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Steak with Style - Alain Ducasse, Inc. 

" primary goal is to create a dish that respects the ingredients,
offers a balance of flavor and texture and has integrity."
~ Chef Alain Ducasse

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Red Wine Pouring
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Steve Baxter
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Ducasse Made
Simple: 120 Original Recipes from the Master Chef Adapted for the Home Chef

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Charge of the Flower Bottle Brigade
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La Belle Cuisine


Steak With Style: Easy Does It

The New York Times, February 27, 2002
By Alain Ducasse

This is the first of eight columns by Alain Ducasse, [then] the chef and
owner of Alain Ducasse at the Essex House in Manhattan. They are
being written with Florence Fabricant.

"There is no country that produces better aged beef than the United States.
And I know that you often do nothing more with a good steak than a simple
grilling or broiling. Because the meat is so good, you can get excellent results
that way. There are plenty of people who insist that doing anything more
would ruin it.
But I believe there are techniques that can enhance a steak's flavor and tender-
ness. Even with such a superb ingredient, I take a more culinary approach: as a
chef, I intervene in the preparation, and create a complete dish that is satisfying
on many levels. This attitude, the demand of my profession, pervades all my food.
I'm presenting the steak preparation in the first of my eight columns because it
makes a point: I realize we're not talking about restaurant cooking. I have to
take my thinking and my creativity out of my kitchen and make it relevant to
you, the home cook. That's my challenge. I accept it gladly.
I believe that a good home cook is by nature no less exacting, no less rigorous
than a chef when it comes to the quality of the ingredients, the aesthetics of a
dish and the details of the preparation. But the home cook is less compulsive
than I am about the consistency of every sprig of herb, every garlic clove, every
slice of potato, every trace of sauce on the plate. At home you're not preoccupied with the notion that every dish has to be camera-ready.
But no matter how much I might obsess over minute details when I cook, my
primary goal is to create a dish that respects the ingredients, offers a balance
of flavor and texture and has integrity.
For my steak, I've selected well- aged beef and a cut, the rib eye, which, to
me, certainly has the best flavor. I cut it thick, and I cook it on top of the stove
because I have better control than if the steak were sitting on a grill or under
a broiler.
Then I do something you will consider truly strange: I start by cooking the steak
on its narrow side. I want to begin with the rim of fat on the edge, to render it so
there is good, flavorful fat in the pan for the rest of the cooking. I'm also brown-
ing it so the finished steak will look immensely appetizing when it is served.
I continue to cook the beef on the flat sides, salting first, about 10 minutes on
each side. I do not use very high heat, because you get good caramelization in
that amount of time. I'm not interested in carbonizing the surface of the meat.
To me that ruins the flavor. You must also take care not to pierce the meat, or
it will be less juicy. Turn it with tongs or two spoons.
And now, here's where the chef really comes in. I crush a few big unpeeled
cloves of garlic and put them in the pan along with a nice chunk of butter.
Don't get too worked up about the butter - it's a trick steakhouses often use -
you need fat to carry the flavor of the garlic into the meat. I salt and pepper
the meat, and baste it with the garlic-butter for the last few minutes.
Now comes a crucial step. The steak has to rest for at least half as long as it
took to cook. This rule applies to any kind of meat that's not cooked in liquid,
by the way. The juices, which run to the surface during the cooking, must be
given a chance to retreat back into the meat so it will relax, be tender and
juicy, and bloom with beefy flavor. You might now be content with the meat
as it is, maybe with some crispy fries alongside.
But I was also interested in creating some kind of condiment, a marmalade
for the steak, that would be sexy and a little surprising. In France we have all
kinds of classic sauces for steak, like béarnaise and bordelaise, but I wanted
to get away from those. And about the only commercial condiment the French
have  is mustard.
I came up with a peppery marmalade that has freshness, richness and acidity
all at once. When I can get fresh sour cherries I use those. Or cranberries, also
full of acid. But dried cranberries or even French canned sour cherries, griottes,
work just as well. They're combined with a fine brunoise of shallots, onions and
celery. The marmalade's texture is a bit rough. Its flavor is tart and spicy, yet
rounded out with a touch of sweet liqueur and beef jus, making it a perfect foil
for the delectable meat.
Alongside I like Swiss chard prepared just the way I would cook spinach,
sautéed with garlic and given a dusting of Parmesan cheese. Try to find baby
chard. Otherwise you have to trim off the stems and par-cook them.
Would you cut the stems as precisely at home as we do in the restaurant? Probably not. But they should be fairly uniform, and that's easy enough to accomplish.
Some simple fingerling potatoes, roasted in their skins and crushed with butter,
are also delicious alongside.
In the restaurant we get only one portion from each of these steaks because we
trim very carefully and would not put some of the smaller slices or oddly shaped
pieces on the plate. We find other uses for those.
But at home, once you have removed any big pockets of fat, you will serve the
whole thing, and then each steak is plenty for two. There you have a perfect
example of the difference in approach that I've been talking about.
The result is a beautifully tender steak with a richness that's almost sweet and intensified with salt and garlic. It's the way I love a steak."


