Trekquinox Episode 06: Baseball Sirloin, or “Heart of Targ”

At last, the main course! This one comes with a bunch of sides, but we shall start with the main item – thick “baseball cut” sirloin steaks, prepared sous-vide, topped with a slice of brie, some mushrooms, and a bourguignon reduction.

Menu Item #6 "Heart of Targ", or Sirloin Steak
Menu Item #6 “Heart of Targ”, or Sirloin Steak

Here you can see a scene (one of the definitive scenes for Klingon cooking) where Commander Riker, preparing to go on an officer exchange to serve on a Klingon ship – something no Starfleet officer has had a chance to do up to this point – has ordered every known Klingon dish he can, in order to try everything out. At one point in this scene he literally starts pointing to dishes and naming them. So this is a go-to spot for images and descriptions of Klingon cuisine. It’s here that we realize that Klingon food usually looks like it will require a feat of bravery just to get it into one’s mouth and one’s stomach.

Of course, Heart of Targ is supposed to be an actual heart, and for this scene the prop master went and bought some cow hearts, so it really is an actual heart. However I wanted to serve something that looked round, like a heart, but was actually, you know, tasty. Here’s where that sous-vide machine pays off again; you can’t really cook a 2¼” thick steak on a grill unless you want the outside burnt and the inside mostly raw. But coming out of the cooler, the entire steak was done to perfection a nice medium-rare throughout.

But regardless of the thickness, a steak is still just a steak. What really makes this a delightful dish is the sauce. It has an innocuous name in the Modernist Cookbook, simply “Red Wine Glaze”. I tarted it up and called it bourguignon because that’s basically what you’re achieving, and it sounds so much better to reference Julia Child’s most well-known dish. But that innocuous name was hiding a world of grief! Well, that’s unfair. It worked perfectly as described. It just turns out to be such an undertaking! This is the culinary equivalent of panning for gold. There’s a lot of work and a ton of dross (which I think is actually the literal term when actually panning for gold) to get a small amount of substance with incredible value.  For those of you who crave replicating this dish, the real sticking point isn’t so much the pressure cooker or even the sous-vide rig; it’s the incredible patience you will need to cultivate.

Okay, let’s break it down, as they say in the rap music business. You start with 3 pounds of ground beef, which you fry up and then discard. Yes, you read that right – get rid of it (okay, save it for something else). All we want are the drippings, which should work out to about a quarter of a cup of fat and oil. The frying and draining of all that beef takes a while; I generally scheduled over half an hour for this part. Including digging out all the ingredients and pots and pans and slicing of vegetables for later, let’s round it to an hour. Now you take a bunch of leeks and carrots and whatnot and fry them in that beef oil fat we got from the last step. This takes quite a while too, since there’s a lot of plant matter to get through. Eventually you add some tomato paste and stir that in too. Call it another hour. Then you add a bottle of red wine and reduce it to a syrup; add another half hour. Now you add a huge beef knucklebone and some more ingredients into it and seal up the pressure cooker, and pressure cook for two hours. Yes, two hours. That’s equivalent to, what? Maybe eight hours of normal stewing? I don’t know the math on that, but it seems reasonable given the time reduction it usually performs on other cooking tasks. Now it’s time to strain and discard again – nothing survives from this process except the liquid either. This stuff you have to strain through cheesecloth in combination with a strainer, so it’s time consuming. Let’s add another half an hour. Oh, but before you can even start the pressure cooker has to depressurize and cool, so let’s make the decanting and straining a full hour. Maybe an hour and a half to be safe, depending on how happy you are to be splattering yourself and your kitchen in hot hot liquid. But I don’t want this to seem ridiculous, so we’ll keep it to an hour. Rather than trying to skim off the fat, it’s easier to take a night to refrigerate it and just break the solid fat off the top. Still, you can’t put that boiling hot pot into the fridge as it is, unless you want to heat up everything else in there. So while this doesn’t really count as cooking time, you can’t actually leave the house or anything – you have to stick around for another hour or hour and a half to let the pot cool to room temperature. If it’s winter and you live in cold climates, then you can at least fast-track this by putting it outside for half an hour. We don’t count the time it spends in the fridge, but the next day, after cleaning off the fat, you then need to reduce it again, adding a few final ingredients and getting it down to a paste. Call it another half an hour.

1 hour + 1 hour + ½ hour + ½ hour + 2 hours + 1 hour + 1½ hours + ½ hour = 8 hours!

Cooking for 11 people requires more glaze than this will garner; I had to do this twice. It ate up two complete Saturdays across consecutive weekends.

Now my friend Earl described the end result as “…some kind of heavenly sauce beyond my poor power to describe,” for which I thank him, so it is darn tasty. But sweet merciful Zeus, is it a lot of work! It also makes an excellent finishing sauce for sous-vide ribs, should you be adventurous enough to concoct some of your own. Oh, and between the beef fat and the hours of stewing leeks, you (and your house) will smell like food for the whole next day. It meant that even with going out those Saturday nights to visit my friends after cooking, I was always hungry!

So now that we have some sauce safely squirreled away in the freezer, awaiting use, we need to actually cook the steaks. As mentioned, sous-vide cooks up the steaks quite nice, but when you take them out what you’re left with is… unappetizing. While the meat is cooked, the flavour of meat comes from the browning of the crust – what are called Maillard reactions. It’s what makes the crust of the roast, or the steak, or the crust of bread, and it’s where much of the flavour comes from. Also, it makes it look so much better, because after it comes out of the plastic bag it looks like you would imagine boiled meat to look. Grey is not a good colour to describe food. But since the meat is already cooked, you just want to sear the outside without letting much heat seep in, or it will move from cooked to overcooked. So the secret is very high heat for a short time. Sears it nicely. How should one apply said heat? There are a number of ways, the most prosaic of which is a very hot cast iron frying pan. But the better-favoured methods of the Modernist chef are either a blowtorch or a deep fryer. I went with the fryer, so I could use it for fries too. Pat the steak as dry as possible on a paper towel (water into hot oil = kaboom), then drop the steak in for 60 seconds. Finishes it nicely all around, including those 2¼” sides that the frying pan would miss.

