DOWN TO THE BONE WITH CHEF JEAN PIERRE
WORDS AND IMAGES: JEAN PIERRE LE ROUX
Chef Jean Pierre gets ready for a carnivourous feast with four cuts of meat on the bone
We’re in the midst of yet another new phenomenon – no more floods, this time a heat wave – which, I guess has made us all go a little mad.
The baking sun has driven me indoors to watch my favourite 80s movies – which has, in turn, evoked my silly sense of humour over the last couple of days. It has been all classic Monty Python. These mad movies have inspired me to do something completely different…quote unquote.
So, the weather is hot and to the fire we go …even if you don’t eat meat, you’ll sure like the bone.
This time round, I have chosen four cuts of meat, bone on, to inspire a little madness from my culinary skill set – a two-foot tomahawk with homemade bagels on the fire, a Thor’s Hammer, shin on the bone, a not-so-junior T-bone, some lekker lamb chops and, to once again emphasise my completely insane side, goose berry chips.
Before we get started, I have a riddle for you guys… both the farmer and the sheep were mortified when Babe the pig was unwell… explanation to follow, if you haven’t unravelled this one.
Ok, back to our chef’s beautiful meat madness … I think that a variety of meat cuts are the perfect way to explore different textures and taste sensations. Some like it rare, more like it charred. Whatever tickles your fancy can be the order of the day. When it comes to me, personally, I like my cut crispy on the outside and pink and moist on the inside.
Temperature – or flame control – is the obvious key element. But, also knowing your cut and how often to turn and burn it is important. I guess that there is always a new king in the braai arena – but also a village idiot. Quite a few lads in Monty Python will concur.
A little funny story that came to mind, when a dear friend of mine sent me a video clip, of a blue steak, was an incident that happened whilst I was working at a top Durban restaurant. For my sins, I was head chef running the kitchen. When a customer asked for a blue steak, I headed for the griddle. But, after three attempts, it was sent back, with anger from both the Maître-D’ and the diner. So, I had to think on my feet. I escaped into the cold room, grabbed a completely uncooked cut, added some garnish and personally delivered it to the diner… next time, I will tell you the outcome.
THE LIFE (AND TIMES) OF A CHOP
The movie Life of Brian has inspired me to make this dish – simplistic, but tasty, and with a side twist.
My often over active creative mind never stops and, as soon as I come up with an idea, I run straight into my test kitchen and transform into a culinary reality on the fly, regardless of the time zone.
As most will know, lamb braai chops have become a delicacy in our country and I guess this could just spread across the globe to the world’s barbeques. But, I’ll always vouch for the fact that there is nothing tastier than the good old Karoo, chop – and those sheep do eat grass I am led to believe!
There is a bit of a conflict of interest when you ask your butcher for braai chops. Sometimes they are cut very thin, as some say, for your convenience. But alas, my chops, need to be at least an inch thick due to the fact that lamb is a very delicate meat and too much direct heat will well and truly crisp it but leave still raw inside. Or, you could end up with the opposite – too thin will just have you serving up completely scorched meat – and you will be the chop who is having to explain just what happened to your friends and, perhaps, even to your mother-in-law.
My perfect chop is simply basted with some low sodium Kikkoman soy sauce (MSG free), braai seasoning and a few peppercorns. As a chef, I love to advocate that, sometimes, less is more due to the fact that over seasoning can overwhelm the true flavour of the meat.
On a medium to hot fire, lay down your chops, sear them for 2 minutes a side before lowering the temperature / coal intensity. Only turn them once again after 6 to 8 minutes. They should be crisp, but juicy on the inside.
Now, for my curve ball side dish. Back to watching the Life of Brian. A merchant was selling very strange tit bits at the Coliseum. One of them was goose nipple crisps. So, I decided to make my own. I got some fresh gooseberries, coated them in egg wash, bread crumbs, and some crispy vermicelli and deep fried them for a few minutes. There you go, a fruit basket of crispy chips as a side to enjoy alongside your bone-on lamb chop..
NOT QUITE THE JUNIOR T
The confusion often sets in. I must admit that I’m still bamboozled by the size of T bone steaks these days. Ladies’ T bones are now bigger than Junior T bone cuts and man sized T bones are smaller – so I elected to go for a universal sized T bone.
