Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Opulent Open-Face: Seared Bison Skirt Steak Bites, Potatoes Dauphinoise & Bordelaise Sauce - The Classic Diner Open-Faced Roast Beef Sandwich Reimagined for the 5 Star Cooking with Wine Makeover

For this month's Five Star Makeover challenge - hosted as ever by the lovely and talented Natasha of 5 Star Foodie and Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks! - we were tasked with creating a gourmet dish incorporating wine.  I don't know about you, but wine is an essential component of all of my cooking ... if you catch my drift. But the difference here is that the vino had to actually go into the dish, and not just down the hatch.

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):
Standing in for the leathery roast beef, we have medium-rare seared bison skirt steak. In place of the white bread, I made potatoes Dauphinoise (thinly sliced potatoes with Gruyere, cream, and eggs) which I then sliced into neat, cute little rounds, and for the wine component, instead of that powdery brown gravy, I drizzled on one of the classic compound sauces, a Bordelaise.

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:
For the bison skirt steak, I used a marinade of olive oil, tamari soy sauce, ground black pepper and lemon. I seared on fairly high heat for just two minutes each side. At first I wasn't sure how to plate this dish because I wanted a neat tower of food, and after some experimentation (and help from Poppa Trix - he was incredibly useful in this challenge!) I settled on little squares:

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:
 And the parsley garnish:
After the photo session, Poppa and I made short work of these little bites, and went on to sear the rest of the skirt steak, which we then ate with entirely indelicate sized portions of potato and the rest of the Bordelaise sauce.

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.


  1. YUM!! Chic beef sandwich, Trix! Dr Lostpast accuses me of being a stock hoarder... he's right. All bird bones get saved in a bone bag in the fridge and made into stock when the bag is full.

    The beef bones ( a gift from my beef guy in the market), alas, all go one place.. Petunia's bowl... she loves them.

    I have tried to reduce 1/2 the stuff I make so there is room for something else in the freezer and have even done a bird espagnole that turned out pretty well. I made the real thing from scratch last year and it was a 2 day marathon.... not for the faint of heart or time challenged human but very good... the wine works magic.

    I can see why it was a hit... and the photos are spectacular. Great makeover!!

  2. These are awesome! But in my world of go big or go home, I would make a plate-filling version of these (cause I looove bordelaise), and maybe serve it with some greens to cut some of that glorious richness.

    These are out of control, Trix. Theresa

  3. Why Ms Trix, you sure do know how to coin the fiercest titles for your posts. For this one, I was expecting a whole bison to be up on that plate but got this exquisitely stacked morsel instead. I had to read the post twice because I was so intrigued by how you made the Espagnole and Bordelaise... you see, I never get to do exciting stuff like this!

    You totally blew this challenge out of the water, Missy! Next I want to see you bake some killer desserts... Go on, surprise us :-).

  4. Haha, your title nicely foreshadowed the deliciousness to come. Inspired substitutions for leathery beef, chewy white bread and bland brown gravy! You and Poppa Trix make a great team :) Love your humor and this fabulous entry.

  5. This is a very refined dish. I would love two or servings please.

  6. It looks more than great! That is SOME dish - looks like it belongs at a five-star restaurant.

  7. I so agree most meals should have a wine component...even if not in the dish! I love you recreated (and much more appetizing) roast beef sandwich. A very rewarding sauce too, not a part of cooknig I have terribly challenged myself at. Looks wonderful.

  8. Trix, you rocked this challenge!!! What a drool worthy appetizer...from the potatoes to the beef to the delectable sauce....mmmmmmm.

  9. Not only is this a beautiful and imaginative dish, but your photos are spectacular! Particularly like the one with the sauce being poured... can almost taste it through the screen!

  10. So we cook the same...not necessarily placing the wine in the dish, but there is always wine :)You are too funny and on top of that so talented! Excellent presentation and choice of dish, and the sauce of choice is played out to perfection!

  11. My kind of creative deconstruction. Love the presentation, very refined.

    And you used Bison! A big plus in my book.

    Great job, Trix.

  12. I just watched Chopped on Food network and they had to cook Bison. Wow. What can I say when I look at your food? WOW. Bison was cooked perfectly and love how you cook and plate potato, and yes the beautiful gravy! Great work, Trix and Poppa Trix!

  13. We are both featuring open faced delights today! I used to spend entire Saturday's with my mother roasting veal bones into stock and then brown sauce and glace d'viande. We would share the work and then split the proceeds. So I know how much work it all is. Distilling all that work further into such a small, delicious bite is compelling to me. Just beautiful!

  14. Very nice - I don't know what else to say, but Wow!

  15. Just lovely. Very edible pictures :)

  16. This is such a beautiful dish! I think you did an AMAZING job at fancying up an open faced roast beef sandwich.

  17. Oh wow! That is such a pretty pretty dish. And I bet that it tastes fantastic!

  18. That is one stylish and classy makeover! Mind you, you could sit almost anything on some dauphinoise potatoes and I'd be happy :)

  19. don't you think your title is a little bit understated??? I mean really, opulent?... perhaps haughtily grandiose palatial and ever-so pulchritudinous ...
    love the fine are of proper plating, esp after going through the process of reductions, and Espagnole is my favorite mother, she comes around my kitchen all the time, so handy to have around,,,

  20. That looks just like those appetizers you see in a gourmet restaurant!

  21. You!!!

    Rock my world.

    You fancypants, you.

  22. The meat texture looks PERFECT. Soft and... omph....

  23. A masterpiece! Great addition to the Cooking Group. The sauce sounds perfect, excellent choice to use bison... Love the idea of cutting out rings of Dauphinoise for an appetizer.

  24. Top marks for this recipe. Tastes great. Thanks for sharing.