This month marks the two-year anniversary that we’ve been writing the Food & Drink column for the Wacoan. We began in February 2015 by writing about chocolate and the dessert that we shared the night we got engaged: White Chocolate Mousse with Brandy. A year later, our friend Ken Young and his father-in-law, Butch Bertin, came to our house and whipped up a big pot of chicken gumbo. A bowl of that sounds really good right now, as it’s foggy and cold on a Saturday afternoon in the middle of January.
This month we have a menu that needs to be reserved for a special occasion, something like Valentine’s Day. Since February 14 falls on a Tuesday this year, maybe this would be a meal for the weekend prior. A couple of the dishes — the prime rib and the pear tarte tatin — need to be started the day before you’re planning to serve the meal.
Every once in a while — like maybe once a year — it’s good to go all out on a meal, and that’s what we did here. We wanted to cook an impressive piece of meat and accompany it with some dishes that call for exotic, sometimes expensive ingredients. We certainly accomplished our goal.
On a recent trip to Dallas to celebrate our 20th anniversary, we went to Deep Ellum, a funky neighborhood that’s east of downtown. It’s home to art galleries, many restaurants and bars, a handful of tattoo parlors and one tattoo removal business. The neighborhood came into existence in 1873 as a residential and commercial neighborhood. But it quickly became known for its music scene, hosting blues and jazz artists like Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson, Bessie Smith and many others. There are still more than 30 live music venues in the area. (Information on Deep Ellum can be found at DeepEllumTexas.com.)
But what brought us to the area was Rudolph’s Meat Market & Sausage Factory at 2924 Elm Street in Deep Ellum. Rudolph’s has been in operation since 1895, and it was about the only business on Elm that was open at 11 o’clock on a Thursday morning.
It’s a meat-lover’s paradise, obviously. On display in the long refrigerated case in the middle of the store was pretty much every kind of red meat imaginable, including what appeared to be a seven-bone prime rib reminiscent of something that Fred Flintstone once ordered at a restaurant.
We opted for a two-bone prime rib, and when the butcher rang it up at $105, I might have gasped a little. “It’s only money,” he said, laughing. If we were going to create an indulgent, once-a-year meal, we certainly chose the correct main dish.
The preparation of the meat itself was pretty simple. We salted it the day before cooking and then roasted it for about three hours until it was done. The sauce, however, was another story. It was a multi-step, multi-day process that would take up entirely too much room if we wrote about the whole process. First, Abby made stock from beef bones we bought at Rudolph’s. The stock was used to make espagnole, one of the five mother sauces in classic French cuisine. It’s created by mixing the beef stock with tomato puree and browned mirepoix — a mixture of carrot, onion and celery. Abby then used the espagnole to make a demi-glace, a rich, concentrated brown sauce. Finally, the demi-glace was combined with mushrooms and shallots to create a chasseur sauce that we spooned over slices of perfectly medium-rare prime rib. The prime rib recipe below doesn’t call for specific quantities of anything. Amounts vary depending on how much meat you’re preparing. Simply salt it well the day before cooking, and give it a good dusting of pepper right before it goes in the oven.
To accompany that beautiful cut of meat, we chose truffled cream corn, which calls for a drizzle of truffle oil just at the end of cooking, and a simple dish of glazed carrots. We continued the indulgence, however, in the dessert, a pear tarte tatin that calls for saffron and cardamom, two of the priciest spices. An ounce of saffron would cost between $300 and $400, so it’s usually sold in much smaller quantities. It’s available locally for $5 to $17 for about one-hundredth of an ounce. Cardamom, on the other hand, seems like a bargain at $30 a pound. We served the tarte tatin with homemade vanilla ice cream, using a recipe that calls for a vanilla bean, which can be had for about $5 for two. A couple of months ago, Abby found an ice cream maker on sale at a local store. We already owned one ice cream maker, so I didn’t understand why she bought another one until she made the first batch in the new machine, a toasted coconut-rum ice cream. This new maker doesn’t require rock salt or ice, the motor is nearly silent and — its best feature — the ice cream is ready to eat in about 25 minutes. We always mix the ice cream ingredients the day before and refrigerate the mixture overnight. This chills the ice cream base, obviously, and allows the flavors to come together. The next day, we pour the cold base into the machine’s mixing bowl, which has been in the freezer overnight as well. Pouring the cold base into the cold bowl means the ice cream freezes faster, which gives ice crystals less time to form. This makes for a creamier final product.
