On the Saturday just passed, that being yesterday, we had a wonderful time partaking in another session of Cooking with Mervyn. Or to be more accurate, The Cooking with Mervyn Show, hosted by the lovely Amanda. Giving credit where credit is due given that she doesn’t share in the session’s eponymous title but yet contributes just as much :)

Today was a day that I greatly looked forward to partaking in as the central theme would be Beef. Erica and I both have a fondness for our red meats and so this session for us was simply a must. I came quite close to bailing on the session as a matter of fact as I’m still not 100% recovered from the Asian Bum Flu or whatever strange illness it is that has been plaguing me this past week, but thankfully I felt well enough to participate and present myself as the resident class biohazard for this cooking session.

First and foremost, today isn’t really a cooking class. Unlike the last session of Japanese Cookyn of which I blogged about here, today was more about tasting than cooking. It was basically like a beef appreciation class. So naturally there would be a reduced amount of class interaction compared with a normal cooking session where it’s all hands on deck.

For me, I personally didn’t mind as I had planned to stay away from all food preparation where possible anyway due to the fact that I should probably be stuck in a quarantine facility somewhere. You know, what with me and my sickness, germs, chronic flatulence, and all that good stuff… Class participation in terms of teamwork was minimal today compared to previous. But like I mentioned before, it all depends on the objective of the class.

The objective of the session was to expose the class to the various differences in the meats that we tend to consume on a regular basis without giving any further thought into. One of these was the difference between Parma Ham (which has to be from Parma otherwise it’s just called Prosciutto), and Jamon Iberico de Bellota, which is the same but specifically from acorn fed Iberian pigs. Fancy huh? The main focus was for us to sample and appreciate the differences between 4 different types of steak. These were Australian grass fed rib-eye, Australian grain fed ribeye, dry-aged Australian grain-fed rib-eye, and U.S grain fed ribeye.

Basically the class for this session was completely different from the Japanese one we last went to, with the exception of AM_Klutz. So it’s also great to see a bunch of new faces and meet new people. As for the LJ rollcall, I actually had no idea whom was from LJ and what their nicks were. I only found out today that Gwen, whom I sat next to in the class was sublimesilence. Haha, I had no idea. Was great finally meeting her too. So for all the other LJ peeps present, step up and be counted as I’d love to know whom you all were and match your accounts to your faces :) Don’t make me flush you out by putting ridiculous captions to your faces! :)

And so we begin.

Battle of the Meats-
Nothing at all like the event of the same name on “sword” fight night down at the local queer bar….

 

 

Pre-class chatter
 

 

Devon, the only other male in the class. His accent sounded so familiar though for some reason I just couldn’t place it. Little did I realise his shirt was blaring the answer right in my face.
Duhhhh….

 

Andrea explaining to Juggles McDs the finer points of making a claw shaped hand
 

Tools of the gluttony trade
The class kicked off in similar form to last, with the group being spit into two smaller ones. La Chef Merv then gave us a run down on what we’re setting out to accomplish by the end of the session, which is to really get fat, shorten life span, and hopefully learn a few things along the way about cuts of fancy swine and lazy bovine.

The appetiser for this class that would get us all started was an entire block of Vacherin Mont D’or, a delightful French cheese, that was baked in the over until it was all drippy…. and melty…. and gooey… and *droooooool*. To go with this Mervyn had prepared some slices of crunchy oven dried bread. These were to be either dipped in or spread with the soft velvety cheese. It really was like a fondue and absolutely sensational. It’s similar in taste and texture of a baked or deep fried Brie or Camembert, but more mild in taste. It was exquisite from the general reaction from the group, the feelings were all mutual.

After that came the sampling of the hams. The Parma Ham and the Jamon Iberico de Bellota. Now here’s a bit of mindless trivia. I actually had no idea what Jamon was prior to the class. I’ve seen the term Jamon used once in my life and that was for a Spanish movie I watched many years ago called Jamon Jamon. It saw it on the foreign movies channel and it featured Penelope Cruz getting her kit off again… and again… and again. Needless to say, I very much enjoyed that movie and Penelope’s truly exceptional Oscar winning rack :) So there you go. And because sharing is caring, and I believe in attracting more men to this post and from there then into the kitchen, here’s a link to a different type of Jamon πŸ˜‰ (Warning: NSFW)

Class is now in session. Heh… pink shirt… *snigger*
 

Vacherin Mont D’Or
 

Mmmm… pseudo fonduelicious….
 

