My initial stumbling block was this: Dishes and recipes that have wine as an ingredient tend to already be on the fancy side, so how was I to do a gourmet makeover on something that's already gourmet? But then, as Poppa Trix and I were tucking into a humble dinner of roast beef and discussing my dilemma, I (or rather we) had the "a ha!" moment.
I would re-imagine the classic open-faced roast beef sandwich. You know, the one you got at the diner as a kid? Well-done beef piled on top of slices of chewy white bread, smothered in a bland brown gravy - so bad it's kind of good.
My version, on the other hand ... is so good it's kinda great (in my humble opinion):
Truth be told, none of the individual items in this dish are anything new - except for the use of bison, they are all classic preparations. This is more about the combination of components coming together to create something new. In fact, I took the recipes for the potatoes and the sauce straight from my culinary school textbook, On Cooking. Well, I actually scaled them back quite a bit - the recipes there are for foodservice, and I really didn't need to work with 5 pounds of potatoes! Because I'm not taking a class this semester - too busy! - I thought this would be a good way to practice my skills.
You can read about how to make Dauphinoise here or here but in a nutshell you thinly slice one pound of peeled Russet potatoes and layer them in a rectangular casserole with grated Gruyere, salt, and white pepper. Then you whisk a cup of cream (I used half and half) with an egg, pour it over the top, finish with more Gruyere and bake at 350 F until brown and bubbly. Then I cooled this in the fridge so that I could cut out these rounds:
Fittingly - this is a wine challenge after all - the sauce was the most complicated component here. A Bordelaise is one of the many compound sauces that you can make from a Mother sauce, in this case Espagnole, also known as brown sauce. But ... before you can do that you need brown stock. A proper veal stock takes much roasting and caramelizing of bones and mire poix and upwards of 6 hours of simmering - never boiling - and much skimming, and so you may be forgiven if you forgot to plan ahead ... and you had to to the gourmet market to get veal culinary stock. I am not saying I did that mind you, but if you were to do that ... you would be forgiven. There are far worse things you could do.
To make the Espagnole, or brown sauce, you then saute mire poix in butter, add flour to make a roux, add stock and tomato puree, a sachet of bay leaf, dried thyme, parsley stems and crushed peppercorns, and simmer to reduce by half. I started with 2 cups and reduced this to one cup. Then you strain it through a fine mesh sieve.
Next you must make the demi glace, which requires half Espagnole and half brown stock. Simmer until reduced by half - again I started with two cups total: one cup Espagnole and one cup stock. Skim off any scum and strain. And now .... finally ... time for the Bordelaise.
To 6 ounces of dry red wine I added 2 ounces of minced shallot, a bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, and a pinch of crushed black peppercorns and reduced by 3/4. To this I added my demi glace, simmered for 15 minutes, and strained yet again. I returned it to the pan and whisked in a tablespoon of butter to give the sauce sheen and unctuousness, a technique known as monter a buerre. Typically this sauce is garnished with bone marrow, but at this point I figured I had enough going on.
A lot of work? You bet! But so worth it:
A word about sauce and saving time: You can also make a lovely and quick pan sauce while your meat rests, which I did as a point of comparison. All you need to do is deglaze the pan with some wine, let that reduce, and add butter and a bit of stock and simmer. It's not as complex as the Bordelaise but it's very tasty and the perfect thing to do on a busy weeknight.
I think these would make a very impressive appetizer at a dinner party, or, if you made them just a bit smaller, a knock out amuse bouche:
Thanks Natasha and Lazaro for hosting! And make sure to follow the link below and check out the other fabulous creations when they're posted in a wrap up on Friday.