Beef Royal (1723), First Course
Specialty Equipment: water bath
Specialty Ingredients: black truffle, truffle juice
Dish as in The Fat Duck (can’t find any photos of the dish as served in The Fat Duck):
What’s not to like in this recipe? Sweetbreads, black truffle and frying action! The recipe had me at sweetbreads and secured a place in my heart with the other two words. I was thinking I would really have to fuck it up in the kitchen to end up with an unsatisfactory result. Fortunately disasters didn’t make it around the corner and we had the most delicious upscale beer snack.
I started with the sweetbreads. I’ve ordered it from restaurant menus without thinking the last couple of years, but only started to cook it myself about a year ago. It is often seen as something difficult to cook, like octopus, quail, steak or aerated chocolate (ok that can be difficult, haha), but in fact isn’t.
The two main methods of preparing sweetbreads are: poaching them, then remove the outer fat and membrane and pan-fry them or remove the membrane before cooking and then pan-fry them until cooked (without poaching). In this recipe they have to be cooked at 65˚C for 2 hours, chilled, cleaned, breaded and fried. If you’ve never tried to cook it at home, change the situation. It may not look appetizing in its raw state, but you can go eat yourself silly instead of nibbling on a few small pieces in a restaurant. I do the same with lobster. I can get it for 17,5€/per kg, so I feast on it at home instead of eating half a lobster for 20 to 30€ at a restaurant.
You can easily spot the membrane, which has to be removed.
The sweetbread cut in pieces of +/- 10g, ready for the coating in panko.
Chervil leaves have to be dried in a microwave, used later on as a garnish for the fried sweetbreads. To dry them you have cover a plate with clingfilm, much like a drum skin, and blast the leaves away in a microwave. It works like a charm.
Spot the difference (not the leaves).
The sweetbreads are accompanied by an upscale dip, a truffled emulsion. It is made from soft-boiled eggs, truffle, oil, truffle juice, cornichons, black truffle, pickled shallots and fresh herbs. I skipped the truffle juice, but did use tons of black truffle.
Of course I measured every cube of shallot, for the pickled shallots, to see if it was 2mm on every side.
I wonder at what stage of coagulation the eggs have to be, the instruction is to cook them at 90˚C for 4 minutes, because some of the egg white was still uncooked. I cooked them in my rice cooker and pulled them out of the fridge well before I cooked them, so they should have had the right texture. The problem is that I couldn’t peel them, as instructed in the book, the eggs were still too soft.
Here’s a pic what they looked like.
Finishing the sauce by emulsifying the eggs with oil and folding in the rest of the ingredients. Truffle, truffle, truffle!
I saw the next technique for the first time with the Fish Pie on In Search of Perfection. Heston uses panko, Japanese breadcrumbs, together with fried baby anchovies, shirasu, as a crispy coating. If I know his way of thinking a little by now it probably is to boost the umami flavor. The anchovies are used for their ability to boost other flavors. In this case the sweetbreads and oysters.
The oysters, before being cleaned.
With everything ready I coated the sweetbreads and oysters in the panko mix and fried them in a pan. I didn’t use a fryer, because I try to avoid using it whenever I can. Fryers, the ones you can buy everywhere for next to nothing, do their job, but are an absolute nightmare when it comes to cleaning them. They almost all have a ‘cool zone’ at the bottom, but not all the food makes it there, so when you use it two to three times the oil starts to stink. You can decide to clean it often, but it’s an absolute pain in the ass, with smelly and sticky oil attaching itself to the entire kitchen and even yourself. The solution are professional fryers, who feature a draining system, but who has the room and desire to spend bucks on those? Anyway, I used a pan, which is cleaned no time. You could even filter the oil and store it for another time.
To more pleasant things. The truffled emulsion. It has to be slightly warmed before serving. With the emulsion warm and the sweetbreads and oysters fried it was time to plate everything. I can’t find any pictures of this dish online, so in absence of the silver cornet and pan of the book I decided on the plating myself (not more than one comment per person how I suck please).
Oh my god. This was delicious. I said it in the intro, but what is not to love? It would make a wonderful introduction to an offal virgin, easing them into the delight of different cuts. Although I must say sweetbreads just make, in my eyes, the offal category. They are definitely not priced as other pieces of offal and have a flavor that is appreciated by everyone I serve it to. It’s difficult to say the same for kidneys, liver, tripe, brains and more.
Anyway, this dish kicked the, sort of similar dish, Radish Ravioli of Oyster out of the top 5. I can only imagine what it’s like eating it in conjunction with the Second and Third Course.