In a café beside our office in Sandyford, they serve the scones on little wooden boards. I think they are called shingles in the building trade. Weatherproof, very trendy and they only need a wipe with a cloth between servings. When we have our coffee there, we have fun watching patrons scrabbling around on the floor to retrieve the mini jam jars that slide off the shingles like rain off a roof. The madness of using building materials in food presentation doesn’t stop there. No, we have grown used to the ‘trend’ for serving chips in buckets. With every shovel of the cement of fashion into the mixer of dining, we seem to move further and further into the building site.
But, when it comes to serving a prime Irish beef fillet, don’t serve it to me on a slate. For crying out loud! Wake up! Fries in a bucket and steak on a slate. I have even had my milk served in a jam jar, in true building site style. Have you all gone mad. Or is it me?
If I want to eat a steak, I want to eat it off a plate. If I happen to hanker after some nice crispy chips, I want them served beside the steak, on the same plate. If I want some nice Australian wine to go with it, I want it in a glass. Now, where was I? Oh yes, a nice Irish Fillet Steak with Garlic and Chive Butter with Crispy Chips.
Let’s start with the garlic and chive butter. There are only three ingredients. You can guess what they are.
Tip about 300 grammes of butter into a bowl. Chop two cloves of the best French garlic into very fine pieces.
Next chop the chives up nice and small too.
Add the chives and garlic to the butter bowl. Use a spoon to beat the ingredients together. You will know when they are blended as the chives will be evenly distributed. Spread the mixture in a tube shape on some cling film.
Roll it into a tight tube about 3cm (1 inch) wide.
Chuck this into the fridge and turn to more important maters. (It can be stored in the freezer for months.) The most important part of this preparation is the porcini crust. To make this, spread dried porcini mushrooms on a tray of foil. Heat it in a 100ºC (200ºF) oven, for ten minutes, to ensure the mushrooms are REALLY dry.
Tip the dried porcini into a food processor and hit the loud switch. Pretend it’s a cement mixer, it makes you feel any more like a restaurateur (or builder).
The porcini will turn to a fine dust, somewhat like cement. Perhaps that’s where the building materials theme comes from? Put this to one side and prepare the potatoes. Peel and slice them into chips (If you are American, I mean fries, not crisps as we call your chips.).
Put the bowl of potato to one side and leave it for a couple of hours. This will extract some of the excess starch. Heat your oven to 200ºC (390ºF). This is to finish the steaks.
Drain the potatoes and pat them dry with a towel. Heat some cooking oil to about 130ºC (250ºF). Fry the chips, in batches, for about 5 minutes. Drain on old newspaper. This is the first of two cookings they will receive.
Next, prepare the steaks for needless photography.
Season the steaks and then give them a good covering, top and bottom with the porcini dust.
Add some oil to a hot pan and add the steaks. My cast-iron pan holds five.
Cook the steaks for a couple of minutes a side. Then put the pan into a 200ºC oven for 6 minutes. This should give you medium rare steaks. While the steaks are cooking, fry off the chips in batches at 180ºC (360ºC).
Now comes the truly pathetic bit of this blog post. The assembly of the dish and serving it in ‘fashionable’ style. To do things the trendy way, I set the table with an old cement sack. I served the ‘Torbreck GSM’, a lovely Australian wine, in a jam jar. The home-made English mustard is served from a Kilner storage jar. The chips are served in a bucket. To top it all, the fine steak is presented on a piece of old slate.
Despite the ridiculous presentation, this was a really tasty steak and chips. In truth, I transferred the food to a plate before I ate the lot. Though, I could not resist drinking the wine from the jam jar. We have to maintain some fashion standards after all.
Next time you are dining out and your food arrives in a bucket or on a slate, think of me….. laughing at you!
References and thanks: My friend Peter Borza supplied me with the bucket from his Camino Cafe, recently opened in Cornmarket, Dublin 8. Writer, Tom Doorley has previously exposed the nonsense of this sort of thing in his fine article on the subject. The nice people in Weafer and Cooper in Glasthule were kind enough to supply the slate, despite my less than complementary intent. Mark and his team in The Coffee Shot (best coffee in Sandyford) haven’t barred me either. Thanks to all for being such good sports.