Girl in the Kitchen

Editor’s note: Linda Avery returns with a look at Stephanie Izard’s new cookbook, The Girl in the Kitchen. If you are in Scottsdale on October 16, take a look at the Share Our Strength fundraiser with Stephanie at The Accidental Yard. It’s a chance to get up close and personal with Stephanie, support a great cause and take home a signed copy of the cookbook.

Girl in the Kitchen: How a Top Chef Cooks, Thinks, Shops, Eats, and Drinks
by Stephanie Izard with Heather Shouse
photos by Dan Goldberg

Facts: Chronicle Books, 256 pages, $29.95 (or Amazon at $19.77)
Photos: 45
Recipes: 100
Give to: food-loving home cooks; Top Chef fans; cookbook addicts

The big Chicago buzz last summer (2010) was “Have you been to the goat?” … “How’s the food at the goat?” … “Girl & the Goat? That sounds lewd!” … “Is there actually goat on the menu?” And, in short order, a reservation at Stephanie Izard’s Girl & the Goat restaurant was the hot ticket.

(BTW, the answers to those questions are yes, I’ve been a couple times; the food is creative in composition with complex flavors and delicious; not lewd but rather clever as Stephanie shares her last name, Izard, with a goat antelope which lives in the Pyrenees; and, yes, there are various choices of goat on the menu: confit, sausage on flatbread, empanadas and more).

Stephanie Izard packs 36 hours into a day. While working at “the goat” (an affectionate reference),  she completed her cookbook, The Girl in the Kitchen, and is in the development process of her second restaurant. Plus she spends a good deal of time doing demos for good causes. How does this self-proclaimed party hearty gal find time to throw back a few?

About the cookbook: The recipes in The Girl in the Kitchen are unique and yet Izard states the book is intended to be a guide where sauces and sides can be mixed and matched as you prefer. It only takes an understanding of the “flavor profile of ingredients and their effect on the overall dish” which she successfully explains in each of her headnotes. At heart she is an educator – she wants you to be able to “use visual clues rather than watch the clock” by knowing your kitchen, your equipment and tools, so she tells you what to watch for as you’re cooking.

Appearing every few pages is the feature Ingredient Spotlight (think ramps, miso paste, tomatillos, Wondra flour, et al) explaining again flavor profile, plus how she uses the ingredient and what to look for when purchasing.

There were a lot of mental “ohs” and “ahs” as I read through the recipe list: Sweet-and-Sour Eggplant with Tomatillos, Grilled Lamb-Stuffed Calamari with Crispy Shallots, Pear-Pistachio-Parsnip Soup, Apple-Pork Ragu with Pappardelle, and how about a side of Roasted Radishes with Blue Cheese, Peanuts, and Cilantro? Even the recipe names convey the dimension and balance of tart, sweet, spicy, salty, crispy, creamy, etc.

JUST A MINUTE! I went through the recipes another time. Where is the infamous Wood Oven Roasted Pig Face? Hmmm, I guess that one is reserved for the restaurant but even so, there is no shortage of inventive recipes in this book. If you want to know Stephanie a bit better, watch the Girl in the Kitchen Book trailer on youtube.

Pan-Roasted New York Steaks with Sautéed Cucumbers and Salted Goat Milk Caramel

photo © by Dan Goldberg

Serves 4

While working on some “goat” ideas for my new restaurant, Girl & the Goat, I played around with goat meat, as well as goat’s milk. My old pastry chef from Scylla, Jessie Oloroso, makes an awesome ice cream with goat’s milk caramel, known as cajeta in Mexico. She added cashews for crunch and a bit of salt, convincing me that salted caramel is the only way to go; otherwise, the caramel is just too sweet. Inspired by Jessie’s ice cream (which she now sells at her shop Black Dog Gelato in Chicago), I decided to try a salted goat’s milk caramel as a sauce for a savory dish. The interesting thing with cajeta is that it’s not a classic caramel sauce, as the sugar is not actually what caramelizes. The liquid never reaches a high enough temperature for the added sugar to caramelize; instead, the fats of the milk caramelize with the help of the added baking soda, which neutralizes the natural acids and also helps the milk solids to turn a rich brown color.

So now that you know everything you’d ever want to know about caramelizing goat’s milk, let me explain why I added fish sauce to it. It might seem strange, but that’s the salty element, with just enough earthy funk to pair perfectly with the equally earthy “browned” flavor of the caramel. Sounds weird, but trust me, you’ll love it.

And finally, because the beef and the sauce are so rich, we need to cut through it a bit with some lightly sautéed cucumbers. I realize it also sounds strange to cook cucumbers, but doing so releases some of their natural juices and allows them to quickly soak up the salt, taking on a great flavor and texture while keeping things perfectly refreshing.

Plan of Attack
Up to 3 days ahead: Make the goat milk caramel. Refrigerate.
The night before: Marinate the steaks.
Cook time: Prepare the steaks. While the meat is resting, sauté the cucumbers and reheat the caramel over low heat in a saucepan.

Ingredients
For the Salted Goat Milk Caramel
1 quart goat milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons sambal paste
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the Pan-Roasted New York Strip Steak
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons sambal
4 New York strip steaks (about 12 ounces each)
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon butter

For the Sautéed Cucumbers
2 tablespoons olive oil
One 12-inch English cucumber, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil

Method
Make the caramel
1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the milk and sugar and slowly bring them to a boil over medium-high heat. Dissolve the baking soda in 1/2 teaspoon warm water. Whisk it into the milk mixture, reduce the heat to medium, and let it simmer. Stir often with a whisk until the mixture reduces and begins to thicken and turn a light caramel color, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. As the caramel begins to darken, reduce the heat and continue to stir constantly with a whisk, making sure the caramel doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. Continue to cook and whisk constantly, until the caramel darkens and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 20 minutes more. It will have reduced to about 1/2 cup when finished. Strain the caramel through a fine-mesh sieve into a small pot. Add the fish sauce, sambal, vinegar, soy sauce, and mustard and season with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm.

Make the steak
1. Whisk together the olive oil, garlic, mustard, and sambal for the marinade, then rub it into the steaks and refrigerate, preferably overnight but for at least 3 hours. Take the steaks out of the fridge about 30 minutes before getting started so they cook more evenly.

2. Salt and pepper both sides of the steaks. Heat a large skillet or sauté pan over high heat until it’s almost smoking. Add the canola oil, then the steaks. (Don’t overcrowd the pan; cook in two batches if you must.) Once the steaks brown on one side, flip them over, then add the butter to the pan. Tilt the pan and spoon the melted butter over the steaks to baste. Once the edges of the steak are nice and brown, make a small slit to the center of the steak to check for doneness.

3. You’re aiming for medium-rare, so the very center should still be red because the meat will continue to “carry-over cook” as it rests. Remove the steaks from the pan and let them rest on a plate for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the steak to retain its juices and to even out the doneness.

Make the Sautéed Cucumbers
1. While the meat rests, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the oil, then the cucumbers, and cook until the cucumbers just begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. When ready to serve, toss with the basil.

2. To serve, spoon a couple tablespoons of the caramel onto each plate, top with a steak, and place the sautéed cucumbers alongside.

 

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