Do you have some favorite cookbooks that you just keep returning to? Maybe only once a year, but you find yourself drawn to “that recipe” that you loved and you cannot find anywhere else. Twenty-one years ago, Nicole Routhier published Cooking Under Wraps. With her Asian heritage and French culinary education, this book could only have been written by Nicole.
The book is out of print, but available used via Amazon. Run, don’t walk.
This is the premier recipe we have used from Cooking Under Wraps. Suzen has offered it a hundred times at her corporate events where corporate teams [or families] gather in our kitchen to cook together. In her events, Suzi divides the group up into teams, one recipe per team. Some team has the task of the main course, this time the salt tenderloin. When it comes time for the “big” step, everyone stops what they are doing with their recipes and gathers around the meat as it is wrapped in a salt-intense dough for final cooking. Everyone wonders what will happen. And when they bite in, everyone is positively amazed at the rich, moist, absolutely yummy flavor. This is how meat was made to be cooked.
In the picture above, we completed the meal with faro and corn-heavy succotash. Those recipes will appear here during the coming week. The trio form a meal that you can proudly serve to family or friends or just yourself.
The meat saves for days and is ideal for a leftover sandwich. French bread, some flavored mayonnaise, and sliced onions are the only other components you need for a lunch, or brunch, or even a dinner delight.
Nicole suggests this recipe for either tenderloin or venison. I assure you, the salt crusts does not make the meat salty; it’s just there as a barrier to let the meat literally steam as it bakes. But the meat is infused with the wonderful flavors of from the fresh thyme and garlic employed in the preparation.
For roasting in a salt crust, Nicole suggests using a short loin cut, which is as tender as the tenderloin but slightly less expensive. Do make a special effort to get fresh thyme for this dish. Although the dried version can be used, the end result will not approach the taste obtained with fresh herbs.
Salt Tenderloin (or Venison)
Yield: 4 main-course servings
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus additional if necessary
- 1 cup coarse kosher salt
- 2 large egg whites
- 1 boneless Beef or venison short loin (about 2 pounds), at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ⅓ cup dry white wine, such as Chardonnay
- ⅓ cup beef broth
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Prepare the salt dough: Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse to blend. Gently beat the egg whites and 2/3 cup water together in a bowl. With the motor on, add the egg and water mixture through the feed tube and blend just until the dough holds together and rides on the blade. The dough should be firm and moist, not sticky. If the dough is too dry or crumbly, add about 1 tablespoon or more water. If it’s too sticky, add about 1 tablespoon of flour.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gather the dough together, briefly knead it, and shape it into a smooth flat disk. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
Prepare the meat: Rinse the meat thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Trim the silver skin and any visible fat from the meat. Tuck the long ends of the meat under the loin to make a neat roll. Tie the roll in several places with kitchen string.
Put the butter and oil in a roasting pan large enough to hold the venison and heat over moderately high heat. When hot, add the venison and sear well on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the loin to a platter to cool. (Reserve the pan drippings to make the sauce.)
Prepare the sauce: Add the white wine to the roasting pan with the drippings and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release any browned bits, and cook until the wine is reduced by half, about 1 minute. Add the beef broth. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 1 minute. Pour the reduced liquid into a small saucepan, cover, and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Wrap the venison: Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Roll the dough out to a rectangle about 11 by 15 inches long and perhaps ¼ inch thick, large enough to envelop the piece of venison without stretching the dough.
Drain the meat juices that have collected on the venison platter into the saucepan of reduced liquid. Place the loin in the center of the dough. Mix the thyme and garlic together and pat the mixture over the meat. Fold one long side of the dough over the meat and lightly moisten the top surface with water. Fold the other side over to enclose the meat, and press the dough together to seal. Lightly moisten the ends of the dough, fold the ends up, and press to completely seal the package. Transfer the wrapped loin, seam side up, to an ungreased baking sheet.
