Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas roast beef well done. Lesson learned.

I don't use my convection oven too often. In fact, I even try to adjust some oven recipies for stovetop.

I know, it's a luxury to have a convection oven in a rental place, but in a small place with an open kitchen the loud oven fan sounds so annoying that it takes most of the pleasure out of cooking, and there is no escape from it. If I have to use the oven, I'd better know how long it would take, and go for a walk to get away from the sound.

As a result, I don't know the oven's character too well. It's OK for slow-cooking braises, where an extra 15 minutes won't make a lot of difference, or for baking small things - I'll just sit outside in the garden, and come check my cookies every five minutes.

A New York beef roast is different. It takes a while to cook, and the timing should be precise. I had figured 10 minutes searing at 500, then 1 hour at 325 for a 4 lb. roast should be good. So I seared the roast, reduced the temperature, and went for a short hike in the hills.

When I was back, the roast was medium-well done! You can see that all the bloody life is gone out of it's center. It turnes out that the convection cooks beef much faster than the usual 15 minutes per pound.

Well, this made R. happy - he thinks that I usually undercook my meat (not that it would stop him from enjoying it), and I learned a lesson.

I was very happy with the rest of the dinner: red wine and mustard sauce, roast potatoes and garlic, steamed bok choy, baby arugula salad with persimmons and pomergranate vinaegrette dressing, and especially with the wine. A forgotten bottle of Dry Creek Mariner meritage 2004 turned up on the bottom of the wine refrigerator by surprise; the wine was wonderful, and the cork was at it's limit, a couple more month and the wine would be in trouble.

Tasting a new mushroom:

Matsutake mushrooms have been all the rage recently. From the Farmers Market to foodie blogs everyone is very excited about their unique aroma.

I approached them in the market a few times, but I didn't like the smell at all, and ended up getting other mushrooms instead.

This Saturday, while shopping at San Francisco ferry building, we were confronted by the wealth of mushrooms at Far West Fungi. The selection is overwhelming. They have black and white truffles ("Why so expensive? Are they hallucinogenic?"), porcinis, two tipes of chanterelles, and about any other mushroom I've seen in this country; fresh, dried, canned, and mushroom-seeded logs to grow your own. I had to satisfy my curiosity this time, and gor fresh matsutakes.

I cooked them with a little onion and rice, smelling all the time in the hope for the wonderful aroma to emerge in cooking. They smell the same cooked. I find their sharp resinious smell mildly irritating, chemical, and not food-like at all. They smell of a pine forest all right, but not of a sunny bright pines by a sea shore that I hoped to get, but of wet, cold pines on a rainy day, with a highway nearby.

It reminds me of retsina, the Greek wine that was traditionally preserved by sealing it with pine resin. I managed to develop a taste for chilled retsina on a hot afternoon, with bright lemony Greek summer fare; similar smell in a fall mushroom just doesn't make sense to me.

So this fashionable mushroom didn't take. I'll give it another chance by grilling it next time. But the first impression is that for the same money I would rather have porcini every time.

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