Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bring me flesh and bring me. . . oh, I wish

 You in the heritage apron, what are YOU smiling about?
To make Nancy Silverton's porcini-rubbed rib-eye bistecca from The Mozza Cookbook, you first go to a butcher counter carrying a big wad of cash. Ask for bone-in rib-eye steaks, cut really thick; they should look almost like roasts. (If you remember, tell the butcher to "french" them, but if you don't remember, it's okay. I didn't.) Brace yourself. I felt like I'd been punched in the gut when I saw the price, but am glad I recovered and sucked it up, as you will see below.

Once you've got your hands on the steaks, find the biggest bag of dried porcini mushrooms at the supermarket. The recipe calls for 2 ounces and I thought that would be a wee packet, but it turns out to be a large sack. Porcini are both bulky and light.

Back home in your kitchen, pulverize the mushooms in a spice grinder. Then grind some black pepper and red pepper flakes and mix these with sugar, kosher salt, and the mushroom dust. Spread the dun-colored powder on a big plate and coat your steaks thickly on all sides.  Now, grill them or cook them in a super-hot iron skillet, flipping occasionally, until they are as done as you like them. (Rare!)  Let them rest for 10 or 15 minutes. Slice against the grain and eat with gluttonous abandon, because these steaks are disgustingly expensive and by far the best steaks I have ever cooked.

Why so good? First, I almost never buy such premium meat and it makes a difference. I know I shouldn't, but I often buy the thin, cheap steaks at Safeway and it turns out you get what you pay for. This meat, when cooked, resembled tuna sashimi -- tender, pink, compact, and plump -- and was almost as pleasurable to gaze upon as to eat. I think these would have been the best steaks I've ever cooked even without the porcini coating. But the umami of that mushroom powder pushed them off the charts. I served the steaks with Nancy Silverton's simple and delicious recipe for broccolini sauteed with red pepper flakes and vinegar. (If you make this, you can safely halve the olive oil with no loss of savor.)

As Simon Doonan would say, it was a very heterosexual meal.

Which brings me to the second subject of this post: Gay Men Don't Get Fat by Simon Doonan. This book has brought me even more joy than those steaks. After I ate my 4.6 ounces of beef, I took Gay Men Don't Get Fat to the gym and laughed so hard that I almost fell off the treadmill. (Life with almost no alcohol = walking on the treadmill after dinner.)

Doonan quote relevant to my recent adventures with DIY:

"The fabulous irony of all this Depression era fetishization is particularly piquant for moi. My mother, Betty, left school at the age of thirteen in rural Northern Ireland and was sent to work with a pork butcher. As she hacked off the trotters and ears of the unwittingly organic animals, she dreamed of the day when she could tear of her authentic work wear, escape to the big city, bleach her hair, wear nylons, drink gin cocktails and never step in animal feces again. She would have been amused, as am I, to see people a the apex of urban glamour donning heritage aprons and willingly, ardently, passionately and enthusiastically electing to earn their living by deep-frying artisanal doughnuts in hand-harvested pig lard."

(I have sometimes stepped in animal feces while drinking a gin cocktail.)

The two chapters everyone interested in food should read: "Macaroons are so Gay!" and "Jamie Oliver is a lesbian." If I start quoting from these chapters I won't be able to stop and Doonan's lawyers will come after me for copyright infringement. Sufficeth to say, "lesbian food" is a supremely useful term for farm-to-table cooking that features wholesome grains, locally sourced vegetables, and communal tables. Which is to say, the predominant -- and wonderful -- cooking style of the moment. I wish I were bold enough to drop "lesbian food" into conversation, but I think I would blush and feel the need to explain and worry I was offending someone, which I probably would be. We're not all Simon Doonan.

There is only one chapter -- about the taxonomy and sex lives of bears -- that I hesitate to endorse. Unless you are curious about the subject, you might want to skip "Operation Goldilocks."  I was curious about this subject and appreciated the enlightenment, but even so winced a few times like the prudish straight chick that I am. Chacun a son gout and that chapter might not be to your gout. (Doonan endorses sprinkling your conversation with French.)

Anyway, highest recommendation on this book with one big caveat: If you are my father or my husband or my father-in-law or, come to think of it, maybe just if you are a straight man who has ever in his life worn Dockers or participated in a naff belching contest, don't bother with Gay Men Don't Get Fat. You will not like it.


  1. Kindling now....BTW you look distinctly thinner, and I don't think it's just the giant slabs of meat you are holding.

  2. Ditto Ginny. Losing the weight is so boring but you look great.
    And I love the description of "lesbian food." Ask your husband and I bet it will sound a lot like the food in the houses of the friends he grew up with. (My mother was dedicated to squishy white bread but my sandwiches were all but exotic and either envied or pitied by my friends.)

  3. I NEVER eat filet mignon; it's flabby and tasteless, so don't ask me why I decided for Christmas Dinner to buy a 3-pound piece of prime aged filet at Fairway for 2 pence shy $39.00 a pound!

    But I did, and I cooked it loosely following - very, very loosely following - Melissa Clarke recipe, and it was beyond SENSATIONAL; it was INSANE. I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT. So buying premium meat is totally worth it.

  4. R. K. Weaver1/22/12, 4:04 PM

    Find a butcher that carries bison. I get bison rib eyes, seal them with a dry rub, and sous vide them for 4 hours at 133 F. Quick sear with the torch and you have the best "steak" you'll ever eat. Cost of bison is high, but you can get great "steak" flavor with a lean(ish - after all it is a rib eye) steak with little effort.

  5. I agree on the premium steaks. I would rather eat great t-bones much less frequently than a lesser cut. I usually buy them at Fresh Market and, I swear that you can cut them with a fork. My husband just likes to gnaw on the bones like a caveman...

  6. Porcini powder and red chili flakes, Yikes! I need that cookbook. Love the kitchen sink btw. Your diet is working as we can all see.

  7. I love that big smile!

    Should it be "Macarons" rather than "Macaroons"? My understanding was that "macarons" referred to the trendy French almond-based cookie sandwich, whereas "macaroons" referred to the coconut cookie. I get confused though because the use is not consistent.

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