How I Cook Steak pt2: Ageing and Dry Brining

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Ageing Steak intensifies the flavour and tenderises the meat.  For individual steaks at home I would generally leave them uncovered, on a plate and in the fridge, for about three days.  This is a nice balance of flavour and texture without loosing too much of the nutritional content. The oxidation evaporates the moisture (intensifying flavour) and breaks down the proteins (making it tender).  If you leave individual steaks too long, you’ll have to trim the outside (sometimes they get a hard crust or a bit mouldy) and you’ll lose too much meat.  When you see aged steak on a restaurant menu, say 40-60 days, the meat has been aged as a large cut then trimmed and portioned for minimal waste (it’s not practical to have a whole ribeye in your home fridge for 60 days).

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Dry brining is the most important step in the whole process.  After you’ve aged your steak, put it on a plate and season with salt on both sides (use quite a bit) and put it back in the fridge uncovered.  Do this on the morning you are going cook your steak.  The salt draws out any moisture left in the steak, it pools on top and eventually the salty liquid will seep back in. This seasons the meat on the inside.  Even if you have a crappy piece of meat with no age and are planning to cook the shit out of it on BBQ, this step will make it taste twice as good.

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Herbs ARE the secret ingredient.

Thats all there is to it.

One of the common themes in the best restaurants I’ve worked in is the use of a lot of fresh herbs.

Get a few flavour combinations under your belt and it will give your food complexity and class.

I think the main reasons that most home cooks don’t use many herbs are that they are expensive, they don’t keep well and they’re time consuming to pick, wash and store.

The best solution is to grow your own. Invest in seeds, pick what you need and there’s no need to wash organic herbs that you’ve grown yourself unless your dog pees on the garden.   I’m no expert on gardening but I reckon now would be a good time to plant your herbs.

We have lemon thyme, Italian flat leaf parsley, rosemary and mint growing in the garden all year round.  We grow basil and chillies in summer and that’s about it.  These herbs are versatile and easy to grow, and we use them in our everyday cooking.

Occasionally I’ll buy some herbs from the shop, but only to let ours regenerate.

If you do buy herbs from the shop it’s a good idea to pick the leaves into a sink of cold water.  It regenerates and washes them at the same time.  Put them through the salad spinner then into a container with dry paper towel on the bottom and damp paper towel on top.  This keeps them fresh and crisp for a surprisingly long time. Make sure you give the leaves plenty of room in the container, if they’re packed too tight they will decompose sooner.

As a general guide, eat lighter herbs (such as coriander, parsley, basil and mint) fresh, in salads or salsas and cook the heaver herbs (such as rosemary, thyme and bay leaves) with meats or roast vegetables.

Put combinations of mint, parsley, dill, coriander and tarragon into your mixed leaves.  Season with salt, lemon juice and olive oil.  Cook meats with butter, thyme or rosemary.  It will add a whole new dimension to your cooking, and is sure to impress.

 

How I Cook Steak Part 1: Choosing a Steak

Steak is about flavour and nutrition. My goal is to balance both.  In this series of posts I’d like to share my method of cooking steak and tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years. 
 
For the majority of 2012, I worked at the Ancaster Mill in Canada. It was a fantastic experience, working with some of Canada’s top young chefs.
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Hayley and Bryan Gibson (head chef), hanging out and eating steak.

 

I think Hayley and I will always remember this night.  Hayley had come to Ancaster to pick me up. The kitchen crew invited her in and we soon started talking meat and wine.  Chef Bryan explained the process of dry aging and told us everything he knew about beef. He grabbed out a slab of dry-aged strip loin (porterhouse), heated up a cast-iron pan and cooked it then and there on the stove top with butter and salt.  While it was resting Maria, the maitre d of the restaurant, brought in a bottle of British Columbia wine she was particularly proud of sourcing, and poured a glass each. Bryan sliced up the steak and we stood around eating it with our fingers. We got to eat the best produce Canada had to offer, chosen by experts in their field, as simple as it gets. Absolutely perfect. Words really can’t explain the generosity and warmth Hayley and I received while at the Mill. They put up with my relentless questions, inane and never-ending conversations about Crossfit / Paleo / food in general and my flighty work schedule.  I learned a lot, and in exchange I let the guys have my old jokes.
 
