3 Degrees of Separation
In the March 2020 Practical Culinary Medicine Webinar, we talked about spices; what they are, and the benefits of using them from both a health and culinary perspective. They play a critical role in the practice of Culinary Medicine (CM) and in the Culinary Arts as well. Within CM there are important considerations relative to sourcing and using quality ingredients, following the guidelines of best practice for a zero-waste kitchen, and sustainability.
Sustainability also refers back to the individual in terms of both taste and economics. When we source wholesome, authentic ingredients in season it is often more economical when we purchase these items in larger quantity. The downside for many home cooks is that after a meal or two you can find yourself confronted by a disgruntled mob that collectively sighs, “Uuuggghhhh, not chicken again!” accompanied by a perfectly timed and executed eye rolls and head tosses.
The solution can be found in the proper use of spices and herbs. Herbs are the yin to the yang of spices and together their combined power forms an endless palette of creation. To illustrate those principles in practice, I created a simple dish of beef three ways. The point here is not for you to re-create this particular dish which features three distinctly different profiles of beef ribeye, although you certainly can. You can also certainly substitute out the beef for chicken or your favorite vegetable. You can take this as a point of inspiration and create an entire meal that simply focuses on one flavor profile for one evening’s meal, and use the others on different days during the rest of the week. The take-home message is that by taking your star ingredient and surrounding it with a different cast and script you can get an entirely new production with respect to flavors and textures; thereby creating a completely new and different food experience.
Here’s an example to be found in Beef – 3° of Separation. A lovely organic, heritage breed, grass finished ribeye was trimmed up into approximately 70-85 gram (2.5-3 ounces) pieces. I prepared each of the three differently flavored beef dishes using a vacuum sealer so that they could be cooked sous vide (54 degrees C [129 degrees F] for 2 hours). This allowed for each of the dishes to be finished by only requiring a quick sear before they joined their accompanying sides. For timely serving of essentially three differently dishes, this allowed me to bring them together very quickly for service and assured that each piece was identically cooked to perfection.
For the average home cook, you can certainly marinate the beef in individual containers or Ziploc bags. Especially if you are just planning on serving one flavor profile, you can use a whole piece of beef (or chicken or vegetable or whatever you choose) and prepare that single item on the stove top. Either way, allow the herbs and spices at least 4 to 6 hours to impart their flavors and you most certainly can do this the day before and increase the intensity by allowing them to marinate overnight.
Here are the three flavor profiles I used to flavor the meat:
- Italian – reminiscent of a Bistecca preparation it contains salt, pepper, oregano, rosemary, garlic, olive oil, and a dash of Italian red wine.
- English – reminiscent of a traditional Sunday roast this was flavored with salt, pepper, parsley, thyme, and lavender
- Argentinian – reminiscent of the classic grilled Argentinian meat it was marinated with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, onion, crushed red pepper, parsley, and cilantro.
The resulting meal was a culinary trip across the globe. I hope that this can inspire you to create your own plate-cation and transport you to your happy, delicious place!