Roast the meat: Place the baking sheet with the meat in the oven. For rare meat, roast for 15 minutes (about 8 minutes per pound), or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the meat reads 115°F. For medium rare, roast an additional 5 minutes, or until the meat’s internal temperature reaches 120°F. Remove the roast from the oven and let it rest in the crust on the baking sheet for at least 30 minutes but no more than one hour. The meat will remain warm for up to an hour.
To serve: Cut open the salt crust at one end with a pair of scissors. If you are opening the crust soon after it comes out of the oven, be careful of the escaping steam. Remove the meat to a cutting board, being careful to save all the juices collected in the crust. Drain the juices into the sauce and discard the crust. Briefly reheat the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper if necessary. Cut the meat into 8 thick slices and arrange them on warmed dinner plates. Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve at once.
Source: Cooking Under Wraps by Nicole Routhier
Photo Information [top picture]: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5.0 for 1/8th second at ISO-3200
Salt is one of the most potent, essential ingredients in cooking. Its ability to draw out and intensify flavor is unmatched. The book Salted: A manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral with Recipes provides a wealth of facts and ideas for all of us salt lovers.
Author Mark Bitterman is the “selmelier” of The Meadow, a salt store created by his wife Jennifer with branches in Portland and New York City. The store is a hoot, because you can go in and taste test their world-wide array of salts. There is amazing diversity in their salt collection and you are almost sure to leave with a few bags, all filled with sodium chloride, but all having bright and different flavors.
How those flavors are created, where they come from, what it all means — those are the topics of the book Salted. History, craft and science are all presented in a beautiful laid out book that will surely make you want to sample and experiment. Dozens of salt varieties from around the world are described and compared. The descriptions here are simply unparalleled.
Upscale gourmet stores now offer multiple varieties of salt but they really pale to the world view presented in Salted and available at The Meadow. Bitterman calls salt the “crown jewels of great food.” His passion is evident on every page.
And, there’s a bonus to Salted. Those recipes. This salmon is a perfect example. We’ve all had salmon. We know how it tastes. Even how it feels. So this recipe really surprised me with its very different taste and the feel to the mouth. The use of sesame and peppercorns, in abundance, creates a salmon flavor that I had never experienced before. And, cooking the salmon with that seedy layer on top of sesame oil results in a definite crust that you have to snap through before reaching the tender salmon body. The effect is very noticeable and a taste treat.
If you enjoy salmon, but seek a truly different spin, then grab your sesame seeds and some smoked salt.
Grilled Sesame Salmon with Cyprus Hardwood Smoked Flake Salt
Yield: serves 4 people
- 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon Szechwan peppercorns, green or pink or mixed
- ¼ teaspoon powdered ginger
- 1 ¾ pounds wild salmon fillet (about 1 ¼ inches thick), pin bones and skin removed
- 7 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, preferably black sesame oil
- 4 two-finger pinches Cyprus hardwood smoked flake salt
- 2 sesame leaves, coarsely chopped, or 1 scallion, trimmed and finely sliced
Preheat a covered grill to medium heat (about 375°F).
Combine the black and white sesame seeds in a small bowl. Crush the peppercorns with the flat side of a broad knife, like a cleaver or a chef’s knife. Add the pepper and the ginger to the sesame seeds and stir to combine. Set aside.
Coat both sides of the salmon with 2 teaspoons of the sesame oil. Scatter the sesame seed mixture all over both sides of the salmon and press lightly into the flesh.
Brush the grill grate thoroughly with a wire brush to clean it, and coat it lightly with oil. Grill the fish for10 minutes with the lid down, turning halfway through, until the surface is crisp and browned and the flesh feels slightly spongy when pressed at its thickest spot. Gently pull apart the flesh at the thickest part; the centers should still be a translucent, darker pink. Transfer to a platter using a wide spatula.
Drizzle the remaining teaspoon of sesame oil over the fish and sprinkle with the salt. Scatter the chopped sesame leaves [or scallion] over the top and serve.
Source: Salted by Mark Bitterman