Seared Buffalo with Fennel Béarnaise and Herb Crêpe
Once again, it is Joust time! Jenn, the Leftover Queen has a monthly Royal Foodie Joust where foodies from all over the world compete using three ingredients. Last month's winner was Peter from Souvlaki For the Soul who picked these ingredients for this month's joust:* Fennel (any part) * Dairy (in any form) * Parsley
Definitely a tough one. But, the winners of two out of the last three Jousts were named Peter, so maybe the trend will continue! :)
For my entry, I seared buffalo cubes with fennel bulb, shiitake mushrooms, and shallots, and covered with a béarnaise made from fennel and parsley instead of the traditional tarragon and chervil. I placed the food on a savory crêpe made with fennel and parsley.
I'm not a huge fan of fennel, but I am of tarragon. Which is a little odd as they're both anise-like, but I figured a béarnaise using fennel would be pretty interesting, with the green-tasting parsley instead of mild chervil, and the butter, of course, being the dairy. I wanted a pretty good meaty protein to hold up to the béarnaise, so I decided on lean buffalo, with some shiitake for a bit of earthiness, and shallot and fennel bulb for some tangy crunch. I was considering an herb potato pancake for the base of the meal, but figured if I made an herb crêpe instead, I'd get the fennel, parsley, and milk for my ingredient trifecta again, and if I made it open-faced, I'd sandwich the buffalo with the joust challenge, top and bottom.
I started with the crêpes, as they could sit for a while. I chopped some fennel fronds and parsley, then blended 1/2 cup of flour, an egg, about 1/3 cup of milk, some olive oil, and the herbs. After mixing, I tossed the batter into the fridge to rest.
Then, I started the reduction for the béarnaise. 1/3 cup champagne vinegar, 1/3rd cup white wine (I used pinot grigio), some chopped shallots, and some more fennel fronds, heated to a simmer to reduce down to about 2-3 tablespoons.
Next, I trimmed the silverskin off the buffalo. Unlike beef, buffalo fat isn't marbled very much into the muscle, so it's very lean. It's a little more like venison than beef, and it cooks pretty rapidly. I wanted a good seared meaty taste, almost like what you get with a teppenyaki or Japanese steak house style, so I cubed the meat and did a quick and simple marinade in soy, some olive oil, salt and pepper.
For the vegetables, I used a bit of thinly sliced fennel bulb, some sliced shallots, and thinly sliced shiitake, and set them aside.
My prep work was pretty much finished at this point, so I started the crêpes. I heated up my cast iron skillet with a thin layer of olive oil and put in about 1/4 cup batter. I rotated the pan to get a roughly roundish sort of shape.
After the crêpes, I heated a stainless skillet with some more olive oil and started sauteing the fennel and shallots. When just starting to brown around the edges, I added the shiitake and cooked some more, then put aside until the buffalo was ready.
I cleaned out my cast iron skillet, heated it up to medium high, and added more olive oil. I seared the buffalo on high heat and turned the cubes over halfway to brown on the other side. When almost cooked, I added the veggies back in to be heated together.
To finish the béarnaise, I strained the few tablespoons of reduced wine/vinegar into a bowl, waited until cooled, and added the yolks of three eggs. I chopped some more fennel and parsley, and cut a cold stick of butter into rough tablespoons.
I lightly whipped the yolks/wine/vinegar and started stirring in a pan held over simmering water. The yolks will thicken at just the right temperature, giving an almost mayo consistency. At that point, I added the pats of butter a couple at a time until incorporated, then tossed in the herbs and the juice of half a lemon.
Plating was an herb crêpe, covered with buffalo and vegetables, with a good amount of béarnaise poured over the top. Garnish with parsley and fennel.
Savory Crêpe 1/2 cup unbleached flour 1/3 cup milk 2 tsp olive oil 1 tablespoon chopped fennel frond 1 tablespoon chopped parsley 1 tsp kosher salt
Mix all ingredients, and let batter rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Heat a skillet over medium and lightly brush surface with olive oil. Pour 1/4 cup of batter into center and rotate pan to spread the batter in a thin circle. When the top is almost cooked and set, flip crêpe and cook on other side for another minute. Crêpes can be saved in between paper towels for hours.
Buffalo and vegetables 2 6oz buffalo steaks, trimmed Fennel bulb 1 large shallot 6oz shiitake mushrooms 1/4 soy sauce Kosher salt/Black pepper 2 tbsp olive oil
Trim the steaks then cube into roughly 1/2" cubes. Toss with salt & pepper and soy sauce in a bowl, then marinade in fridge for 30 minutes. Slice the shallot, clean and slice the shiitake caps, slice fennel bulb thinly until roughly the same amount as the shallots. Heat a pan over medium high, and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Saute the shallot and fennel bulb until just starting to brown. Add the sliced shiitake and saute until mushrooms have cooked. Reserve.
Heat cast iron skillet over medium heat, add remaining olive oil and add buffalo meat. Try to leave as much of the soy sauce in the bowl, as the steam will prevent a good sear. Sear for approximately 5 minutes, then stir buffalo to sear the other side for an additional minute. Add the reserved vegetables and cook until warm.
Fennel Béarnaise 1/3 cup champagne vinegar (any wine vinegar will work) 1/3 cup white wine 1 chopped shallot 2 tbsp chopped fennel frond 1 tbsp chopped parsley 1 stick butter 3 egg yolks 1/2 lemon
Simmer the wine and vinegar with the shallot and 1 tbsp chopped fennel, until the liquid has reduced to 2-3 tablespoons. Strain into a small saucepan, pushing on the shallots and fennel to extract the liquid. When liquid has cooled, add three egg yolks and stir together. Chop butter into roughly 8 pieces. Hold saucepan over a larger pan of simmering water and stir briskly -- air will get into the yolks and make it a little fizzy. The eggs will thicken when the sauce is hot, but not hot enough to cook the yolks. There will be a definite point where the yolks are liquid, then get to an almost gravy-like thickness (you can very easily see the bottom of the pan while stirring). Start adding butter a couple pieces at a time and whisk until melted. The sauce should only be warm enough to melt the butter at this point, it can be taken off the steam bath unless it gets too cold to melt the butter. When all the butter is incorporated, whisk in the other 1 tbsp of fennel, and the parsley, and squeeze in the juice of 1/2 lemon. Stir the sauce over the steam bath again only until warmed and serve immediately.
Deconstruction: This worked. The buffalo was meaty but not tough at all. I loved the way the shiitake went with it. The shallot/fennel mixture was a little absent, a little more of both might have been good, and maybe the other half of the lemon could have been squirted into the meat mixture right before taking it off. That's nitpicky, though, it was really good. The béarnaise worked really well with the fennel, better than I guessed it would.