Rib-Eye Steaks with Peppered Cranberry
Marmalade and Swiss Chard

Time: 45 minutes

Two  24-ounce boneless rib-eye steaks, each about
1 1/2 inches thick, at room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large cloves garlic, unpeeled and crushed
Freshly ground black pepper
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Cranberry marmalade [recipe follows]
Sautéed Swiss chard [recipe follows]

1. Place a heavy sauté pan large enough to hold both steaks comfortably
over medium heat. Stand steaks up in pan on fat side, and cook until
fat has browned and most has been rendered into pan.
2. Use tongs to turn steaks onto a flat side, dust with salt and cook until browned on one side. Turn, and cook on second side until somewhat undercooked. Pour off all but a couple of tablespoons of fat, and add
butter and crushed garlic. Baste steaks with butter and remaining fat
until cooked almost to desired degree of doneness: for medium rare, it
will take about 10 minutes on each side.
3. Remove pan from heat, season steaks with salt and pepper, place a
sprig of thyme on each, and set pan aside on unlighted burner. Steaks
must rest in warm place at least 10 to 15 minutes. They can rest longer
than that if placed in a 150-degree oven after the first 10 minutes.
4. Cut steaks in thick slices, trimming away excess internal fat. Divide
among four warm dinner plates, and place a generous dollop of
cranberry marmalade alongside. Serve with chard and additional
marmalade. Yield: 4 servings.


Peppered Cranberry Marmalade
Time: 20 minutes plus 40 minutes’ soaking

1 cup cranberry juice
1 cup dried cranberries
 1/2 cup cherry liqueur (not kirschwasser)
6 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
 1/2 cup minced shallots
 1/2 cup minced onion
 1/2 cup minced celery
 1/3 cup glace de viande or concentrated beef stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.

1. Place cranberry juice in a saucepan, bring to a simmer, add cran-
berries and remove from heat. Allow to soak 40 minutes.
2. Drain cranberries, reserving juice. Place in a food processor with
liqueur and 4 tablespoons vinegar, and pulse until chopped.
3. Heat oil in a 3-quart saucepan. Add shallots, onions and celery,
and cook over low heat until tender but not colored.
4. Stir in  1/4 cup reserved cranberry juice and remaining vinegar,
and simmer until most of liquid has evaporated. Stir in cranberry
mixture, and simmer until thick, about 5 minutes. Stir in glace de
viande, salt and a generous amount of pepper. Serve at once, or
warm just before serving. Yield: 2 cups.


Sautéed Swiss Chard
Time: 30 minutes

2 bunches Swiss chard, one red,
one white, rinsed
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 large cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.

1. Trim leaves from stems of chard. Coarsely chop leaves and set aside.
2. Cut stems in pieces 1/2-inch wide and 2 inches long. Place in a sauce-
pan with chicken stock, and simmer 10 minutes, until tender. Drain
stems and set aside. (Stock can be reserved for another use.)
3. Impale garlic cloves on a large cooking fork. Heat oil in a large skillet.
Add chard leaves and stems. Sauté, stirring with the fork, until leaves
have wilted. Toss with cheese, add salt and pepper, and serve.
Yield: 4 servings. 

Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company Used with permission.

Featured Archive Recipes:
Roasted Rib Steak with Golden Chanterelles,
Pommes Anna, and Bordelaise Sauce
(Chef Thomas Keller)

More from Chef Alain Ducasse:
Asparagus Three Ways
Halibut with Parsley-Shellfish Sauce
Herb-Roasted Chicken
Provencal Leg of Lamb with
Fennel and Scallions

More Lagniappe Recipes!
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