Ohh sweet heavenly mercy…. The sight of this should be enough to stir the loins of any foodie…
 

Again, our ever gracious, hospitable, and perpetually smiling host, Amanda! *applaud sign flashing*
 

The Jamon Iberico de Bellota
We first tried the Parma Ham and then the Jamon Iberico. Now the Parma Ham is indeed quite the tasty ham, I’m a big fan, but the Jamon Iberico kicked the pants off it. In terms of flavour, the Jamon has much more bold. I’m a huge fan of meats with an intense flavour, something which Erica is not a fan off, and hence my preference for ham from the Iberico pig. Side by side, the difference is very noticeable and I don’t really want to go back to the Parma. But on their own and without comparison, both are wonderful. I do love my pork (the noun and the verb), and it’s probably my favourite type of meat, followed by beef, then lamb, then chicken.

With the sampling done, Merv and Amanda setup a DIY station with salad leaves, lovely plum tomatoes, raisins, seasonings, truffle oil and balsamic. This also included a oven fresh batch of more warm melty Vacherin Mont D’or! The objective of this was basically to play with our food. We were to design or arrange our ingredients into the most appealing dish that we could. He gave us a few tips, and they included that most visually appealing dishes needed colours and an element of height to it. Okay roger that Captain…. colours and height. Check and check….

The DIY station
 

Lovely plum tomatoes
 

Andrea looking pleased, almost… too pleased, with her piece of meat
 

My darling sugarplum
Hand in communal bowl alert!!! Hand in communal bowl alert!!! *WOOP WOOP WOOP*
 

 

The lovely and pregnant Jamie whom was unfortunately unable to enjoy the pleasures of undercooked meat
 

 

Today I’m an artiste and this was my canvas
Don’t ask me how and don’t ask me why. I just made sure I had all the criteria ticked! Two types of ham, bread, cheese, plum tomatoes of both colour, salad, balsamic, and truffle oil…. done! It’s an abstract piece of genius if I do say so myself. What? What’s that you say? All you can see is random crap piled on a plate?! Pffft…. It’s… “ABSTRACT”!!!! You just can’t appreciate fine art! Hmph… I bet you also think it’s like the whole damn Emperors New Clothes thing and I’m the Emperor. Mere commoners… the lot of you!

And then here we have some other creations by various other members of the class. You’re all conformists!!! Whilst everyone goes for the beauty of the usual dark hair, tanned skin, sleek jawline and chiseled abs of say an Armani model, I’ve opted for appreciating the raw masculine scent, that earthy dormant power, the natural curvaceous paunch, and the wild greasy locks of that crazy hobo whom lives under the bridge and talks to himself. It’s all about the beauty within! Well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

My resulting abstract piΓ¨ce de rΓ©sistance that I shall call….
The Shipwreck of Sir Oinkcelot on the Isle of Salsa

 

Erica’s creation
 

Grace’s whom was sitting next to me
 

And her neighbour
 

 

Min I noticed was a compulsive tomato sucker… so I had to document it for further behavioral studies
 

Hi Gwen Gwen!
 

Now with our creations all eaten, it was time for the next course. This one involved the class pitching in to help. Next on the menu was Pan Roasted Potatoes with Sour Cream and Avruga Caviar. Oooo caviar… fancy! I asked Merv what fish Avruga Caviar was from, just so I could like… boast about it later on, only to discover that Avruga caviar is not actually caviar at all. It’s faux Caviar! Basically, it’s not eggs from a fish at all, but it’s fish, in this case herring, that has been made to resemble Caviar! It’s actually fish meat! Man… they can really fake anything these days. Either way the Caviar, faux or not, still tasted pretty good. But more importantly, it just looks and sounds expensive :)

The class assisted in the cutting of the potatoes which were then placed flat into a flat pan. The pan was filled to half the level of the potatoes with stock, and plenty of butter was then added into the mix. The idea is to cover the pan and let the stock simmer down until almost gone, which would infuse the potatoes with flavour aplenty, and then turn them over to sear the other side.

hehe… it’s like getting busted for doing something silly on a Navy ship and getting sent down to the store room to cut and peel potatoes.
Like getting caught for streaking or torpedoing a friendly ship or something…

 

So much butter…
 

Flipping the taters
 

Which is the correct answer. Is Grace A) Asleep, B) Blinking at the time of the shot, C) In deep appreciation of the smells, or D) Trying to let one rip quietly
 

An entire block of butter!
Merv then prepared the butter sauce which would be used for the steak. Basically the word sauce is a bit of an over elaboration. It’s just melted butter… a whole damn block of it! Basically the idea is to melt down and simmer the butter until it separates. The clear oily top is called “Clarified Butter” and is spooned off. The bottom is then left to simmer until it starts to brown. It’s this thick brownier sauce that we’ll be using to spoon over the steaks later on. Simple.