Part 1: Choosing a Steak.  
My favourite cut of beef is the rib eye (scotch fillet).  It can be purchased whole or as an individual steak, bone on or off.  I think it’s best to buy individual streaks with the bone on, the bone adds flavour and it looks like something out of the Flintstones (which is cool).  Buying individual steaks for a group of people is more work, but the caramelised exterior of a cooked steak is the best part, everyone will thank you for it.   The photo on the right is a 500gm Cape Grim rib eye (notice the marbling), taken while I was working at Backstreet Eating earlier this year.
Generally speaking, the rib eye has more fat within the steak than most other cuts (that’s why I like it). The fat melts and keeps the steak moist while cooking and adds beefy flavour. Regardless of the cut you like, look for nice fat marbling (threads of fat within the meat) and a light cherry colour, not too dark nor too pale. The better quality ingredients you have the less work you need to do to make it taste good.
I don’t know what cut of meat is in the first photo and I don’t know what I was doing.  I do know it looks amazing. The second photo is a striploin (porterhouse) being prepared for service at the Mill.  Thirdly is a nice pare of Canadian eye fillet steaks.  These three photos show the marbling and colour that you are looking for when choosing steak.
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Of course, it is best to eat organic grass fed beef opposed to grain fed. Dave Aspery from Bulletproof Exec writes: ‘Steers (castrated bulls) can’t make nutritious meat if they aren’t fed the proper ingredients.  If a steer isn’t fed nutritious food, it won’t become nutritious food.  There is no magical transformation from stale gummy bears (part of the feedlot diet) into vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.  Feeding cattle junk food turns them into junk food.’  You can find the article this quote was taken from here – its well worth a read, actually, anything Dave Aspery writes is worth a read.

Once you choose your steak and take it home, I recommend giving it some age. Part 2 in the How I Cook Steak series: Ageing Beef.

Not Eating for Productivity.

Eat-Stop-Eat-Intermittent-FastingBefore I get to the core of this post I’d like to share a little back story.
I left University with a Bachelor of Music, a stack of unread books, a catalogue of lecture notes and a to-do list the length of my arm. I was overwhelmed with the enormity of my ambition.  I contemplated my options and made a plan.  I decided to invest one year of full-time study/practice at home, working only weekends and nights.  This was for the year 2010.
My first task for the year was to study the process of learning.  I figured that if I could improve my quality of learning I could get more done in less time.  Under the umbrella of learning I studied health, nutrition, fitness, sleep, meditation, happiness, task management, goal setting, art and art related theory, Alexander technique, presence and nootropics amongst other things.  Although I did get a lot healthier and a lot happier I wasn’t getting anything done.  I knew exactly what to do and how to do it but study itself became a form of procrastination.
So, my brain working the way it does, I decided to study productivity…….
Then, about two years later I started to get things done.  I started writing my own music.
Regardless of your goals and ambitions, how you think and process the world around you has a huge impact on your life and how you go about getting things done.  Clarity of thought, focus and energy can all be enhanced with small considerations to your diet and nutrition.  I’d like to share a few things that I have experimented with that may help you stay sharp and be more productive.
First things first, you’ve got to get your base-line diet under control.  The aim is to eliminate peaks and troughs and maintain consistent energy though out the day.  Avoiding sugar, grains and high GI carbs should do the trick.
Plan your meals.
If you know what you are going to eat (and roughly when you are going to eat it) you don’t have to waste energy thinking about food during the day.  Like will-power, decision making is a limited resource and when it’s up for the day – it’s up. Save your brain power for your work.
Bulletproof Coffee. 
I’ve been drinking Bulletproof Coffee every morning for the past two months now and it’s had the most impact on my day-to-day productivity than anything I’ve ever done.  Coffee stimulates the brain, the butter gives you energy (about 6 hours) without affecting the balance of your hormones and the MCT oil cranks your body into fat burning mode (the key to intermittent fasting).
Intermittent Fasting.
When you fast you tell yourself you’re not getting any food until a specific time, and until that time, work gets done. Different people recommend different periods for fasting based on an eating window. The most common is 16-8, 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating.  Whatever 8 hours suits your schedule.
If you are interested in intermittent fasting I would recommend taking a look at Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof fasting, Leangains, Paul Jaminet or James Clear.
Supplements and Other Specific Foods.
I find that most supplements that claim to boost memory, focus and clarity of thought are not really measurable.  Because you are sitting down and doing your work, you’ll never know if the supplements are helping or you are just practicing the process of focusing your brain.  This is similar to specific foods recommended for brain health, like blueberries, wild caught salmon or mixed nuts. They’ll get you on the right track to a clean diet but they won’t make you sit down and do your work (what is actually important).
Once you have your diet and sleep under control you may need a little help getting the work done.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. 
Regardless of what you are trying to get done this book will help.  It’s short and beautifully written.
The Seinfeld Method. 
James Clear wrote this excellent post on the Seinfeld method and it is well worth a read.  Basically, your aim is to do your task every day and be accountable.  Seinfeld recommends a yearly calendar, when you start crossing off days with a red X you won’t want to stop.
 