T bones are a very difficult cut to cook as some of the meat is rump and some is fillet. My trick is to cover the fillet side with a bit of tin foil, so that that you don’t overcook that part. As for the basting, do the same as you did for your chops, but with the addition of a homemade tomato and red pepper relish.
Having access to a flourishing garden, I have no qualms about digging around in there. I am often spoilt with home grown produce to prepare and serve on the side.
FOR THE RELISH:
a ripe tomato, sliced and diced in to bite sized portions
red pepper, hollowed out and cubed to match the viscosity of the tomato
a red onion, finely chopped
red chillies diced, pips removed
a splash of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
When it came to the starch to accompany the T-bone, I sliced some red sweet potato into disks and popped them into the air fryer for 6 minutes on 160ºC.
By the way, as my pooch Saffron will agree, this bone makes for a lovely doggy treat after you have chomped the very best of the meat from the bone, of course.
Collectively, the words and the image say it all.
I haven’t seen one of these in a while, but this big boy needs some attention when it comes to cooking. There are two very critical stages to perfect this big shin.
After choosing my butchers cut, I immediately brine it in a larger-than-life pot, adding some bay leaves, onion, mustard seeds and carrots. Cover overnight so that it is ready to go into the pressure cooker just after sunrise. Use the same brine, add some water to steam this bone-on shin for one and a half hours.
When the shin is cooked through, remove the meat from the brine and let it rest for a few minutes.
In this heat, you should be having another cold beverage, whist your fire gets going so that you can sear in all the goodness. I use another large potjie pot to end off with a lovely crispy edge.
I cover the bone with some tin foil so that I can handle my hammer with confidence. As I sear the bottom and sides after I have basted the shin, with some more mustard seeds, a good olive oil rub, a dash of origanum and salt and pepper.
You can let the shin rest for a while and slice the meat off the bone. If you want the cutlets more seasoned or wish to add a little more bite, you can serve it with some horseradish and some fresh rosemary sprigs.
Hopefully, you hit the nail on the head, and you can feast away whilst having another few brewskies to cool you down.
THE ALMIGHTY TOMAHAWK
This should take you back to the cave man days, when size clearly mattered. This larger-than-life beef cut, in my mind the most flavoursome cut above the rest, is actually a rib eye on the bone. If you can find a braai grid big enough, you can go ahead and bring out your cave man skills, and start gathering your simple basic ingredients.
FROM YOUR CAVEMAN PANTRY:
For your basting rub, mix up:
4 Tablespoons grapeseed oil
5 grams crushed garlic
4 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
20 grams butter
a handful of mustard seeds
1 Tablespoon dried thyme
salt and pepper
One you have reconnected with your ancestors, you’ll realise that making a good wood fire is about as real as you are going to get in this age of high tech gadgetry. So, use a stack of kindling and some kameel doring wood – it has both longevity and a lovely aroma/fragrance – and get braaing.
Wrap the bone with foil and start your cooking adventure. Whist you cook your meat on a medium fire, you can start making some rooster koek, but with my bagel shape twist.
On a mission to create something completely different, I decided to make a hole in the wall style rooster koek, in a bagel shape.
FROM YOUR PANTRY:
500 grams wheat flour
5 grams salt
15 grams brown sugar
6 grams dry yeast
20 ml Canola oil
320 ml luke warm water
Sift the flour, salt and add the yeast and sugar. Add 15 ml oil and the water. Make this into an elastic dough, kneading it for a few minutes.
Use the rest of the oil to cover your bowl and let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Using a rolling pin or even a wine bottle, roll them out in the shape of a sausage, 16cm in length. Fold the edges into a perfect round bagel shape and head back to your fire. Turn the meat and place your rooster koek on the side. Let them slowly rise to the occasion, turning them until they are a little charred and ready to serve with a few dollops of butter. Tuck into that juicy tender meat.
Now, you can proudly say that you made a ribeye tomahawk on the bone.
This 1.5 kg cut can feed at least 4 people, so cut it up and enjoy.
By now, after this carnivorous caper, you are probably looking forward to no meat Mondays! In closing, as per the movie, The Meaning of Life by Monty himself (just another thin wafer biscuit, sir), I can only say that I hope that you have enjoyed this majestic meaty madness which, I guess is the meaning of life…. bonafide, down-to-earth and to the bone.