It’s day 2 in our 20-Day 20-Part series of blog posts titled “Tips, Tricks, and Secrets of Professional Chefs”.
We’re taking you inside the professional kitchen to show you the techniques that chefs use to make their dishes just a little tastier, a little easier, and a little quicker than the home chef has been taught to do.
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Secret #2: Buttering Up
Yesterday we talked about “Giving it a rest” and how professional chef’s allow meats to rest after cooking, to keep then moist and tender.
Today, we going to take a look at one simple trick that some of the “high end” steak houses use, to keep folks raving about their beef. Now, don’t get me wrong, the quality and preparation of the cut has a lot to do with how good it’s going to taste once it hits the plate, but here’s a little something you can do to jack the flavor of even a great piece of meat, up to the next level.
This works equally well with beef, lamb, pork, chicken, even fish…
As soon as you plate the meat (after resting), give it a smear, end to end, with a thin coating of herb-butter, or “compound-butter” (recipe below). This should melt into the surface of the meat almost instantly.
The browning effect that creates that lovely crust on the outside of a steak or chop, also tends to suck all the fat out of that first 1/8 inch.
Fat (either natural or added) is a flavor distributor, washing that salty/savory awesomeness throughout all of the taste-buds in your mouth, as opposed to just the ones that come in first contact with the meat. This effect creates that instant “explosion of flavor” that’s so often moaned about during fine dining.
Again, you just need enough to coat the surface of the meat (a tsp or two), and you want to add it just before serving, so there’s still enough coating the meat (before it’s absorbed) to have this effect.
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Secondarily, the herb butter creates a beautiful, juicy sheen to the meat, making all those shades of brown and black deeper and more vibrant. As chefs in all parts of the world are fond of saying…”we eat first with our eyes“, and thinking of how delicious that first bite looks, has an important effect on our reaction when it reaches our mouth.
Here’s a simple herb butter that’s great on just about anything. The beauty of making you own is you can add just about anything you want…are you a dill junkie? Add a couple of tablespoons, minced. Chile-head? Toss in some red pepper flake, or fresh mined habanero. If you’re going for an Asian flair, a teaspoon of fish sauce and a dash of cinnamon are awesome.
Play with it, make it your own…it’s okay, you’re the chef!
Basic Herb Butter
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 tbsp. + 1/4 pound unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 tsp. salt (I like to use a good smoked salt)
1 tsp. black pepper
In a small skillet or pan, saute the minced garlic in 1/2 tablespoon of butter over medium heat until just translucent; do not brown (it makes your garlic bitter).
Add garlic, chopped herbs, salt, and pepper, cook another minute or two, stirring. Allow the mixture to cook and mix, and then pour it over the quarter-pound of softened butter. (You want the butter soft, but not melted, so that all of you herbs don’t sink to the bottom, but stay suspended throughout the butter.)
Mix well. Scoop into a storage container and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Refrigerate until needed.
Just before serving, spread 1 or 2 teaspoons of seasoned (softened) butter on top of each serving. Enjoy!
Note: Butter logs can be kept in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for Secret #3 – Perfect Scrambled Eggs
See ya then!