Beef, Mushrooms, Random Thoughts

Oranges and beef.

The inimitable Nathalie Dupree, James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, chef, and host of numerous television shows, posted today to praise the caramelized orange tart in James Peterson’s Baking book. “It might be the best thing I’ve ever eaten,” she wrote.

Lawyers, journalists, and others who are paid to assess the credibility of others are familiar with the mantra: “Consider the source.” I don’t even particularly like sweet foods and I almost never eat dessert, but Dupree’s endorsement got me thinking…could these syrupy, glazed oranges work as part of a savory dish? Some suggested pork, but I went right to the beef.

Orange and beef form a classic pairing. Consider the Provencal daube de boeuf, in which orange peel brightens beef braised in red wine with olives. Travel around the world to China’s Hunan Province, and find thinly sliced beef dry-fried with hot dried chile peppers, orange peel, and ginger. Perhaps a little bit of caramelized orange to accompany a beef dish isn’t such a crazy idea.

If I were going to incorporate caramelized oranges into a savory dish, this is the one to try. The complex spices and bright tangerine notes complement the rich beefiness of the hanger steak. And I suspect a small quantity of tart and sweet caramelized orange would work well. I’ll post an update once I have a chance to try it out. For now, enjoy the dish as I’ve made it before.

Onglet (hanger steak) with licorice, star anise, and tangerine reduction; maitake

Onglet, licorice, star anise, and tangerine reduction, maitake

If you can’t find hanger steak – a shame, but there’s only one per cow – try the tri-tip (bottom sirloin). That’s an undervalued cut, delivering beefy flavor and meaty texture at a low price. Skirt is an excellent choice as well.

Licorice root is available at health food stores that sell herbs and spices for infusions. If you can’t find it, don’t sweat it. Double the amount of fennel seed.

Glace de viande provides body and deep savoriness to the reduction but it is not strictly necessary. If you don’t have it, be sure your wine, stock, and juice mixture is well-reduced before straining. You may want to mount slightly more cold butter into the sauce at the end to achieve a glossy sheen.

Four 1 1/4 inch hanger steaks, trimmed
2 shallots, minced
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 1/2 c dry red wine
1/3 c tangerine juice
2″ fresh tangerine peel (remove any white pith before using)
2″ piece licorice
2 star anise
1/4 tsp fennel seed
large pinch five spice
3 thyme branches
1 bay leaf
2″ cinnamon stick (preferably true cinnamon)
1/2 c veal stock or beef stock
1/4 c glace de viande
4 tbsp cold butter, divided

250F oven.

Prepare the sauce:

Place the shallots and half the wine in a small pan on the stove, and bring to a simmer; reduce to au sec (until the wine has reduced almost to a sticky glaze on the bottom of the pan – do not burn). Given the volume of wine this may take about 20 minutes. Add the rest of the wine and reduce again to au sec.

Add the stock, orange juice, spices, bay leaf, thyme, and orange peel; simmer until reduced by 3/4. This will take at least 20 minutes. Strain through a chinois. Discard solids.

Return to a clean small pan and bring back to a simmer, stirring well. Add the glace de viande and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the cold chunks of butter, swirling the pan to incorporate and taking care that the butter does not separate. Set aside off heat. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

15-20 minutes before cooking if possible, season steaks with salt.
Place heavy pan over high heat. When hot, add oil and then steaks. Reduce heat to medium and add several knobs butter and thyme branches. Baste with butter. Turn over after 4 minutes and baste 2 minutes. Place in oven. Baste and turn over after 10 minutes and roast 10 minutes more, basting once. Test for doneness.

Maitake mushroom

1/2 lb maitake (hen of the woods) mushrooms, washed well and sliced 1/2″
2 tbsp butter

1/4 c dry white wine

1 tbsp sherry or grappa
1 tsp usukuchi (white soy)
juice of 1/2 lemon

several sprigs thyme, leaves only

small handful flat-leaf parsley leaves, minced
salt (black truffle salt is great) and pepper

Place a deep, heavy pan over medium heat and, when hot, add the butter to the pan. When the butter foams, add the mushrooms, browning well.

Add the white wine and sherry to the pan and cook until the mushrooms absorb the wine; add the soy and cook, stirring once or twice, until the mushrooms are glazed with soy. Finish with lemon juice, parsley, and thyme and season.

Slice the steak. Sauce the plate with the reduction. Plate the steak and the mushrooms.