If you would like any more information or recommended reading leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Bulletproof Coffee……. Oh Buddy.

Bulletproof coffee is: Coffee, Organic grass-fed butter and MCT oil blended together.  It is amazing.  MCT oil is found in coconut oil (that’s what I use) and is the next best thing if you don’t have the pure extract ( http://www.upgradedself.com/upgraded-mct-oil.html).  Sometimes I just drink coffee with butter.

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Bulletproof coffee is the trademark of Dave Asprey.  Asprey is the founder and author of the biohacking site Bulletproof Executive and podcasts Bulletproof Radio.  I highly recommend both and suggest you take a look at the original post on the Bulletproof Coffee recipe.

http://www.bulletproofexec.com

https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/bulletproof-executive-radio/id451295014

I have been on Bulletproof coffee for about a week now and it has made a huge difference. I’m not sure if Bulletproof coffee is good for everyone, but I’m 100% sure it’s good for me. I noticed the difference instantly. I have increased my focus (therefore my productivity), I have more consistent energy and less hunger (without overeating the night before or interrupting the balance of my hormones). The effects of the coffee usually last about 3-4 hours. Thats solid, uninterrupted work. Also, because I’ve been interested in intermittent fasting lately Bulletproof Coffee has been very important.  Check out Bulletproof fasting if you’re interested.

Did I mention it tastes amazing?

Food for thought.

Thinking about food is important, experiencing food is crucial.

Hayley and I both write (and think) a lot about the health benefits of foods, we follow contemporary research and are endlessly experimenting with diet and exercise.  But thinking about food is only one side of the equation.  It means absolutely nothing if you don’t pay attention to how the food you are eating makes you feel. Experiencing the effects of foods and feeding that information back through a reflective loop is how you figure out a diet that allows optimum performance across all domains the majority of the time.

 

The aim is not to find a perfect diet, write it down and stick to it. That would be pointless. Everything is in a consistent state of change and trying to stick to a rigid diet plan will only yield temporary results (because it feels restrictive). It becomes too stressful to maintain, and in turn is bad for your health (stress wreaks havoc on your hormones). 

 

The aim is to practice body awareness, where the process is the product.  The process is experimenting with different foods and considering the effects they have on your body.  The product is choosing foods that don’t make you feel like shit.  Over time these choices will become instinctual, and most probably be the foods you need to maintain good health.

 

The interesting aspect of improving health is the exponential growth of self learning.  By cleaning up your diet you’ll most likely improve your clarity of thought and your ability to focus.  And when it comes down to it, that’s what learning is; focus and commitment to what you are doing as you are doing it.  As side effect, you might experience improved and longer sustained energy, you might save time, become more efficient in your work, improve your memory, learn faster, grow stronger, live longer, be happier.  No guarantees, but maybe?

 

Heightened awareness of your eating habits has beneficial side effects too.  Initially you may become aware of how your body feels, then through practice you may quieten your mind enough to experience everything as it is happening. It takes a little courage to let yourself be so vulnerable, but the rewards outweigh the effort. Engagement in life is the true goal.

 

To get started, consider this; Where does what you know come from? What was the last thing you read?

 

One final note; The internet is full of shady characters, don’t believe everything you read, formulate your own opinions.

 

If you’d like some recommended reading on any of these topics leave a comment.
Tyson

Super Breakfast

Quinoa Porridge with Banana and Coconut Milk.

For those of you eating breakfast, this is a ripper for the winter months.  Hayley and I started making it a couple of months back when we were first playing around with the Perfect Health Diet.

Quinoa is a seed, not a grain, so therefore falls under the Paleo umbrella (in case you were wondering). Quinoa is a super food, it’s great source of protein, vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids. In combination with the healthy fats from the coconut milk and a few carbs from half a banana, quinoa porridge is a pretty balanced (and nutritious) meal.    

