Monday, 7 March 2016

Ribeye with salt-baked and dripping braised celeriac, chestnuts and Wiltshire truffle

Earlier in the year, with food magazines and newspapers dedicated to detox dieting and clean eating, the humble old celeriac was lifted to dizzy heights, heralded the vegetable of 2016(!). I like to think of the celeriac as a modest, warts and all vegetable that sits muddily on greengrocer’s shelves, without the pomp of radicchio or the swagger of a heritage carrot. It probably felt mildly patronised by such sudden attention, as it’s always been a star. Like the quiet genius that sits in the corner in indie films while the quarterbacks parade and shout. Like Clark Kent. For years it has been there in the perfect remoulade, creamy, comforting gratins and caramelised, roasted chunks. Now the poor root will be subjected to endless spiralising. Someone will probably try and make brownies with him too. 

So for this recipe I found a large handsome specimen of a celeriac, complete with bouffant plume of green leaves sprouting out of the top. What a guy. And I was determined to use the whole vegetable. I first had a go at salt-baking celeriac a few years ago, where it proved a rich and flavoursome accompaniment to some roasted pheasant. The whole process requires some patience and dedication, but yields a unique result. It’s also pretty spectacular taking a salt-crusted dome to the table, before smashing it apart and scooping out the ever so tender, steaming flesh.
The celeriac really is the main event here, but whilst on my way home with said celeriac poking out the top of my bag, I stumbled across a butcher selling some outrageously marbled ribeye steak. Celeriac and beef have always been excellent bedfellows, so to reacquaint the two was a no-brainer really.
Serves 2
For the ribeye:
1 x thick ribeye steak, approx. 350-400g
For the salt-baked celeriac:
½ a large celeriac 
1kg coarse sea salt 
2-4 eggs, whites only 
3 tbsp fresh picked thyme leaves 
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
For the sauce:
2 handfuls of beef trimming, bones 
1 onion, finely chopped 
2 cloves of garlic, crushed 
1 carrot, finely chopped 
1 large glass of white wine 
500ml beef stock 
2 large knobs of butter 
A few gratings of black truffle
For the braised chestnuts and celeriac:
A handful of chestnuts, shelled and quartered 
4-6 thin, wide strips from the remaining celeriac 
2 sprigs of thyme 
100g dripping
For the celeriac crisps:
10-15 thin shavings from the remaining celeriac 
Vegetable oil for deep frying
To finish:
The green leaves from the top of the celeriac 
A knob of butter 
1 small black truffle

Pre-heat the oven to 180⁰C fan.
Put the celeriac half for salt baking cut-side-down onto an oven dish. Pour the salt into a bowl and mix with the thyme leaves. Stir in enough egg white to form a stiff, pliable paste. Pack the salt evenly over the celeriac until it is fully covered. Slide into the oven and bake for 2.5-3 hours, until very soft in the middle. When cooked, crack open the salt and slice the top off the celeriac. Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh and transfer to a food processor. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Turn on the processor and blend well. With the engine still running, slowly pour in the olive oil, until it is fully emulsified and you are left with a smooth puree. Cover and set aside. 

Set a wide, heavy pan to a medium-high heat and add a glug of oil. Season the beef trimmings and bones, then toss into the pan. Fry for 10-15 minutes, making sure all sides are well browned. Add the onion, carrot and garlic and continue to cook until caramelised. Pour in the wine, and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the crust from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the liquid by half, then top up with the stock. Return to the boil and reduce again, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (this process should take about 20 minutes). Strain the sauce into a small saucepan, then stir in the butter and a few fine gratings of truffle. Set aside until needed later.
Spoon 1/3rd of the dripping for the chestnuts and celeriac into a saucepan and bring to a moderate heat. Add the chestnuts and fry for a few minutes until lightly coloured. Add the celeriac, thyme and a little seasoning and cook for a further minute, then melt in the remaining dripping. Turn the heat down to low and gently simmer for about 30 minutes, until the vegetables are very soft. Keep warm. 

Use a vegetable peeler to shave 10-15 strips from the remaining celeriac. Pour enough vegetable oil into a heavy saucepan until it is an inch deep, then heat up until it reaches 160-170⁰C. Fry the celeriac in batches until it turns golden-brown and crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to some kitchen roll and drain.
Take the steak out of the fridge about an hour before cooking, to let it come to room-temperature.
Heat a heavy frying pan until it is smoking hot. Coat the steak with a little olive oil, and season all sides really well. When the pan is hot, add the steak. Cook without moving for 3-4 minutes on each side for medium-rare, or a few minutes longer if you prefer it better done. Transfer the steak to a plate and allow to rest for 10 minutes. 

Let the steak pan cook down a little, then add a knob of butter and the green tops from the celeriac. Cook on a medium heat for a couple of minutes, until softened.
While the steak is resting, reheat the sauce, celeriac puree and dripping-braised chestnuts and celeriac if needed (draining the latter before serving).
To plate up, add a few thick slices of the steak to each plate. Spoon on some of the celeriac puree, and arrange a few of the greens and braised chestnuts and celeriac around the meat. Finish by drizzling over a little of the sauce, then scattering some celeriac crisps and truffle shavings on top.

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