Beef Royal (1723), Second Course
Specialty Equipment: water bath, digital thermometer, pressure cooker
Specialty Ingredients: nitrite salt
Dish as in The Fat Duck (can’t find any photos of the dish as served in The Fat Duck):
Oh yeah, the short ribs have been bought, cooked, eaten and digested. They’re out of my life. It’s been a quite an undertaking, and am glad it’s over. Luckily the actual recipe was not that complicated, especially since I already made the meat and bone craving beef sauce. All I had to do was cook an ox tongue, some onions, reheat cooked turnips and finish the sauce (next to the short ribs of course).
When starting the recipe I assumed the ribs were the thing that would take the most time. It turned out to be the tongue (I used a calf’s tongue to cut back on the amount of meat) with a brining and cooking time of 4 days. In my case they took 5 days, because, as nuts as I am when it comes down to the cookbook, didn’t buy a second water bath setup to be able to cook the tongue and ribs simultaneously at different temperatures. The ribs have to go in at 57˚C, while the tongue has to be cooked at 65˚C. I cooked the tongue for 2 days alongside the ribs and gave them an extra day at 65˚C to force every last cell to surrender.
I had three similar sized pieces of short rib and one large rib as an addition to the recipe. I don’t think anyone would cook something for 72 hours and not take advantage of it. The ribs have to be salted in course sea salt for 3 hours, washed in several changes of water, browned in a pan, plunged in an 83˚C water bath for 3 minutes to kill surface bacteria and cooked for 72 hours.
The recipe instructs to take the meat off the bones just before serving, but I did it when they were done cooking to save on any last time hassle. To clean the bone I wouldn’t scrape the bone, but try to get a knife underneath the membrane, so you can peel if off cleanly and smoothly. I once read in a book some restaurants cook bones in a vinegar solution to give it a pristine white exterior. I tried it and it turned out pretty good.
Ribs cut into portions and cleaned of any connective tissue.
One of the ways to tell if a tongue is cooked is to see if the membrane peels of easily. After 3 days of cooking it was not a problem and the tongue was without its coat in no time. At this stage I couldn’t help myself and took a piece of the tongue. Wow, it was incredible soft. I’ve cooked tongue numerous times, but never with a low temperature method. There is definitely a huge difference. It has to be eaten to be believed. Incredible.
Onions in a bag with olive oil and salt and submerged in near boiling water. I left out the 90˚C water bath and just used two changes of near boiling water.
The turnips laid cooked and ready in the freezer from the pigeon dish. A bit softer and more watery then the ones freshly cooked, but still completely fine.
To finish everything I added herbs, gherkins, and anchovies to the beef sauce, warmed the short ribs, glazed them, halved the onions and turnips, cut the tongue in pieces and plated.
BEEFY. That’s the way to describe this dish. Short ribs are packed full of flavor cooked in a bag, and remain beautiful pink (takes a minute to become pink after they come out of the bath). This is reinforced by the deep beef sauce and cubes of near melting tongue. In spirit it is a very classical dish, cooked with modern techniques. You could imagine yourself in small French village, seated in a Michelin starred restaurant and be served this dish. Some of the main players may change, but the essence could easily be the same.
I’ve found it throughout the book, and in this dish it is very apparent: the recipes have a very strong foundation in classical cooking. A contradiction at its best. The chef described, and rightly so, as shaking the foundations of cooking, is, seen through the blows and whistles, very classical. It may be hard to believe, especially with the tasting menu dishes, like the salmon, iPod and bacon ice cream ones. It becomes more apparent on the à la carte dishes, served alongside the tasting menu until a year ago, which make up the rest of the cookbook. The main courses are for instance all made up of two servings and or tableside preparations.
In every interview with Heston on his love for cooking he always mentions his trip to a three Michelin starred restaurant in France when he was a teenager. The drama of the food and the service made an everlasting impression. Combined with his love of reinterpreting stuff from his childhood it in not far fetched to suggest the drama of his early experience and his love for food from the past could be responsible for a lot of his food.
I’m not all saying his food is classical cooking with a little magic thrown in, but only that I see very strong ties with classical French cuisine that may go unnoticed by the fixation on words like snail porridge, liquid nitrogen and bacon ice cream. Next to his unique creations he alters, mixes and rearranges classic preparations. It is no wonder he made In Search of Perfection, a program dedicated to perfect classic dishes.