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.
Nothing at all like the event of the same name on “sword” fight night down at the local queer bar….
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 😉 (Warning: NSFW)
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….
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.
The Shipwreck of Sir Oinkcelot on the Isle of Salsa
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.
Like getting caught for streaking or torpedoing a friendly ship or something…
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 😛 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.
*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
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….
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
(This shit is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S)
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!!!