Adam Perry Lang's Brilliant Board Sauces
Adam Perry Lang is a classically trained chef, fluent in French food, a partner with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich in Carnevino in Las Vegas, a partner with Jamie Oliver in Barbecoa in London, and founder of Daisy May's BBQ in New York City. He has worked in such hallowed kitchens as Le Cirque and Daniel in NYC, as well as Restaurant Guy Savoy in France. He is also a first rate barbecue cook, competing on the circuit often, even winning the pork shoulder category at the big one, the American Royal Invitational in Kansas City.
In 2012 he published an excellent book, Charred & Scruffed. In it he describes a technique I have fallen in love with: "Board dressings" or "board sauces".
This is a really clever idea that works superbly on beef, lamb, chicken, shrimp, lobster, and who knows what else. Nothing salvages an ov ercooked steak like a board sauce. When I read about it I slapped my forehead and said "why didn't I think of that!"
Here's how the concept works. He takes a handful of fresh herbs and chops them on a cutting board. Then he pours some olive oil on the herbs, minces them together, lays hot grilled meat on the mixture, carves the meat, and tosses the cut meat in with the board sauce, which is enriched by the meat juices. The board sauce keeps the meat moist, and brings interesting flavors to the insides of the meat. Surprisingly, shockingly, the herbs do not overpower the meat. I'm one of those guys who uses only salt and pepper on my steaks because they are so wonderful when cooked properly and I don't want to mask them. But lately I have been making board sauces for almost all my steaks, especially flank steak. I even do it for leg of lamb and pork loin.
APL recommends 6 tablespoons of oil to 2 tablespoons of fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary, sage, and parsley, but I'm sure oregano, basil, mint, and others would work fine depending on the meat. And you don't have to measure. Lang occasionally uses rendered fat from the meat instead of olive oil, and sometimes adds balsamic vinegar, wine vinegar, citrus juices, lemon zest, fresh garlic, shallots, chiles, and scallions. If you wish you can add salt and pepper but be careful that you don't overdose if they are already on the meat. At right is a video of Perry Lang making a small prime rib with a board sauce for our mutual friend, the wacky Josh Ozersky of Time Magazine and Ozersky.TV.
The only modification I have is to make the board sauce in a coffee cup about 30 minutes before the meat comes off the grill so the oil has a chance to extract more flavor from the herbs. Remember, most of the flavor in herbs is oil soluble. But you cannot make it up hours in advance because the anaerobic (oxygen free) environment in the oil is friendly to the botulism microbe. Even in the fridge.
In fact, you can even make it in a cup, and instead of cutting the meat on a board and dressing it there, you can serve a whole steak to each guest and just spoon some sauce on top.
The picture at the top of the page is a board sauce with some boneless buffalo ribeyes from High Plains Bison. The photo at the bottom of the page is the board sauce waiting for the meat. Here's how I made it, but this is by no means a fixed recipe. Riff on it! Use the herbs and spices you like best, but lean heavily on fresh herbs.
Makes. Dinner for 2
Takes. 30 minutes
2 pounds of flank steak
6 tablespoons high quality extra virgin olive oil
5 large fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, stripped from the stems
1 medium clove of garlic
1/2 fresh red jalapeño
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Optional. A reader named "Joseph" says he likes to add smoked paprika which give it a nice orange glow and sparks curiosity in his guests.
1) Salt the meat about 1 hour before cooking and put it in the fridge. Called dry brining, the salt pulls liquid out of the meat, and that liquid is then pulled back into the meat where it can diffuse deep down into the muscle so you get salt into the meat, not just on top of the meat.
2) Before the meat goes on the grill, coarsely chop the sage, thyme, garlic, jalapeño, and black pepper, and put it in a coffee cup. Drizzle the oil on the pile and let it sit while you cook so the oil can draw out some of the flavor.
3) Grill the steaks until dark on the outside and medium rare in the center. Try not to go beyond 130°F in the center of the steaks so there are juices running when you cut the meat. For steaks under 1" I recommend hot and fast with the lid open, turning frequently. For thicker steaks, I recommend set up the grill in 2 zones. Warm the meat slowly on the indirect side with the lid down until it hits about 120°F, and then move it to the hot side to sear it and brown the surface. This is called the reverse sear and it produces the most even colored interiors.
4) When the steaks are almost ready, pour the herb and oil mix onto the cutting board. Make sure it is level or it will spill over onto the table. A board with routed out channels is best to hold it all in. Place the steaks on the oiled herbs and coat both sides. Do not let the meat rest to reabsorb the juices, start cutting immediately. Let the juices run! Cut slices of tender meats about 1/2" thick across the grain, and tougher meats like flank steak, about 1/8" across the grain. Roll the meat in the board dressing so everybody gets a light coat.
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