Monday, May 28, 2012

Leftover Flank of Beef with Pink Mayonnaise


I’ve never thought of myself as much of a ‘barbecue’ kind of person. I don’t really attempt anything terribly ambitious on the grill. Although I own a reasonably nice North American style barbecue, I quite like the more rustic approach of a terracotta pot filled with smoldering charcoal and a simple steel grill placed atop it.
Either way, for the last week, I suppose because it’s been unseasonably hot, I have been perfuming my clothing with smoke and fire.  This past weekend was no exception. I acquired a healthy-sized flank of beef. In the past I have always approached lean, fibrous pieces of meat such as this with caution and delicacy. I will typically cover it in a flavourful rub that includes fennel seed, black pepper and allspice berries (bashed in my pestle and mortar) and then put it in a low oven so that it cooks extremely slowly, sometimes taking up to three hours to reach medium rare. This way, all the connective tissues breaks down and the rub penetrates deeply into the meat. There will be a dark and ever-so-slightly chewy crust on the outside, and the inside, pink and meltingly tender.
Yet, it’s a hot day and I’m not going to turn my oven on, so instead I marinated that great slab of meat for several hours in olive oil, bay leaves, juniper berries and garlic, then grilled it on a very hot barbecue for a very short time (until medium rare). I served it by cutting very thinly on the bias, against the grain. It was okay, but certainly not as tender as the oven method. My theory is that animals that come from the sea take well to very fast, hot cooking, and animals that roam on land require more consideration. A good New York strip steak does well in a very hot and fast cooking environment. Likewise, a well marinated lamb chop needs to be licked by flames.  However, you could get an equally wondrous result with the almost ‘sous vide’-like approach to very slow roasting. Fire has an undeniable romance to it, but to bring meat to perfection with flames and smoke is no easy feat. In fact, the best so-called Southern Barbecue that I have ever tasted was not fast and hot grilling, but slow and smoky roasting.
Nevertheless, what I’m more interested in are leftovers. Specifically, I’m talking about the leftover flank of beef that, once cooled, actually took on a nicer texture than from the previous night. How to dress it up? I think the best accompaniment to beef is horseradish. So that’s a good start. I had some leftover braised beets kicking around in the back of the fridge, Beets and horseradish: a match made in heaven...why not?
Pink Mayonnaise
Note: Olive oil has a very strong flavor and it can overpower a mayonnaise, yet I also don’t want to eliminate the taste all together, so I use a combination of olive oil and neutral oil, about a 1 to 3 ratio.
3 egg yolks
75 ml of olive oil
225 ml of neutral oil such as grape seed or canola
10 ml Dijon mustard
Juice of half a lemon
A pinch of cayenne pepper
30 g of finely grated, fresh horseradish
30 g of cooked beets, shredded on a box grater
A few crushed pink peppercorns
Salt to taste
First, make the mayonnaise base. It’s best to use a food processor to do this, but if you’re a glutton for punishment or an unmoving purist, a whisk and a bowl will do the job as well. I will describe the way I do it though. Place the egg yolks in the food processor along with the mustard, and turn on the food processor and whizz for about ten seconds. Now in a very (I mean VERY) slow trickle start pouring in the olive oil first. Go very slow for about thirty seconds, which will bring you near to the end of your olive oil, then pour in the other oil. You can go a little faster at this point. Keep going until it gets to the point when it is almost as thick as jarred mayo, then pour in the lemon juice and the cayenne powder, followed by the pink peppercorns, the grated horseradish and the shredded beets. Whizz for another ten or twenty seconds. The mayonnaise will immediately go Pepto-Bismol pink.
Beautiful.
Once everything is incorporated, season to taste with salt.
Sometimes mayonnaise doesn’t emulsify. This may happen to you. It’s a fickle thing that has a lot to do with the temperature of your eggs (you don’t want them too cold), or the freshness of your eggs, or how the stars have aligned. One small misjudgment at the beginning stage when adding oil can cause the whole thing to split.  There has been precisely two occasions when my mayonnaise stubbornly refused to emulsify. To this day, I am not certain why it happened. All the other attempts at homemade mayonnaise (and there have been many) have resulted in an excellent product. One of the mysteries of the ages I suppose…
To finish the dish, make some toast, slather it in your pink mayo, and load up with cold leftover beef. Slather some more on top and enjoy. A peppery, tangy wonder. Don't even bother with parsley or any thing green. Just keep it pink.

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