We always cook enough quinoa for a couple of days and leave it in the fridge.  Boil about one cup of quinoa in water until it has opened up but is not fully cooked (bite it, it should be slightly firm but not soft).  From there, strain and lay out on a tray to let cool.  When it’s cool put it in the fridge.   

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When you get up in the morning and are ready for breakfast put a handful of cooked quinoa in a pan with about half a can of coconut milk and about half a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup.  You’ll need to warm it up and let the quinoa finishing cooking in the coconut milk. 

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From there, taste for the right amount of sweetness, put it in a bowl with half a sliced banana and enjoy! 

 

 

A few benefits of bone broth.

In the general vernacular “broth” and “stock” are used interchangeably, but as an explanation of terms, a broth is made at home with bones and leftovers and a stock is a strict recipe used in commercial kitchens to maintain consistency. I’m talking about broth, mainly because once you understand the health benefits, how you flavour it is up to you.

Try to get the best bones you can. If you are going to go to the trouble of making a broth make sure you get healthy bones – organic grass-fed are the best. Yes, you can buy bones, you just have to ask at the butcher. Buying bones is an extra step, another hurdle created by the modern culture of pre-portioned, over-packaged convenience foods. In the good old days, people would buy meat on the bone and use it all to make stock, broth, soups and sauces, so as not to waste anything (and reap the health benefits on the side). I know it may seem crazy, but the best things don’t come easy.

It’s delicious.

Usually that’s enough for me to advocate the consumption of real food, but in this case, the further I look into bone broth and the more I experiment with drinking it, the more I realise how amazing it is. You can make your broth from all types of bones including chicken, fish, veal, beef, lamb and venison (the list goes on). We generally stick to chicken and beef. Adding different flavours to the broth also keeps it interesting (like Pho spices, Thai hot and sour) although we generally stick to the classic method, allowing us to gain a greater appreciation and understanding of how different bone tastes.

Broth makes your joints feel smooth.

I try my best to not take any supplements. But when I do, it is because I’m experimenting with an increased dose of something, and if I’m getting results from it, I’ll look for it in real food. The beauty of bone broth is that it contains so many vitamins and minerals that it’s a one stop shop. In particular – glucosamine. Ever heard the expression ‘you are what you eat’? By slowly simmering the bones you are releasing glucosamine which is crucial for collagen health in your ligaments, tendons and the ends of your bones.

It’s nutritious.

Sally Fallon writes in Nourishing Traditions (1999): “Properly prepared, meat stocks are extremely nutritious, containing the minerals of bone, cartilage, marrow and vegetables as electrolytes, a form that is easy to assimilate. Acidic wine or vinegar added during cooking helps to draw minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium and potassium, into the broth.” Basically, because it’s a liquid form is is easily absorbed by your body and keeps you hydrated.

There many more health benefits to drinking bone broth, I’ve only listed a few that important to me. After some experimenting I’ve found that the best time for me to have a cup is about half an hour before Crossfit. The key is making enough to last a week or two and not over doing it, one cup is enough per day. If you want to find out why you shouldn’t drink too much Paul Jaminet writes on the topic in “Perfect Health Diet” (2012).

How to make beef broth.

First buy enough bones to fill the largest pot you have. We generally buy 3kg.

Lay the bones out on trays and roast in the oven, about 180 degrees for about 1 hour (maybe longer, you want them brown all over but not burnt).

Raw Bones

Peel, wash and chop carrots, celery and onion and sauté in the pot you are going to use for the broth. While the bones are in the oven.

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Next add one head of garlic, some thyme, peppercorns, bay leaf and a couple of pinches of salt. Sauté.

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Add about half a bottle of red wine and let it reduce to about half or a third.

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Add your roasted beef bones and a couple of pigs trotters (for a little extra gelatine and flavour).

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Fill the pot with water and bring to a fast simmer. Turn your broth down to low and let it slowly simmer for somewhere between 42-72 hours. Keep topping up the pot so the bones are always covered and it doesn’t reduce too much. Take the broth off the stove and strain into a bowl, let cool on the bench for a while (so it doesn’t bring the temperature of your fridge up) then put it in the fridge. This allows the fat to rise to the top and set, this is so you can pick it off easily and throw it away or keep it for roasting potatoes.

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From here you may need to freeze some, but in our house there’s not much point.

Very Important: When you are ready to drink your broth you’ll need to add salt. I just heat up a cup in the microwave and add salt to taste. After a while you’ll know if it’s right or not.

If you want any direction on how to make variations or soups just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Carbohydrates and the evolving diet.