Whilst the potatoes was cooking away, Merv got started on the steaks. I learnt an important tip from Merv and Amanda about steaks. Don’t go for the red ones. Basically most people just go straight for the redder steaks. That’s not a good thing because generally the redder it is, the tougher it is. However, it’s also more marketable because it’s more visually appealing. And ignoramus’s like myself only look for the red red meat. The better and more tender meats however, aren’t that bright a red but more so faded to like a dull red or brownish hue. This actually indicates it’s more likely to be tender.

This is a really cut down explanation as I forgot the details. Either way, Don’t get too red, but on the flip side don’t get too brown either. A dull red should be just right I think. Either that or I completely misunderstood the explanation πŸ˜› For those that are anticipating for the meats to look completely different, you’ll be disappointed they all, to me anyway, largely looked the same. I wouldn’t be able to tell that they were steaks from completely different type of cows.

The steaks were done medium rare, to appeal to everyone (I like my steaks rare or blue), and a couple were done well to cater for Jamie whom was preggers.

See ladies, this is what I feel like when you stare in obvious lust. So please, try to be more subtle. I have feelings too.
 

I can’t remember which company it was that sponsored these lovely clean aprons. It’s on the tip of my tongue. Was it Toyota? I think it was Toyota….
 

Ahhh that wonderful sound of sizzling meat. Oh it’s not coming from the grill, it’s from me licking a finger and touching it to my butt *Sssssssss*
 

The always lovely diagonal grill marks. Or if you’re a reader from some trailer park in the U.S, then it’s the equivalent of having the pattern of tyre treads on your meat.
 

 

Kids… don’t smoke. Or these could belong to you.
*This Public Service Announcement has been kindly brought to you by the fun police*

 


Because Merv is cooking the steaks well and medium rare, he hot seared them on the griddle and then put them in the over to finish off. This is to cook them more evenly and avoid burning the outsides. For me, I just hot sear them because seeing as I like my steaks rare/blue, I’m not cooking them long enough for the outside to burn. After cooking the steaks are then left to rest for a couple of minutes before slicing. Slicing a hot and freshly cooked steak will result in it’s juices just running straight out and resulting in a slightly dryer, less flavourful steak.

With the steaks cooking or sitting away, Merv moved onto the potatoes which were now done. After plating them, he demonstrated to us how to get that nice oval shape that restaurants use to serve their creams and ice creams. It’s basically done by using two spoons to pass the scoop from one to the other and shape it in the process. After shaping the sour cream, it then got spooned onto the potato and topped with Avruga Caviar.

Unfortunately the tapered edges of the plate resulted in the sour cream sliding off the surface of some of the smaller potatoes resulting in a bit of a mess. But no matter, the majority of them still looked wonderful :) The potatoes tasted good but oh so unhealthy. Because on some of the taters, the size of the potato compared to the size of the cream blob was almost 1:1, every delightfully creamy mouthful just felt so nasty for you.

I only had one even though I wanted more. I’ve lost about 2kg in the last couple of weeks due to me being sick and I don’t wanna binge and put it all back on! I bumped into a friend when out to lunch during the week and he commented that I’ve lost weight on my face. So yay… incentive to be disciplined in the face of immense temptation :)

It’s to people like this that I came crying back in Uni when I found my own notes to be woefully inadequate or just… blank.
 

The potatoes all pan roasted and seasoned
 

Shaping the sour cream
 

And finally topped with some Avruga Caviar
 

Everyone pitching in
 

Mental note for next time, don’t use plates with sloping edges
And finally it’s time for the meat!! Meat meat meat meat meat!!! Basically it was a blind taste test. No one would know which steaks were which, we would try all four in succession and try to guess which was which. After sampling all four, my preferences were in order were C, B, D, then A. I only realised now looking at the photos that on the day I got A and B confused as I had thought A was on the left and B on the right.

