Thursday, January 01, 2009

Blais, Flip, and a Blowtorch

Wherein fire good
 

For the day after Christmas, I cooked Richard Blais's 14 Hour Brisket. Man, was that good. However, I did freelance slightly from the directions. He instructed:
Coat the brisket liberally with the Cajun seasonings and salt. Fire up a grill and grill the surface of the brisket aggressively, searing it well on each side for maximum flavor.

A couple of things, here. One, this went into the oven at 5am and I didn't feel like firing up the grill at 5am. Two, didn't want to take the time and effort to fire up the grill just to sear one piece of meat. Now if I was grilling something the night before, I could have just added it; this however, was not the case. Luckily, Harold McGee came to the rescue.
 
Just so happens I still have a 2004 "Fresh Air" interview with Mr. McGee. During one part of the interview he's discussing slow roasting:
McGee: Something that I learned from a colleague of mine in England, Heston Blumenthal, is that if you...it's very helpful for example to cook a very large piece of meat like a prime rib very slowly, because that gives you a much bigger window of time during which the meat is cooked through to the doneness that you want, but not over done. And it also means that the meat is cooked more evely thorughout. The problem with cooking meat at a relatively low oven temperature is that the outside doesn't get as nice and brown as it would in a nice hot oven; and what Heston showed me is that you can actually take a torch and just very lightly torch the meat at the very beginning of the process. In fact, you don't even have to really see an affect from that torching. You just kinda prewarm the surface. Then when you put that pretreated roast into the oven and cook it at a low temperature so that the interior comes out moist and succulent, the outside does end up developing the kind of flavor that you would get in a higher temperature roasting.
 
Terry Gross: So what do you use? A blow torch or something? heh heh heh. What kind of torch?
 
McGee: Well, these days you can get these nice, cute, little crème brûlée torches. The problem with using one of those on a roast eather than crème brûlée is that a roast has a huge surface area. So it's a very slow and tedious process. So, yeah, I go to the hardware store and get a regular old blow torch...and, uh. Actually, a heat gun works really well, too. You know the thing you use for peeling paint off a wall, that does a good job as well. I've also tried a hair dryer, it doesn't get hot enough.

I have a blow torch and it worked excellently. In fact, I think I will now sear most  of my slow roasts this way. Maybe even steaks -- instead of searing a couple minutes on each side and finishing it in the oven, I'll just torch it before throwing it in.
 

 
The VIP party was nice. Luckily we got there early, so had plenty of samples and got to talk to Blais for a few minutes. Basic hamburger was good, The Wife loved the shrimp poboy and I loved the Vietnamese hamburger. Fries were tasty, didn't get the onion rings, though I've heard they're excellent. The Wife also got to sample the Krispy Kreme milkshake which she's been waiting on since Blais desribed it last June at Home. More than met her expectations.
 
Went back a week later -- around 6pm and had to wait about 10 minutes. Decent crowd turnaround while we were there and for being open a week the staff looked to be on top of things. Talked with Blais a bit, commented that the reviews looked mostly positive, and he said "about 80%, give us another week and we'll get there." Business has been good and "it's burgers and fries...what's not to like."
 
Burgers are around $8-10 and sides are a la carte (around $3). We had two sides, three hamburgers, and a ginger margarita for $41.82. Waitress forgot to charge us for the milkshake ($7) and when we mentioned it she waved it off. Two people drinking water could have sides and burgers for under $30. Make it 2 sides, 2 burgers, 2 drinks, and you're around $40.
 
Fries ($3.50 and double-fried in duck fat and lard) are awesome. I preferred the tempura rutabega sticks ($3) served with smoked mayo and a pepper jelly that could have used a bit more pepper.
 
The Child had the basic flip burger ($6.50) -- no exotic toppings, just tomato and lettuce. The Wife had the RBQ ($9.00) -- burger topped with pulled pork bbq and cole slaw. I had the Bun Mi ($8) -- a spicy pork patty with a pickled vietnamese salad. I could eat a dozen of these.
 
We thought the burgers were a nice size and the fixins' weren't piled on too extremely tall. All are served on the same type of bun (buttery brioche that doesn't fall apart) and smash down to a manageable size. FYI, looks like the beef burgers are all cooked to a very nice medium rare with a lovely pink center. If hungry, and skipping the sides, I could easily eat two burgers.
 
The Wife loves the Krispy Kreme milkshake. They throw a Krispy Kreme and some milk in a blender and add liquid nitrogen to freeze it. Also have a nutella shake with burnt marshmallows (we tried something yummy and chocolatey at the party, might be the same) and a pistachio shake (this we did not like at the party and reading the menu I now know why. It also includes truffle oil, which, in the immortal words of Poppy Z. Brite, "tastes like ass."). If rB reads this, no offense meant -- that stuff does not agree with me.
 
Went back on a Saturday afternoon, about 3pm, and they were lining people out the door. Food was pumping out at a good pace and no one seemed to wait too long. I had the pate burger, which the waiter pimped as having the "most complex flavors." It was good, though still didn't approach the awesomeness of the Bun Mi. The Wife had the Southern, which is deep fried and served with pimento cheese. That was good.
 
other reviews

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