The Other Red Meat

The New Yorker came today, and in it is a profile of Grant Achatz, molecular gastronomy wunderkind and chef at Alinea in Chicago, and his work and dramatic struggle with tongue cancer. Christine and her Mom go to the city tomorrow, so I wanted to make something a little fancy to send them off. And there were some nice new ingredients that she bought; when somebody else does the shopping there can often be unexpected inspirations since we all have our own habitual patterns, no matter how hard we try to stay open-minded. And there was an ostrich tenderloin in the freezer. I should probably mention that.

So taking taste- a central theme of the article- as the jumping-off point, and being aware that one of the signatures of the new new cooking is the combination of sweet-savory-spicy-sour-umami (plus strongly contrasting textures) on the same plate, I took a bunch of different ingredients and tried to rope them together in to a diverse yet unified plate of food that would be unique and delicious. We had an appetizer of the duck prosciutto with syrup from the pickled strawberries (see below) and a glass of 2007 “Les Rials” Côtes du Tarn which is a lovely white to begin a meal- it has a lot going on for the money (though I kind of hate the label.)

To begin, the ostrich, vacuum-sealed with salt, pepper, garam masala, and a little chilli powder went into the water bath at 54.4˚ C for about an hour and a half. I took some of the smoked chicken broth and reduced it with a splash of red wine, some champagne, and a bit of our BBQ sauce until it was quite thick and concentrated. I pickled strawberries in some leftover rooibos-chocolate-mint tea they had for breakfast, plus balsamic vinegar and agave syrup. I candied cashews in butter, togarashi, salt, and agave until they were nice and brown. I wilted broccoli and radish sprouts in garlic and olive oil. I made polenta. And I took some of the remaining ricotta-beet juice gnocchi and gave them a quick sautée in a little smoked duck fat, plus the rest of the garlic-oil mixture from the greens.

So all of these things, combined on a plate, did in fact wake the taste buds and combine to do many interesting things- asserting their own flavors while playing well with others. The meat really absorbed the spices, and the sweet-tangy strawberries played well with the meat, the smoky reduction, and the spicy nuts. Polenta and greens did what they were supposed to, and the cheese gnocchi, apart from being bright pink, contributed some fat to the mix since the meat was so lean. To further add to the mix, a bottle of 1999 La Poderina Brunello, which over time opened up into that tarry, licoricey gorgeousness that is Brunello- though still a bit restrained; a few more years will probably serve it well. I’m so happy that we have a few more socked away for future feasts.

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  1. cookiecrumb
    May 8

    I’m speechless. What an explosion of flavors and things on a plate. 🙂

  2. cook eat FRET
    May 8

    i mean really…

    and twinkie’s for dessert right?

  3. cook eat FRET
    May 8

    oh and, i read that article too. was hard to get through. i am going to alinea july 19. can’t wait…

  4. peter
    May 8

    CC: It worked.

    Claudia: Where you been?

    And I’ll be in Chicago in June, yet I will not be going there. What’s wrong with me?

  5. Zoomie
    May 9

    Brunello is becoming my new favorite red wine – but I only have one bottle so I’m saving it for a special meal.

  6. Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
    May 11

    You are an evil, evil man.


    You should enter that one in the next Meat & Greet – ostrich, duck, chicken…where’s the ortolan?

  7. peter
    May 11

    Zoomie: I bought a bunch of 99s years back and have been sitting on them since like a mother hen. 2001 was even better, but I don’t have any.

    Hank: It’s the first thing I thought of, but ostriches don’t fly. Doesn’t that disqualify the dish?

  8. Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
    May 11

    They want to fly, and that’s what matters. Yes, ostriches count. As would an emu. Or a kiwi bird. So too would a penguin, but I am reasonably certain they are pretty fishy…

  9. Heather
    May 12

    I really love ostrich. Did you know that? Love it! Who cares that they can’t fly?

  10. peter
    May 13

    All right then, Hank. You asked for it.

    Heather: I don’t think their lack of flying makes them any less delicious.

  11. We Are Never Full
    May 15

    OMG… whoa… ok, this is amazing. I WANT OSTRICH!

  12. peter
    May 15

    It’s not that hard to find, especially in NYC.

    The coop in Park Slope carries it I think.

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