- Bone-in prime rib
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil
The day before cooking, place the meat in a large pan and sprinkle it liberally with salt. Rub the salt in with your fingers. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator.
On the day you’re cooking, heat the oven to 225 F. Remove the plastic from the pan, and grind some fresh pepper over the meat and place the pan in the preheated oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 130 F.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough olive oil to just cover the bottom of the pan and heat until the oil is shimmering. Sear the meat on all sides for about 2-3 minutes per side, until you get a nice crust on the exterior. Remove the meat from the skillet and let rest about 30 minutes. Slice and serve. The number of servings depends on the size of the prime rib.
Truffled Cream Corn
- 15-ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
- 6 ounces evaporated milk
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
- Drizzle truffle oil, to taste
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the corn, evaporated milk, sugar, butter, pepper and salt. In a small bowl, mix the flour with the cold water until there are no lumps. Add to the saucepan. Heat until the mixture thickens and the corn is cooked through. Remove pan from the heat and add Parmesan and truffle oil. (Drizzle just a little truffle oil to begin. Then taste and add more, if desired.) Makes 4 servings.
Honey-Balsamic Glazed Carrots
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and left whole
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Parsley for garnish, if desired
Heat oven to 400 F. Spray a baking dish or sheet pan with nonstick spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the honey, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Toss the carrots in the mixture, coating well.
Place the carrots in the baking dish and pour any remaining sauce over the top. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring once, until the carrots are tender and caramelized. Remove from oven and drizzle with more honey. Garnish with salt, pepper and parsley, if desired. Makes 4 servings.
Pear Tarte Tatin
- 3 pounds firm pears, such as Comice, Bartlett or Anjou
- 3 ounces butter, divided
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- Pinch toasted saffron (optional; see note)
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed and cut into an 11-inch circle
The day before making the tart, core and peel the pears as neatly as possible, then cut the pears in half. Put the pears in a bowl and place the uncovered bowl in the refrigerator. This dries out the pears a bit so they won’t create so much juice during cooking.
Heat oven to 425 F. To make the tart, slice the pear halves into 4 pieces about 1/2-inch thick, then set aside. Melt the butter in an ovenproof 10-inch skillet. Evenly sprinkle the sugar over the melted butter. Then sprinkle the cardamom over the sugar. Crumble the toasted saffron threads between your fingers and sprinkle over the sugar as well.
Remove the pan from the heat and arrange the pears in a circle to cover the bottom of the pan. The pear slices will overlap some, or you might have enough for two layers of pears. The pan should be full. Place the skillet back over medium heat and cook until the pears are soft, for about 15 minutes. (The time will vary depending on the variety of pear.)
Place the sheet of puff pastry on top of the pears and tuck in the edges all the way around the skillet. Pierce the pastry a few times with a fork. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes. Check the tart after about 15 minutes, and if there’s quite a bit of juice, carefully pour off most of the juice and return the pan to the oven. Bake until the pastry is golden and puffy. Remove the tart from the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes. Place a large plate, upside down, on top of the tart and, quickly and carefully, invert the tart onto the plate. Remove the pan and serve the tart while still warm. Top with vanilla ice cream, if desired. Makes 8-10 servings.
Note: To toast saffron, place a pinch of saffron threads in a dry skillet and toast over medium heat for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
Vanilla Ice Cream
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
In a large mixing bowl combine all the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions.