I’m not sure that it isn’t.
I’m cooking for a party on Thursday night, and one of the pièces de resistance is a dry-cured filet, diced up and served on potato crisps.
The simple but fascinating dry-curing process involves covering the filet completely in a mixture of sugar and salt (I used 2lbs. of kosher salt and 3-4 of sugar, plus a rosemary sprig I’d had left over) for three days. The filet is practically buried in the sugar-salt combo, then the whole thing placed in the fridge. And as time goes by, the salt and sugar draw the liquid out of the filet, like in that awesome coffee shot in Blue.
I’ll get more into curing at a later date, but in short: the curing process, which dates back to at least the Greeks, was developed solely to preserve meat in the days before refrigeration. And it really works; it kills bacteria by drawing water out of meat and microbe both, rendering meat safe, even without cooking. However, it had another, unintended side effect: it made things delicious.
The key element of curing is the gentle drying of the meat by the salt; therefore, it’s important to cover the meat completely, so liquid comes out from every last quarter of the filet, all the way down to the core.
The recipe had been given to me by my friend Rachel. After putting my salty mound in the fridge yesterday I confessed to her that I kept finding myself opening the refrigerator, checking out the filet, shifting the salt around (with mixed and often deleterious results), and generally futzing with it. Her response was unhesitating:
“Oh, yeah! It will be like your child for the next 72 hours!”
This seemed intended as an offhand comment, but it gave me pause right off the bat, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it, even hours later. I did feel somewhat parental, leaning on the kitchen door, staring down at the bottom shelf, watching my precious package with a silly half-smile on my face. Was this what it was going to be like? And would this be my best opportunity to get a little practice in before the main event happens a couple of years down the line?
Let’s look at the obvious similarities between the beef tenderloin dry-curing in my refrigerator right now and a newborn baby:
-The filet is a bundle of joy;
-The filet is extremely expensive;
-The filet just kind of sits there;
-The filet needs way less attention than I’m giving it. In fact, I may be spoiling it with too much attention;
-If anything happens to the filet, I am screwed.
Even some of the details seem to check out: the salt and sugar mixture swaddles the filet in white, and its primary purpose is to absorb moisture; after its work is done it is immediately discarded.
I’m a proud papa. I can’t wait to see how this goes.