Researching health and fitness is a hobby, executing it is an ongoing experiment and the results are measured by how I feel.  It’s really that simple.  People who are afraid of change or by what people think of them are identified by their past.  Why not just become comfortable with change?

You don’t know how good you can feel unless you give it a try.  And feeling good is just the tip of the iceberg that influences so many other facets of your life.  When I feel good I’m more productive, I’m eager to get to the gym, I sleep better, I’m happy and ambitious.  It’s a positive feedback loop that escalates and escalates and then comes crashing down.  Nothing good last forever, and it shouldn’t.  I just notice how I cycle through the peaks and troughs and then tweak my diet in search of good health.  And good health is balance; its not being skinny, its not maintaing the physical peak of your life and it’s not counting calories and ensuring you’re getting your daily amount of required nutrients and minerals.  Being healthy is feeling good and loving life, no matter what your situation may be.

Which brings me to my most recent dietary experiments, the addition of carbohydrates.  I have built up a crazy insulin sensitivity, eating 6 raisins can give me a headache and enough energy to run around the block 10 times.  Insulin sensitivity comes from eating little carbs for a long time (or more precisely, high GI carbs).  So now if I eat high GI carbs it sends me through the roof.  What I’m trying to do is bump up the insulin baseline, get my hormones in balance and maintain good health for longer periods of time.

So little by little I’ve been adding potato to my diet, twice or three times a week.  Then rice noodles twice a week, and now I’m eating a piece of fruit daily.  The key to this type of experiment is timing and restriction.  The best times for me to eat a carbohydrate dense meal is about an hour before the gym and within an hour of leaving the gym.  Restriction is about not letting it get out of control, not letting your high GI carb intake escalate into three meals a day and eventually building up insulin resistance (where you have such high levels of insulin you don’t notice any effects).

This type of experiment only works if you have a strong understanding of your baseline diet and how you feel most of the time.  Try a whole 30 or similar (30 days of a strict real food diet), set out your guidelines, do your research and measure the results.  You might be surprised.

A few notes on breakfast…

The best advice that I can offer for breakfast comes from Tim Ferriss’ ‘The 4-Hour Body’.  And it is ’30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking’.  I have been following this rule almost religiously since 2010 and it works.

First of all, it forces you to eat breakfast straight away, you get hungry for lunch earlier (I normally have two lunches) and then hungry for dinner at a reasonable hour.  Therefore, you’re not going to bed feeling full and bloated (and all of that unused energy turing into fat while you sleep).  The best side effect of this rule is WAKING UP HUNGRY!  This sensation is very primal and something I missed out on for many years (working late and grazing all day as a chef is not beneficial for your health).  And if I do fall into old habits for a while, I’ll fast for a day, wake up and eat breakfast like I never have before.  It is amazing, experiencing food in a different sort of way.

Secondly, not all calories are equal.  If you take a look at ‘The Zone’ by Barry Sears (1995) or ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’ by Gary Taubes (2011) one thing is evident – macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat) affect the body’s hormonal balance in different ways.  Ferriss puts it quite simply – ‘Eating at least 40% of your breakfast calories as protein will decrease carb impulses and promote a negative fat balance.’

So this bring us to what I actually eat.  Daily.

Most days I eat the same things, or similar.  Just mix and match with whatever is on hand.  I try to have blanched broccoli or cabbage in the fridge all the time.  Make the largest portion of your meal vegetables (low carbohydrate), second largest, protein, then fat.  This way you are eating the most amount of calories as protein but getting the substance from a butt-load of low carb vegetables and feeling full.  Also balancing the macronutrients will keep your hormones stabilised (Entering the Zone by Gary Taubes).

My regular breakfast is this:  In a pan, fry 1 rasher of bacon, half an onion, garlic (if I can be bothered), dried chilli and a couple pinches of salt.  Add one big handful of cabbage and heat through.  Then two or three scrambled eggs to the same pan.  Done.

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First Lunch:  Similar to breakfast.  Sometimes I eat this for breakfast too.  In a pan I fry off some onion, garlic and bacon in a little olive oil.  Add whatever blanched vegetables I have (broccoli, roast pumpkin, kale, beans etc), heat through and add a little soy sauce.  Put the veg mix in a bowl, add a can of tuna, tabasco, fried shallots and a dollop of home made mayo.

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Second Lunch:  Soup, chopped salad, leftovers or meat and vegetables.  Whatever I can find really, I just try to balance the carbohydrates, protein and fat.