking tin and bake for about 20 minutes, the sides will release a little from the tin, but the middle should just be cooked and still a little wobbly
8. leave to cool completely in the tin before cutting into squares

ofcourse, you can leave out the nuts, up the chocolate pieces, or use different kinds of nuts... i like macadamias too

beware, these are very rich brownies, but i think a lot better than those made with cocoa powder, one goes a long long way.

OH, and it s still not too late to wish everybody a HAPPY NEW YEAR, is it? good health and good cooking!