Roast Beast Sandwich

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Leftovers make a lovely lunch.

I could make a hundred excuses of why I haven’t been posting to OMNIVOROUS lately and nearly half of those would be true, but the real truth is that I’ve been busy, busy, busy. What with two kids and a hectic work schedule (and an incurable addiction to Instagram) I’ve hardly had time to write a word. But recently I’ve been urged by a number of people to take up the quill again and resume my blogging. Apparently a few of you kind readers had missed my musings. Thank you for the encouragement; I’ll try to get back on the horse and ride it.*

Today’s brief post is about using leftovers to good effect. The night before I made this killer sandwich I’d cooked a large prime shell roast. If you’re not familiar with the term a shell roast is basically a huge New York strip steak roasted in the oven. This one was eight pounds, the equivalent of about ten big thick delicious New Yorks stuck together. I’d seasoned it simply and rubbed it with olive oil. I roasted it at 325ºF for about an hour. I pulled it out when I got a temp reading of 120ºF on my instant-read thermometer. This is considered rare but I knew it would continue cooking outside the oven for a little while. The shell roast was a huge success and mostly devoured; I’m glad a little was leftover because there are few things I love more than really great cold roast beef. Especially when it’s a superior hunk of roast.

So I shaved a little of the beef into thin slices and knocked out this delicious sandwich. I lightly toasted an onion roll and slathered homemade mayo on the bottom half. On the top half I smeared a bit of incendiary spicy mustard from Phillipe’s (the LA landmark restaurant which introduced the world to the French Dip sandwich). Two big slices of brandywine tomatoes went on the bottom bread and over that a mound of that shaved beef. I added a slice of Jarlsberg cheese and topped the cheese with a clutch of leftover salad (iceberg, arugula, radicchio, shaved fennel, and crumbled goat cheese). I put the top bread on the and closed up the sandwich, which I promptly ate without ceremony. And the sando was AMAZEBALLS, as they say.

Not pictured is the bottle of Asahi Black Lager that I drank with the sandwich.

* and maybe eat the horse afterwards. Hey, I’m OMNIVOROUS!

Grilled Short Ribs + Bacon Grit-Cake + Chinese Broccoli + 5-Spice BBQ Sauce + Creamed Corn Sauce

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I was feeling the fusion when I thought up this dish!

I made this dish a few weeks ago and now I’ve finally gotten around to posting a picture of it. You’ll have to excuse me; what with work and the new(ish) baby and holidays and travel I’ve been hard-pressed to find time to post about anything! But I’m trying to rectify all that and hopefully I’ll be able to pump out a few decent posts in the next week or two.

Anyway, this dish represents a rare fusion-y dish for me. I was striving for an Asian-slash-Southern-US dish, with some Chinese broccoli subbing in for collards and a barbecue sauce spiked with sriracha and Chinese five-spice powder.

I won’t take the time to go into all the minute details, but I’ll give you the broad strokes. If you really need more detail send me a comment and I’ll give you what you need.

• First I braised some short ribs (on the bone) in homemade beef broth and xao xing (Chinese cooking wine) with some shallots and garlic and ginger in a heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid. They took about three hours to cook at 300°F. I let the short ribs cool and then I removed them from the liquid and refrigerated them until they were cold.

• I then sliced nice slabs from the cold short ribs, removing any bone, connective tissue, and excess fat. I allowed the meat to come to room temperature before finishing the dish.

• While the short ribs were braising I made a basic red barbecue sauce (ketchup, mustard, vinegar, molasses, sugar, spices, etc.) and added a nice dose of sriracha for heat and a big tablespoon of Chinese five-spice powder.

• I then threw together a simple grit-cake by cooking white grits according to the package directions and when cooked, mixing in chopped cooked bacon, grated cheddar cheese, butter, chives, and some salt n pepper. I poured the cooked grits onto a small sheet pan lined with oiled parchment paper. I cooled the grits in the fridge until firm and then cut it into rectangular slabs.

• And then I made a sauce from some leftover creamed corn. I thinned out the creamed corn, cooked it until hot in a small saucepan, and then pureed it hot in a blender at high speed. While the creamed corn was blending I added a tablespoon of cold butter and a pinch of sugar. I poured the creamed corn through a coarse strainer and then set the sauce aside.

• Finally I blanched in salted boiling water a big handful of chopped gai lan Chinese broccoli. I cooled the par-cooked greens in an ice bath and then drained them.

To finish the dish I did the following.

• First I crisped the grit cake in a hot skillet until brown on one side. I flipped it and browned the other side.

• Next I sauteed the gai lan in some butter and kept it warm off the side.

• I heated a grill-pan and then lightly oiled the short rib slabs. I seasoned the short ribs with plenty of salt and pepper and then grilled them until I had nice grill-marks on both sides. I basted them with a little of the bbq sauce.