The main steak which everyone tried to guess was the Aged Beef which was the most expensive. Basically Aged Beef is left to try in some humidity controlled room to dry out. As the meat dries out, the flavour slowly gets more intense and the meat more tender. The aging process tenderises the meat due to enzymes or proteins or the boogeyman or whatever coming in to break down it’s mojo, but whever it was, the end result is the meat getting more tender. I accidently left my information sheet back in the classroom (as did Erica), and so don’t have it here for reference. And no… I can’t be bothered to wiki it. The high price of Aged Beef is primarily due to the large amount of wastage incurred during the aging process. I don’t know what happens to the discarded bits, if they get used as dried beef, dog treats, to pad out bras, or whatever, but either way the amount of remaining meat that’s actually marketable is substantially less, but more tender and intense in flavour.

The class unanimously guess C, and we were all proved to be right. The aged beef stuck out like China man at a black tie dinner and was by far the best cut of meat on display. Even at medium rare, it was incredibly succulent, juicy, and bold in flavour. There was a noticeable different in texture between the grain and grass fed beef. Both were good, but I found the grain fed beef to be better and more tender in texture to the grass fed. We tried the grain fed beef, I think it was, well done and it was still surprisingly tender. Merv had only seasoned the steaks with a sprinkle of salt and the brown butter sauce. That was all it needed as they just enhanced the natural taste of the beef.

But a point to note, you really have to compare the exact same part of the steaks together to be accurate in tasting the difference. Because just having a bit of plump juicy fat in one of your samples can completely throw off your sample accuracy. It was a great experience, I know how why Aged Beef is so expensive. Is it worth it? Not sure as I didn’t ask for a comparison costing.

Now one day, I’d like to try Kobe beef, just to compare to Wagyu. And also one day, I’d like to try being a Kobe Merrill. Because that sounds like one kickass life. Then Erica can taste me and tell you if there’s any difference. Ah ha! Ahahaha…. oh Merrill… you so dirty….

The Grass Fed Australian seasoned and laced with the browned butter sauce
 

And the Grass Fed US Beef done in the same way
 

Blind tasting samples A and B
 

Meat meat poke poke
 

And here we have that special and tender moment where Andrea’s world is completely devoid of anything except for her… and her meat. It’s almost romantic. Almost…
Dessert!!! Dessert dessert dessert!!! Given that I had demonstrated such self-restraint with the beef and potatoes that would make Jenny Craig proud, I had ample room for dessert. Unlike women, whom like camels have two separate stomachs, one for the mains and a second specifically for dessert, I normally just tank out on the mains and leave no room for dessert as I’m not a huge dessert person. I do love my bananas and Ice Cream so I was really looking forward to this.

It’s a simple affair of halving a banana (B-A-N-A-N-A-S), sprinkling some brown sugar on it, caramalising the sugar with a cooking torch, covering it with peanuts and honey, then baking it in the oven. Once done, remove and serve with ice cream. Simple!!! But yet sooo tasty.

Watching Merv doing the brulee has given me an idea. What I think I’m going to try doing at home is put some sliced bananas in a ramekin, layering it with peanuts and dark chocolate drops, layering more banana, covering that layer with a bit of honey, then using brown sugar to make a thick brulee crust and baking the sucker!!! Or even perhaps adding some custard in there as well. Then serving with some french vanilla ice cream. I think that might turn out quite well, can’t wait to try :)

Let me hear you say this shit is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S,
(This shit is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S)

 

Andrea joked for us to watch out because her LJ nick is AM_Klutz. We all laughed politely, shifted our feet nervously, then got ready to bolt for the exits…
 

A split roast
 

Once covered with peanuts and honey, it’s off into the oven
 

Tada!
 

Babysitter Amanda supervising the kids to make sure no one chokes or sticks a fork in their nose or something….
All up, it was another fantastic session of Cookyn with Meryn that I thoroughly enjoyed. Just some feedback to note from the classes I’ve been to so far. Cooking and preparing food together like during the Japanese session fosters a more social and interactive environment. It got everyone chatting a lot more as people would constantly rotate and interact with each other as shared and swapped tasks and utensils. Whereas the tasting and food education classes like this one are slightly more passive and less dynamic/interactive. Both are great fun, but this is just more so for those whom haven’t been to know what to expect from future classes that they may think, and I think they should, of attending.

Again, that’s for sharing some good knowledge and greater times with all of us. Great meeting more people that I’ve known for a while now but never met. A note to all you people in the class whom admit to being lurkers on my blog. No need to lurk!!! Come out and say hi! :) Same to all the lurkers out there… except for you, trench coat flasher dude, get the hell out of those bushes before I call the cops! I can see you you know!!!

The Lovely Ladies
 

The Awesome