On a Mission for street food
Punchy full on flavours in a San Franciso conceived, Mexican inspired tostada, and a “best-yet” brownie, writes DOMINI KEMP
A NEW WAVE OF restaurants such as David Chang’s Momofuku in New York, or MSF in San Francisco have transcended the idea of “fusion”. The globalized foods of the noughties seemed to focus on that Australian vibe crossed with Asian influences. I can’t help but think about that decade without thinking of Donna Hay, Bill Granger, Neil Perry and Peter Gordon.
However, certain new restaurants seem to be focusing on tastes that despite being truly global, feel more local perhaps because the influences feel more focused. It’s no longer enough to say South American, better to say Guatemalan, for example. Not just Asian, but from Tokyo.
Dishes that are part-Mexican, part-Asian, part-Guatemalan, part-French, but full-on flavour with fine dining techniques and laid back approaches are what’s hot right now. And what they seem to espouse is an unbelievable reverence for umami-based favours that are oozing with that holy trinity of sweet, salt and fat. A cardiologist’s nightmare, but a gourmand’s perfect dream-date.
I’ve been working my way through the MSF cookbook, Mission Street Food, which is about the San Francisco culinary project which started when Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz began selling pork-belly-filled flatbreads from a taco truck. MSF morphed into a proper restaurant, along with other enterprises including a Chinese food version of the original, which is no longer open.
In the book, they come across as a keen bunch who have pushed flavour boundaries to the max.I started with their rare beef tostada which calls for tomatillos which are related to Chinese lantern fruits. Needless to say, I couldn’t find them here, so I ended up using some tomatoes instead with a good douse of lime juice and sugar to push their flavour out.
This is one of those feisty dishes that’s bursting with so much flavour, and when you read about all their processes, including their eulogy about rib-eye steaks, it’s safe to assume these guys were a bit nerdy about their grub in the best possibly way.
They suggest that by salting beef and leaving it to dry in a fridge for up to three days, you can mimic the dry ageing process that premium butchers or steak houses endorse. I haven’t tried this out yet, but in fairness it makes sense. Salt the meat generously, leave it uncovered on a rack in the fridge for a couple of days and inevitably, the water will be drawn out and therefore, the meat will darken and the flavour will become more concentrated.
The other recipe here is for their brownies. We’ve been selling pretty good brownies for more than 12 years now, but this is one of the better recipes I’ve tried in a long time. One of the things that I really loved was the sprinkling of some granulated sugar on top of the cake mix, just before it goes into the oven. What happens is that you end up with a wonderful sheen on top that takes away from the pale brown flakiness that you sometimes get with brownies. It also gave each one a pleasing bite that didn’t take away from the fudgey softness within.
I ended up overcooking these by about five minutes. But they were still great, just a little less gooey than I would have liked. They freeze incredibly well, so I packed them into zip-lock freezer bags and felt incredibly “Martha” by whipping them out and serving at every opportunity.
Rare beef tostada
500g piece of rib-eye steak
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Juice of ½ lemon
100ml sunflower oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp drained capers
6 corn tortillas
Pack of radishes (about 125g)
Bunch spring onions
Bunch mixed leaves or watercress
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
2 tsp caster sugar
Marinate the steak in olive oil and plenty of salt. Make an aioli by whisking the egg yolk and the Dijon mustard together. Add a few drops of the sunflower oil and keep whisking, then add a few more drops. It will feel thicker, and once you have a little stability going, you can be a bit more generous with the speed of oil-flow. About halfway through, add the lemon juice then keep going and add the garlic, more oil, and then add the crushed or roughly chopped capers. Set this aside or chill it until ready to use.
Heat a medium-sized frying pan on the hob, and when it is nearly smoking, sear the steak on all sides, leaving it to release itself before trying to turn it over. When you have good colour on it, on all sides (and I mean lots of colour), you can take it off the heat and keep it somewhere warm to rest while you get everything else ready. If you find that you’re not getting great colour on it, feel free to add a knob of butter or a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce. Or both. But get good even colour and then let it rest for at least 10 minutes.
It should be medium rare but if you like it well done, put it in a hot oven for another five to 10 minutes (about 180 degrees/gas 4).
While the beef is resting, fry the tortillas in a little sunflower oil until they are crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper and season with salt. Slice the radishes finely and mix with the tomatoes, some lime juice, caster sugar, salt and pepper.
Put a tortilla on each plate, spoon some of the aioli on top, then slice the beef and put some on top. Finish with a good spoonful of the tomatoes and radish. Finally, mix the leaves with a little olive oil and salt. Serve straight away.
This is my new favourite brownie recipe. It makes about 16, more if you chop them up smaller. I used a 36cm x 23cm tray, which I lined with parchment paper.
300g dark chocolate (70 per cent)
4 tsp vanilla extract
500g caster sugar
70g crème fraiche
2 tsp instant coffee
A few tbsp granulated sugar
Preheat an oven to 160 degrees/gas 3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over simmering water. Whisk together the vanilla, eggs, sugar and crème fraiche, then add the melted butter and chocolate.
Sieve the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and fold them in. Do everything lightly. Pour the mixture into a lined tray. Sprinkle the granulated sugar lightly over the top.
Bake for about 30 minutes. They are done when a toothpick comes out dirty, but not liquidey. Allow them to cool, then serve or freeze.