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Peter LaFrance

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why Stout goes with ... "Hanger" Steak

Preface: The above picture was taken at The Brasserie Artisinale and Bistro Le Reservoir (9 Duluth East, Montreal, PQ). The photo is but a crude representation of the remarkable food on that dish. If you can determine, from the above illustration, the origin and name of the tuber (roasted, with flavor similar to a potato) nestled under the beef steak I would appreciate knowing what it is.

This morning I found this illustration hiding in an empty file… it brought back such fond memories of Montreal, and it is such a fine day here in Brooklyn, I am going to read, once again the piece I posted in March about visiting The Brasserie Artisinale and Bistro Le Reservoir.
Settle down and I’ll tell you all about it again…

"You see, “Hanger steak” is a cut of beef that is found attached to the last rib at the spine, near the kidneys. In French it is called onglet. Italians know it as lombatello, and the same cut of beef is called solomillo de pulmon in Spanish.

Many years ago it was known as “Butchers Steak” in the United States. According to legend it was the cut of beef the butcher would keep for themselves.

These fellows knew a good thing of course… being in the business as they were. It is very tasty, when properly cooked, and a not-in-demand-cut. Customers are more interested in tender, easier to cook cuts of meat, or a piece of chuck steak for pot-roast if they are thrifty. Hanger Steak takes a deft hand and the understanding how different ways of cooking affect that particular cut of meat.

It is essential that the serving size be thick but narrow cuts of the steak cut diagonal to the grain, or striations of the muscle. It is also important to have the grill or broiler hot enough to char the meat on contact. These two things are essential because it is not desirable to give the muscle any reason to contract. Anything less than a searing heat will cause the thick muscle strands react by loosing water and contracting. However, when placed on a properly heated grill or under a properly heated broiler the charring is quick and frees the particular aromatics that make cooked beef special.

Contrary to legend, this charring does not “seal in” juices, as anyone who has allowed a roasted cut of rare beef knows. The cutting board starts out with a glimmer of roasting juices well before any slicing is done.

The third essential bit of knowledge necessary to insure the steak is tasty and not trash is timing. The interior temperature of that slice of steak should never get over 120F… this is rare, not “blue” (not barely warn- cool) but blue is best. Those who insist on well-done should be encouraged to find other sustenance.

There you have the essentials to cooking a “hanger steak.”

What about a beverage to go with that tasty bit of beef?

Might I suggest a fine dark beer?

And where might this perfectly cooked “hanger steak” and fine dark beer be found?

Le Reservoir.

Where is Le Reservoir?

The Brasserie Artisinale and Bistro Le Reservoir can be found at 9 Duluth East

Avenue Duluth is a pleasure of Montreal that shouldn’t be missed. As well as Le Reservoir, there are at least a dozen other pubs, bars and restaurants; including Chef Martin Picard’s Au Pied De Cochon (536 rue Duluth Est). His poutine with foie gras is legendary.

I digress… Le Reservoir has an unassuming brick front with doors that open out to the sidewalk and give the fifty or so seats a out-door feeling. For those who want to dine al fresco, there is additional seating on the roof. The bar is to the rear of the room, facing the kitchen. The wine and beer chart is over the service window to the kitchen, behind the bar. The brewery is off to the right as you sip one of the four or five brews on tap. The white walls, high ceilings and wood accents give the place a comfortable, casual feeling.

The menu is simple and featured ox tongue, fried calamari and assorted cheeses as well as the onglet pictured above. It was the best onglet I have ever eaten. It came with sautéed fiddle-head greens and a tuber I have yet to find again. (It was as long as a finger and twice as thick. It seemed to have been roasted.) The char on the beef was crisp and intense. The interior temperature was just before blue but not quite warm. (Body temperature?) Fiddle-head greens are forest ferns before they unfurl. Clenched up before unfolding, they look very similar to the neck of a violin where the strings are keyed to the proper tension. At Le Reservoir the greens were crisp and enjoying a close friendship with the butter it was sautéed in. The aforementioned starch was a hint of nutty flavors with a firmness and flavor similar to potato.

All of these flavors needed to be paired with a brew that was pallet cleansing but also rich enough to not get lost in the beef intensity. The answer was the house “noire” or black beer.

The house “noire” was sturdy ale of about 7% abv and based on roasted rather than patent malts. The hops were kept to a minimum but were floral in the flavor. This richness of the roasted malt complemented the beef and the freshness of the floral hop flavor made the fiddle-heads flavors intensify as well.

Desert was a chocolate pot pudding with a dusting of fleur de sal (fluffy sea salt). It was savory on its own but with the “noire” it was enhanced to the point of symbiotic fulfillment.

And that’s why stout goes with hanger steak…"

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