Archive for November 2012

Top of The Croques

November 20th, 2012 — 11:39am

Finding the perfect croque monsieur became a bit of an obsession for me and @donalde for a while, to the point where we had a shared spreadsheet filled with croque locations and notes. We never found a really good one, even in France. The worst I’ve ever eaten though was at The Delaunay; it finished me off and the mission went swiftly on the back burner.

Then one day I find myself snuffling my nose around a bag of Italian truffles and getting very excited at the suggestion we might make a TRUFFLED SUPER CROQUE.

They’re a bit different, these truffs. Known as Bagnoli, or tar truffle, they’re a lot cheaper than the more famous ones (buy them here), and they also need a bit of cooking. Raw, they have a kind of petroleum scent that seems like it should really be getting you high; like if you ate a whole one you’d be tripping your tits off for DAYS. When cooked however, this mellows and they taste a lot more, well, truffly.

So the stages of croque construction worked like this: a slice of really fantastic sourdough, from Wild Caper in Brixton Market (some of the best carbs in London), which has the ability to absorb the sauce while still maintaining some self respect; a softer white loaf wouldn’t be able to handle such an oozy monster. Then, a butter flavoured with rosemary, garlic and Halen Mon smoked salt (HUBBA), followed by ham, a mixture of grated Gruyère and truffle, the other slice of bread, then an obscene wobbly blanket of thick bechamel, again infused with truffle, plus onion, bay and peppercorns. Oh yeah and then a bit more cheese on top. In for a penny and all that…

Holy SHIT. Ho. Lee. Shiiiiiiit. The best croque ever. Croquing amazing. Top. Of. The. Croques.

Afterwards I had to lie beached on the living room floor moaning ‘this is so uncomfortable’ whilst simultaneously being unable to get up and thinking constantly about the bite left in the kitchen that I’d not been able to manage. How could I let that happen? Could I not have dug deeper? Well, no, because I’d hate to sully the memory of such a perfect croque, particularly one that was such a long time coming.

We served it with a salad of endive and spring onion, sharply dressed, which is essential. Do not attempt to consume this sandwich without aforementioned counterpoint.

I’ll leave you with the sandwich money shot, and also a heads up about the kick ass party that KERB are throwing this Thursday which is going to be off the hook. Also, I’m working the bar, so you can come down and get your beer poured by the very same hands that made this croque.  Check out the flyer down below to see all the amazing grub up for grabs…

Ultimate Croque Monsieur

Sourdough white bread
Gruyere cheese – shitloads
1 Bagnoli truffle, or some regular truffle if you’re loaded
Butter flavoured with garlic (which has been blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes), chopped rosemary and smoked salt

For the bechamel

40g butter
20g flour
425ml milk
A little of the truffle, grated
A few peppercorns
2 bay leaves
A slice of onion

Heat the milk gently with the truffle, peppercorns, bay leaves and onion. When it reaches simmering point, take it off the heat and strain into a bowl.

Melt butter and then mix in the flour, stirring vigorously to make a smooth paste. Start by adding the milk slowly, mixing all the time. When about half of it is in, start adding it in larger quantities. The sauce should be smooth and glossy. Let it cook out gently for about 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and season.

To make the sandwiches

Start by toasting the bread lightly. Spread with the flavoured butter, then add a layer of ham, then mix a load of grated cheese with grated truffle and spread that on, thickly. Then add the other slice of bread and top with loads of the bechamel sauce. Add a little cheese on top if you want to be really rock and roll. Place under a low grill until the whole thing starts to melt. It’s good to do this slowly as you want to make sure that the inside is melted. When it’s going nicely, turn up the grill a bit to get the top all nice and bubbly.

Eat with a sharply dressed salad, then have a lie down.

34 comments » | Cheese, Meat, Sandwiches

Posh Sous Vide Egg Kind of McMuffin

November 6th, 2012 — 11:58am


The sous vide machine is occupying my thoughts a lot. Cooking with it does, however, require some organisation. Cooking something for 30 hours or so isn’t really the problem; it’s not as if I have to be there the whole time. The problem is that I don’t know what I’ll be doing from one day to the next and I don’t want to be denied the pleasure of eating something I’ve invested so much time in. Imagine my delight then, when I discovered that eggs take a mere hour. An hour! In sous vide world this is the equivalent of 5 minutes.

The idea of a breakfast sandwich was irresistible. Some kind of sausage and egg…no, bacon and egg muffin, multiplied to the power of ten. Inspiration was taken from the Meateasy bacon cheeseburger. Remember that? They used to cook a fat hunk of bacon, then shred it, shape it into a patty and fry it; fantastic texture, and so much surface area to get good and crisp.

I used two strips of pork belly, which were simmered with onion, bay leaves and peppercorns, then shredded and squished into patties, mixed with thyme, nutmeg, white pepper and some fabulous smoky Mexican chilli paste called Luchito, which is new and made with incredible Oaxacan Pasilla chillies. With flavours of chocolate, smoke and tobacco it is basically fabulous.

There’s no need to vac pack eggs for sous videing, they come with their own sous vide casing, ie, the shell. When they’re done you just crack the egg like normal and…a poached egg comes out! It’s so bizarre. I thought the egg would catch on the shell and break but no, it just slips out intact, all wobbly and just the most perfect poached egg in the world.

I thought the eggs would be the easiest things to cook in the sous vide but actually they were the hardest. Once again I had consulted my bible, Serious Eats, which advised a cooking time of anything from 45 minutes to 4 hours. The first egg I cooked for 45 minutes was pretty much perfect, then I tried a 3 hour egg, which unsurprisingly was a lot firmer; a soft, spreadable but definitely not runny yolk. The third I cooked for an hour and a half, which is also too long and in fact was pretty damn similar to the 3 hour version. Huh.

45 minute egg…

1.5 hour egg; she ain’t pretty…fudgy yolk and translucent white.

So, 45 minutes it is, folks. If you want a perfectly poached, just cooked, super silky egg. The final sandwich was pretty FIT and I’m amazed how much the pork belly patty tasted like the Maccy D’s McMuffin. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted however; next time I’d use ham hock or something to get the flavour I was looking for. In fact, sod that, I’ll just use bacon. I made the muffins too, CAN YOU TELL? They’re a little *ahem*, rustic (Hugh FW recipe here).

I’ll leave you with a little video of the egg being all wibbly on the plate.

Sous Vide Egg Muffins

Slappy cheese slices
2 strips pork belly (or use bacon or sausages)
Few peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 onion, peeled and halved
Pinch nutmeg
Sprig thyme
White pepper
1 tablespoon Luchita chilli paste (or use chilli flakes)

Put the pork belly, peppercorns, bay leaves and onion in a large pot, cover with water or stock, cover and simmer very gently for 3 hours, or until it shreds apart easily. Shred the meat, then mix with the white pepper, chilli, nutmeg and thyme to taste. Add salt if necessary. Form into patties.

To sous vide the egg, bring the sous vide machine to 62C then lower in your eggs and cook for 45 minutes.

To assemble the muffins, slightly toast them, add a slice of slappy cheese to the bottom half, allowing it to melt slightly, then fry a patty of your pork belly and place on top. Finish by cracking the sous vide egg on to the pork. Enjoy. It’s messy.

26 comments » | Eggs, Meat, Sandwiches

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