• I warmed the creamed corn sauce in a very small pot on the stove while I assembled the dish.

• I placed the gai lan in the center of a warmed plate. I topped the greens with a cooked bacon grit-cake. I placed two slabs of short ribs on top of that and then drizzled the warm creamed corn sauce around the plate. I dabbed more bbq sauce over the meat and then drizzled a few decorative swirls of bbq sauce on the plate. I topped the meat with a little chopped scallions as a garnish and then I ate the WHOLE THING!!

Sandwich of the Week – Wee Brisket Sando w/ HorseRadMayo

Cute but packed with flava.

I love leftover brisket even more than freshly-cooked brisket (which I freakin’ love!), because it means I can eat these killer little sandwiches. I found some petite seedy Kaiser rolls and toasted them until lightly browned and slightly crunchy. On the inside of both the top and bottom I slathered a generous amount of my HorseRadMayo and then piled it high with hot, sliced brisket from a hunk I’d cooked the day before. It was phenomenal!! The beef was tender and juicy and salty and meaty. The horseradish-laced mayonnaise sauce added just enough acid and heat to keep it from being cloying. And the bread was warm, soft, and yielding, with just the right amount of crisp.

I enjoyed this with a tall, frosty glass of Stella Artois. And life, for at least twenty minutes, was utter bliss.

HorseRadMayo:
3/4 cup mayo, 1/4 cup hot grated prepared horseradish, 2 tablespoons sour cream, 1 tablespoon whole grain dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon Tapatio hot sauce, pinch celery salt, pinch kosher salt, pinch sugar – combine it all with a spoon. Keep refrigerated.

Here’s a link to my brisket recipe:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/06/judys-brisket.html

Sakura House: Sizzling Skewers of Kushiyaki

Absolutely fantastic grilled quail eggs wrapped in shaved pork.

Tucked away in the corner of a nondescript strip mall across and down the street from Costco on Washington Blvd is a wonderful Japanese restaurant. I’m not exactly sure how long Sakura House –  Sizzling Skewers of Kushiyaki has been there, but I first went there maybe eleven years ago. I believe my pal Mitch Pender took me there and I was a fan from the first bite. As you may have guessed from their wonderfully descriptive name, Sakura House specializes in grilled things on sticks.

Most of you will be familiar with yakitori, the famous chicken skewer of Japan, but you may not be familiar with the larger world of kushiyaki, which is way more than just grilled chicken bits on sticks. Of course chicken is offered, but perhaps in less recognizable forms; the best savory bits are chicken hearts, gizzards, livers, skin, and wings. But you’ll also find pork, beef, shrimp, squid, fish, and a variety of vegetables prepped for the grill. In addition they offer a wide range of other dishes from their back kitchen — salads, sauteed veggies, and some desserts.

At Sakura House they have a classic Japanese kushiyaki grill, which they feed with dense oak charcoal. I think they used to cook with specialized Japanese hardwood charcoal (which I’m familiar with and have used in the past) but according to the younger of the two grill-masters (the one staring at me in the picture below) Japanese charcoal is a thing of the past due to over-harvesting. You can get similar charcoal from China or Korea, but I think they now use a domestic product. In any event, this type of grill produces an intense heat, which cooks the skewers quickly and with a distinctive, lovely char.

It’s instructive to watch the guys grilling. They are focused and pretty adept at handling up to forty separate skewers at once, as well as whole ears of corn and rice cakes. I think they have a couple of different temperature zones, as I watched them transfer items from one side to another to finish. With most skewers, after grilling they’d dip or brush it with some tare sauce, a sauce of soy, mirin, sugar, ginger, maybe some garlic. It’s a simple sauce, and delicious.

It takes two guys to carefully tend this authentic Japanese grill.

Miso sauce, a little crunchy “crudite”.

When you sit down you’re given a little dish with two wells, one filled with a sweet-and-salty miso sauce. The other depression is for the soy sauce offered on the table. Another small dish is filled with a little crudite of cabbage, carrot, and cucumber which you can munch while you peruse the menu, which is vast with so many items it’s hard to make a choice. I recommend that you choose several grilled skewers, a salad of some kind, and a couple of warm dishes from the back kitchen. That’s what Regina and I did, and we had a wonderful, varied meal. We had enough to be full, enough to not want dessert, but not enough to make us feel obese when we left.

Simply, prettily prepared skewer of grilled squid with shiso leaf.

First up was a lovely skewer of grilled squid wrapped around shiso leaf. It was just-cooked-through, tender, and sweet. The aromatic shiso gave the mild squid a lovely herbaceous quality. I dipped it in the miso sauce and it came alive. It was a nice way to start, but frankly it paled in comparison to the robust and succulent parade of skewers that followed.

