Murphy: The Secret to Sizzle

May 4, 2018 10:02 AM
 
Preparing a special dish for guests isn’t about culinary quality; it’s about the adulation that comes from people admitting that your kitchen secrets are better than theirs. Here’s a good one.

Not a week goes by that doesn’t find me browsing through my collection of Food & Wine magazines.

I need to know such details as, “The Best Burritos in all 50 States.” I mean, you never know when you might find yourself in North Dakota some evening wondering, “Where do I find the state’s top-ranked burrito?”

Or step-by-step instructions for how to make a “Rolled Japanese Omelet.” That’s been bugging me for years, because every time I’ve tried, it neither rolls right nor looks Japanese.

Or a most helpful article — if you’re into bragging rights — “44 Steak Recipes” you need to know. My previous list topped out at about … six, so now I’m talkin’ steak like a real chef, if not actually preparing more than, well, half a dozen of the ones on the list.

But speaking of steak, Food & Wine recently ran a story that actually was useful in a practical sense, featuring what the magazine’s editors called a “Mad Genius Tip,” one that I can testify from direct personal experience really works.

Unlike the video on rolling a righteous Japanese omelet.

It’s the Meat, not the Knife
As the article emphasized, the genius tip revealed on the magazine’s website is critical for properly preparing and serving such dishes as a Philly cheese steak, a green salad topped with beef tenderloin or a sirloin steak stir fry.

Interesting, I have a name for that exact mealtime lineup … Thursday.

But seriously, the key to all three is slicing the meat super-thin — at least according to Jamie Chapple, who I’m not sure is the genius or the chef. He’s wearing an apron in the video accompanying the Food & Wine article, so I’m guessing the latter.

Even if you’re using the best knife on the market (such as the MAC MTH-80 Professional Series 8-inch Chef’s Knife with Dimples for $145; or the Wüsthof Classic 8-inch Cook’s Knife for $140; or perhaps the Misono UX10 Gyutou for only $171), Chef Jamie noted that, “It can still be tricky to achieve that perfect slice.”

Indeed.

Luckily, there’s a simple solution to that culinary conundrum, and I quote:

“All you have to do is take your thawed cut of meat and dry it off with a paper towel. Then, place the meat in the freezer for 30 minutes, or until the meat is ‘just firm.’”

That’s perfect, because I always budget an extra half for mealtime prep, just for situations like the one profiled in the article.

You should, too.

Whether it’s a beef ribeye, a pork tenderloin or a boneless chicken breast, once the meat is slightly frozen it’s easy to cut through it smoothly, even if you’re not using the Misono UX10 Gyutou.

Honestly, I had always used a serrated bread knife on raw meat, because that does a decent job of producing thin slices of beef or pork.

But freezing the meat first? It truly makes a difference, such that I can now use my generic no-name knife from the exclusive Target collection to produce nice, even slices of beef or pork with relative ease.

All I need now is the time, patience and skill to then utilize those beautiful thin slices in one of Food & Wine’s featured recipes, like Warm Flank Steak Salad with Mint and Cilantro, or maybe Duck Breast Baked in Toasted Spice Butter.

Something tells me those culinary excursions are going to take even longer than a half hour in the freezer.

Editor’s Note: The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and commentator.

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