I suddenly realized I was standing in this large kitchen and some Asian dude was standing in front of me, opening a large display case and screaming, “And the final ingredient in today’s battle is ROSEMARY!” And there, in the case were a few dozen 6 to 8 inch long branches of rosemary. Lovely. Fragrant. Delightful. And I had an hour to prepare four dishes that highlighted rosemary.
Across from me was some imposing person I’d never heard of before. Cat Flayer or something like that.
The way Cat Flayer was looking at the rosemary galvanized me, so I pounced, grabbed half the rosemary, and retreated to my side of the kitchen. A trip to the pantry and cooler, and I had a nice thick Angus strip steak, a dozen “colossal” deveined shell-on raw shrimp, half a dozen scallops, a good sized zuchinni, a summer squash,a medium sized onion, two cloves of garlic, a bottle of dry champagne, a lemon, butter, olive oil, fish sauce, Bragg’s “natural” cider vinegar, salt, a blend of red, white, and black peppers in a grinder, a quart of whipping cream, a quart of milk, a bottle of honey, and some fussy little sugar cookies.
Like any good cook, I started prep work by washing my hands.
I put a shot of freshly squeezed lemon juice, a shot of champagne, a grind of pepper, and a dash of salt into a gallon ziplock. Next, the shrimp and scallops went in there. Every time I thought about it, I massaged them and turned them over. About every 10 minutes.
After filling the bag with raw shrimp and scallops, I washed my hands again.
Next, I stripped the rosemary leaves off 6 sprigs of rosemary, leaving about 1/2 to 1 inch of rosemary on the sprigs.
The steaks needed to be seasoned, and to marinate. So, they were sprinkled with salt, a healthy grind of pepper, and covered with about half the rosemary I’d stripped from the sprigs. The steaks were quickly re-wrapped in their butcher paper to concentrate the flavors.
After handling raw meat, I washed my hands again.
Two cups of cream, a cup of milk, 1/2 a cup of honey, 1/4 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt went into a pan and were heated over medium low heat. I stirred until the sugar was dissolved and the mixture was around 150F. I added 1 1/2 sprigs of rosemary (the ones that still had all their leaves intact), removed the pot from the heat, set it aside, and covered it, again to concentrate the flavors.
A few tablespoons of butter and an ounce of olive oil went into a large skillet on medium heat. As the butter melted, I julienned an onion. It went into the skillet with the slightly browned butter and olive oil. As the onion caramelized, I minced the two cloves of garlic and added them to the onion. Next, it was time to wash the zucchini and summer squash, cut off their ends, and slice them into 1/8 to 1/4 inch slices. They went into the skillet with the slightly browned butter and olive oil. I covered the pan, turned the heat way down low,. and from time to time I used a spatula to turn the squash slices.
As the squash was cooking, I speared the shrimp and scallops on the mostly stripped rosemary sprigs. First a shrimp, then a scallop, then a shrimp, then a scallop.
After handling raw seafood, it was again time to wash my hands.
All the time this was going on, some odd guy maybe Alton Blackened Redfish, kept droning on and on.
It was time to pull the rosemary out of the milk, cream, honey and sugar mixture, and cool it in an ice bath. As soon as it hit 50F. I strained it to remove any stray rosemary leaves and the mixture went into the ice cream maker.
As the milk was cooling, I tossed the rest of the rosemary I’d stripped from the sprigs on top of the squash and stirred it in. The low heat was cooking the squash, and they were giving up some nice pot liquor.
By then it was time to preheat the grill and scrub it clean, and to put some plates in the warmer.
Once the grill was hot, the strip steak was unwrapped and put on the grill. I turned off the burners under the steak, so only the back burner was going, and turned it down to low. I like a hot grill to sear the meat, but indirect heat to cook it.
Once the strip steak was on the grill, it was time to wash my hands again, and add a shot of cider vinegar and a shot of fish sauce to the squash. The caramelized onions and the fish sauce both added umami to the squash, and the cider vinegar gave it more depth, tang and a little punch.
After 5 minutes, I went back to the grill, flipped the steak, and added the skewered seafood to the grill. We’re shooting for medium rare on the steak. The thickness of the steak, the heat of the grill and how you prefer your steak would change how long you cook it.
Handling raw food meant it was time to wash my hands again. About the time I was done washing my hands, it was back to the grill to flip the seafood using tongs and a spatula. I didn’t want to burn my tender pinkies. And I was tired of washing my hands.
Two minutes later, the shrimp was a nice pink color, so they were put on warmed plates and sent to the judges with a glass of champagne. The guy who had screamed about the secret ingredient asked me about my food philosophy and how I’d used the secret ingredient. I said something lame about how I’d used the rosemary to tie together a contemporary deconstructed surf’n’turf. Some of the judges didn’t like the fact the shrimp hadn’t been peeled.
The steak was transferred to a warmed plate, covered and held for 5 minutes. Letting a steak rest is so important to it’s flavor and moistness.
5 minutes later, I cut the steal into serving sized pieces, plated them, and added the squash to the steak platter and sent it to the judges. Each of them got another glass of the same champagne that was used to marinate the shrimp – champagne goes with everything! I said something about the squash adding an element of homey comfort. One of the judges didn’t like the way the squash had fallen apart and suggested thicker slices might have allowed us to avoid that. Another judge liked the way the slices were falling apart. There’s no pleasing everyone. A few people complained that this might be good home cooking, it wasn’t cheffy enough for them. I can live with that.
About that time, the ice cream maker was done, and so I scooped the honey rosemary ice cream into bowls, added some sugar cookies and was done. I said something about rosemary being as home with sweet as savory. One judge was amazed by the ice cream.
Then it was Cat Flayer’s turn, but before that happened my wife was shaking me. “Honey, you’ve been napping a while now. You said you were going to fix dinner. Do you still want to fix dinner?” I opened my eyes, stretched like a cat, and said, “YES! I will! Let’s get some rosemary from the plant in the back yard!”
The dinner was great! Too bad I didn’t take any pictures. *sigh*
Thanks to http://pastrystudio.blogspot.com/2009/08/honey-rosemary-ice-cream.html for the ice cream recipe – it’s been a favorite for years!