Next up was one of my favorites: enoki mushrooms wrapped in very thinly sliced pork belly. Six little bundles of the super-thin white fungi are stuck on a stick and grilled until lightly charred. This dish was absolutely stunning — fatty, delicious, springy on your tongue. I sprinkled over it a little shichimi togarashi, that finely ground Japanese chili powder mixed with ground yuzu zest. You’ll find a little shaker at every table. It’s a great way to give the skewers a little pow!

Skewer of gilled enoki mushrooms wrapped in thinly-sliced pork belly.
A little fuzzy, this pic. But the flavors of this dish were clear and direct.

A little sunomono was crisp and fresh, the thin slices of cucumber swimming in a mild ponzu. It’s a pleasant counterpoint to the more assertive flavors of the grill. If you’ve read any of my restaurant posts you’ll notice that in Asian restaurants Regina and I always get cucumbers in some form or another. It’s de rigueur when eating Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, or Japanese.

Grilled chicken hearts! Really delicious. I heartily recommend them! : )
This dude never loses his cool over a hot grill.

After the cucumbers we got in rapid succession some of Regina’s personal favorites — chicken hearts, livers, and gizzards. I love them too, but Regina gets downright fanatical about them. The chicken hearts were excellent — flavorful, a little chewy but not not remotely tough. The livers were by far some of the best I’ve ever had. Sometimes livers can be too granular, too minerally, almost too funky. These were not; they were superb — tender, moist, robust in flavor, just delicious and addicting. They were on par with chicken livers I’ve eaten at Yakitoria and better than the livers we ate at Furaibo a few months ago.

Now gizzards are tricky. Part of the chicken’s digestive system, the gizzard is a gastric mill, pre-stomach, that helps the birds break down tough grains. It’s a pretty tough muscle and if cooked badly can be a hard thing to force down. But Sakura House makes perfect grilled gizzard. They were both tender and crunchy at the same time. Absolutely delicious, although probably not for the novice. But if you’re feeling just a tiny bit daring, this skewer is a must!

Chicken liver was truly amazing!
Perfectly cooked chicken gizzards. Both tender and crunchy!
Surprisingly spicy and addictive sauteed shishito peppers.

We got a little break from the grill in the form of sauteed shishito peppers, which had a nice little char from the hot pan. These were perfectly cooked, simple and delicious. Mostly shishito are very mild, almost like a baby green bell pepper, but it seemed like every third or fourth pepper in this batch had the fire of a jalapeno! I needed my ice cold Sapporo to help quell the heat.

That awesome quail egg!
You know these guys reek of grilled meat every day of their lives!

Afterwards came that excellent quail egg, wrapped like the enoki in thinly sliced fatty pork. The pork was crispy and delicious, and the flavor soaked into the mild and fluffy boiled egg. It was just dynamite, especially with a dash of togarashi and a tiny dip of soy. Possibly my favorite dish of the night. I could have eaten a dozen more!

Next was the a beef skewer, which was frankly overcooked and bland. Too chewy, and a disappointment. But the chicken wing that followed was great. Before skewering the wings, the chefs cut into the skin and splay it out a little so that the wings cook evenly on the grill; even so, the menu says they take 20 minutes to cook. Well, the time on the grill pays off. The garlic pepper wings were delicious and perfectly cooked — moist on the inside, crisp and fatty on the outside. Very good, although I think I liked them a bit more than Regina.

Grilled beef skewer was a little tough and slightly bland.
Garlic pepper chicken wings. Very yummy, but don’t forget they take 20 minutes!

Our crispy char-grilled rice cake was also quite good, well-cooked and toasty. Only the filling of seasoned seaweed (perhaps hijiki) was kinda blah. They have other offerings, salmon roe being the filling I’d try on another visit.

Next was fried tofu with ground chicken, which was a bit like Chinese classic ma po tofu but less saucy and lacking the zesty kick of Sichuan peppercorn. It would have been perfect with a bowl of steamed rice, but we hadn’t ordered any and the rice cake was too flavorful in its own right to be a good foil. Also, the sauce was a trifle too sweet for my palate. It wasn’t great, but I ate the whole thing anyway.

Grilled rice cake stuffed with seasoned seaweed.
Fried tofu with minced chicken. Tasty, a bit too sweet.

Excellent eggplant with a simple miso sauce.

The eggplant with miso sauce came out next, and it was a winner. The eggplant was perfectly cooked. Tender but not mushy, well-flavored and not at all oily. It had a slight smoky undercurrent, and Regina turned to me and said, “You can taste the wok hay!” And then we burst out laughing. Because that is what we do.

The final dish was the spicy chicken wings. They weren’t very spicy, but the sauce was delightful and the char was really nice, adding texture and real flavor. Very good and tasty, but by that time I was pretty much done. We were full. Happy and full.

“Spicy” chicken wings weren’t, but they did taste good!

