Want to show off at a dinner party? Serving more people than usual? This original beef in a crust recipe from my second cooking school was a favourite with students and their lucky guests alike. Easy, prepare most of it ahead, and look like a star? What’s not to like?
BEEF IN A CRUST
1.5 Kg. of Beef Porterhouse in one piece (or Beef eye fillet if you want to splash out – but I used porterhouse recently at $19.90 a kilo from Salamanca Fresh and it was spectacular. I don’t think it could be improved even if you want to buy the best).
300 grams of fresh plums (or nectarines)
1 Dessertspoon of sugar
50 grams blanched slivered almonds, toasted (pan fry quickly in some hot butter, stirring them about and remove from heat as soon as they start to colour – they’ll keep on cooking)
100 mls Sherry (I love Pedro Ximinez for its big, smooth flavor)
3 slices of fresh leg ham off the bone
1 packet of good puff pastry
Knob of butter and a Dessertspoon of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
1 egg, and salt
Boil the plums in a small saucepan with enough water to cover and the sugar, and reduce a little. Let cool, by sitting the plums in a strainer above the sauce in the pan, and allow to drip. Remove the seeds. (The sauce is the key part of the jus – so don’t waste a drop).
Trim the meat of fat, leaving the muscle sheath on top and slice across diagonally to release the sheath so it doesn’t pull up and together when the beef is cooking. If the meat is a porterhouse, it will probably have a thin piece of meat on the side. Cut that off, sear as well, and save to put on top of the main cut.
Make a pocket in the middle of the beef. Stuff the plums and half of the almonds in the pocket, smoothing both ends. Generously salt both sides of the beef.
In the baking dish you’ll use for the beef, place some butter and oil, fry the beef on both sides, letting it cook a little and caramalise in the pan. Take out and place on a rack, and with the pan still on the heat, add the saved plum sauce, add the sherry, scraping up the pan drippings, reduce a little, and tip into the small saucepan and reserve.
When the meat is cool, place a sheet of pastry on some baking paper, put the meat on top of the pastry, in the middle. Place the slices of ham on top of the meat, then the last of the toasted almonds. If you have the thinner piece of meat saved, place this above the almonds and ham. Place another sheet of pastry on top, and join with the bottom sheet, and secure all around.
Cut some strips of pastry out of the left over, and form to make a flower. With the wider strip, curl one end in and twist the pastry around and around, teasing out the side, to make a bud. Then make some knife slashes on a stem, and on some leaf shapes to make leaves. Arrange on the top of the pastry. Be as arty as you like. This whole process can be done well ahead of time, and if you keep it in the fridge, just take out a good hour before cooking to relax the pastry and meat.
Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Beat an egg in a cup, add a little salt, and whisk to mix. Use a pastry brush, and brush the entire top and sides of the pastry. Place on your baking dish with a little butter greased underneath. Place in a hot oven, and bake for 45 – 50 minutes.
Remove from oven, lift the croute carefully out of the pan, and put on a serving platter. Pour the reserved sauce/sherry mix into the baking pan, and boil to reduce a little. If you want a beautiful glossy jus, mix a small knob of butter into the sauce, but you might have to pour the jus back into the saucepan to do that. Much easier to control and emulsify the sauce. Pour the sauce into a sauce boat.
Serve with sliced baked potatoes. (I slice Dutch Creams very thinly and layer in a ceramic dish), cover with hot stock (1 teaspoon stock powder mixed with ½ – ¾ cup of hot water), and pour some thick cream on the top. Place in oven to bake with the meat. They should both be ready at the same time.
And for greens? I recently served a dish of my home-grown rocket, plain. The peppery freshness of the rocket was a perfect foil for the richness of the meat, the jus and the potatoes.
Do you entertain still, dear readers? I hope this recipe becomes a favourite with you like it has with me!