Service at Sakura House was pleasant and mostly attentive. We were comfortable. The restaurant has a clean, no-frills dining room with a few modest and pleasant touches. I particularly like the wooden bird toothpick dispenser, which dips its beak into the toothpick box and extracts a single pick just for you. A silly thing to take to, I know, but I can be a silly man.

Regina and I agreed that our dinner was fantastic. We will make a return trip for sure.

I just love this toothpick dispenser!

It’s 70 degrees and Regina is shivering at the door of Sakura House. Preposterous.

A couple of notes. Parking can be difficult and street parking might be the best option, so give yourself a little extra time. Also, I very much recommend dining early; as the evening progresses the well-meaning and friendly waitstaff can get easily overwhelmed and the relatively small grill can get crowded. If you dine early, say 6:30 PM, you’ll get more attentive service and the cooks can take more care with your food. You should make a reservation for sure.

For just a couple of people I prefer the counter, where you can watch the guys grilling. For larger parties a table in the dining area is a better arrangement.

 
 
Sakura House
13362 W Washington Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90066
Neighborhood: Culver City

(310) 306-7010

Chasen’s Hobo Steak

Chasen’s Restaurant in West Hollywood was a hangout of the old guard of Hollywood. Frank Capra helped Dave Chasen get his start in 1936, and based on his chili and ribs recipes Chasen managed to grow his humble restaurant into a venerable institution that fed nearly every major star for decades, hosting Oscar parties and becoming a second home to such stars as Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Gleason, and Alfred Hitchcock.

Reading this celebrity lineup, you’d think the food would be overly-fancy, archly-presented European-style fare. You’d be wrong. Chasen’s chili was simple and unadorned. The salads were well-prepared but hardly known for their complexity. The very basic cheese toast was one of the revered dishes. The off-menu Hobo Steak, which I feature here, is a fascinating dish in its very process, and yet the end result is no more than slices of meat on toast. But wow! What great meat on toast!

What hobo wouldn’t love twice-cooked New York Strip over toast?

This recipe is available on the internet in a few slightly different variations. In general the recipes are a bit hard to fathom. Basically you’ll need:

one three-inch thick prime New York strip steak
very thin beef fat
approximately one cup of kosher salt
butter
sourdough bread, cut into rectangles about 1.5 inches x 2.5 inches

Try to use the best meat you can, always. It helps to become friends with your butcher.

Beef fat? Yup, beef fat. Ask your butcher or meat counter guy (at better markets) and they’ll be able to get it for you, most likely for free. You’ll need to talk to your butcher anyway since 3-inch thick steaks are always going to be a special order. I suggest you get prime instead of choice, when choosing your beef, but prime will always be much pricier so buy what you can handle.

You want to take that beef fat and cut it into wide strips about three inches wide. Wrap it around the sides of the big steak and secure it with two pieces of butcher twine, tied tight, as pictured above. 

Now position your oven rack about six inches below the broiler flame (or heating element, if it’s electric). Set broiler to high.

Mix the kosher salt with two or three tablespoons of water to create a moist paste. It should have the consistency of wet sand at the beach. Layer this salt paste over the top of the steak and place the steak into a skillet.

The kosher salt creates a shield that protects the meat from over-cooking for the first phase.

Broil the steak for eight minutes. Carefully remove the salt crust with a spatula (which should come off in one nice piece) and flip the steak. Replace the salt on top and broil the second side for eight minutes.

Remove from the oven and discard the salt. Rest the steak for ten minutes. Reserve some of the rendered beef fat from the skillet, about 1/4 cup let’s say.

In the meantime, brush your sourdough with melted butter on top and bottom. Toast under the broiler for about a minute per side, watching carefully so it’s nicely browned but not burnt.

Cut your sourdough toast into little rectangles about 1.5 X 2.5 inches. Brush with melted butter.

Cut the butcher twine with scissors and peel off the fat. Discard fat and string. Trim off any other fat or gristle from the steak. Cut slices about 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch thick. If you prefer it rare, cut it thicker!

In a large saute pan heat two tablespoons of butter and one tablespoon of the reserved beef fat. Heat over medium-high heat until the butter starts to brown. Saute the slices of beef until lightly browned on both sides, about one minute a side for rare-to-medium-rare.

Place toast on a plate. Top each slice of toast with a slice of cooked meat. Spoon some of the melted fats from the pan and drizzle over the top. Garnish with minced chives.

Cut 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch slices from the roasted NY.

This is a dish from another time. Today eating this dish would be considered an arterial hazard. I wouldn’t eat it every day, or even every month. But occasionally? Sure.

Maybe every once in a while, invite a friend over and speculate what Joan Crawford or Richard Burton might have eaten on a quiet night in Hollywood. Drink a martini, make this dish, and try to imagine a time when stars would gather to eat bland chili and fatty meats. A time before cholesterol.