Well, now we’ve got a couple of the essential ingredients out of the way – the steak itself, and the bourguignon sauce. (See? Totally more classy than “red wine glaze”.) One could stop now. Did I? Of course not. While eating at the steak house in the Edmonton Airport outbound terminal at Christmas (the actual name escapes me… let us consult the Internet, and discover it’s called… Houston Steaks and Ribs) they offered me a steak covered in a red wine sauce and also a thin slice of brie, taken “on the round” so that it was a thin disk about the same size as the steak. I approved; it seemed a good idea. So I took that notion with me, and when “Heart of Targ” became a steak in my mind, there seemed nothing to do but add this delightful finishing move. For future reference, it would probably be a good idea to freeze the brie a little bit before slicing with a wire cheese-cutter – things got messy.

As for the mushrooms? Well, steak goes with mushrooms. I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary for those; pick the kind of mushroom sautéing you like. I do butter and then finish with sherry.

Even with the timing benefits of the sous-vide rig, this dish was a crazy collision of timing. All the side dishes, plus the reheating of the sauce, plus the hot oil, all this required a bunch of things be done simultaneously across 45 minutes or so. That final hour required all of my efforts, and Ellen’s, and we could have really used three more arms between us and probably two more burners on the stove. Still, by the time this hit the table it was late, and everyone was well into “fuzzy time”, where they were willing to wait a little for the finale to appear on their plates. It worked out, though the delightful salad on the menu ended up being thrown under the bus in service to the main course. Ah well!

I don’t have a good bit of Trek trivia for Heart of Targ, I’m afraid. I can offer you this: one of the only other episodes in the franchise to actually show Heart of Targ was an episode from the spinoff Star Trek: Voyager. In it, the half-human, half-Klingon engineering officer is trying to observe the Klingon Day of Honour, which involves fighting, eating Heart of Targ for courage, and a bunch of other physically demanding stuff. As well in that episode, she’s required to go outside the spaceship in a space suit, which obviously involves hanging from suspension rigs to simulate zero gravity. As it turns out, the actor who played her was pregnant at the time, but few people knew. Fortunately one of the people in the know was the actor she had to film all the space scenes with, so he insisted on taking many breaks that day, and no one knew why at the time.

Okay, let’s get down to the recipes, shall we?

Bourguignon reduction, a.k.a. Red Wine Glaze

Rather than just type it all out again, I can now offer you a direct link to the recipe, since it turns out the Modernist Cookbook web site has posted some of their recipes, this one included:

modernistcuisine.com/recipes/red-wine-glaze

Sous-vide steak

2¼” thick sirloin steaks (“baseball” sirloins)
a plastic Zip-Loc freezer bag, sandwich sized, one for each steak
vegetable oil

  1. Prepare for sous-vide cooking by filling the sink with lukewarm water. Place a steak in a bag, add approximately a tablespoon of oil, and then sink the bag slowly into the water, allowing all the air to bubble out. Lower the bag until the top is still out of the water but the ziploc seal is just submerged, then carefully seal the bag. There should be no air inside now. They can be refrigerated or even frozen at this point, in the bags.
  2. Cook in a hot water bath until the centre of the meat reaches the desired temperature; this time will be dependent on both the desired “doneness” and the thickness of the steak, and also whether you are starting from frozen. For this meal, with 2¼” steaks cooking to rare starting from frozen, I left them in for about 5 hours. Consult the charts below for exact times and temperatures. It’s better to overestimate than underestimate.
    If you don’t have a sous-vide rig for maintaining constant temperature, then you’re better off not starting from frozen (can shave an hour off), and a cooler is better than the kitchen sink since it holds a lot more heat in. You should be checking the temperature fairly regularly with an oven thermometer and adding more hot when necessary.
  3. You must finish the meat by searing it at a very hot temperature for a very short time; you may use a blowtorch or a frying pan, but I used a deep fryer. Ideally it should be at over 400°F for around half a minute. My deep fryer only goes up to 375°F, so I left it in for 60 seconds. The deep fryer or blowtorch make it easy to sear the sides as well as the top and bottom. If using a deep fryer, allow the temperature to recover to maximum between dipping steaks. Spend the time anointing the steak with sauce and cheese.
  4. In the case of this specific recipe, you should let the frying oil drip off, using a drying rack, for one or two minutes. Then dip it in the heated bourguignon sauce, then plate it and top with a round slice of Brie. After which you can add mushrooms and/or onions as you see fit.

You can get a good assembly line rhythm going – while you are finishing one steak with the sauce and cheese, there’s another drip-drying on the rack, and a third can be deep fry finished. This requires two cooks to do, but works out well.

Ingredient Rare Medium Rare Pink Medium
beef, filet 50°C/122°F 53°C/127°F 56°C/133°F 62°C/144°F
beef, flank 54°C/129°F 56°C/133°F 59°C/138°F 62°C/144°F
beef, ribeye 54°C/129°F 56°C/133°F 58°C/136°F 60°C/140°F
beef, strip steak 52°C/126°F 55°C/133°F 57°C/135°F 62°C/144°F
lamb loin, rack 54°C/129°F 57°C/135°F 59°C/138°F 62°C/144°F
pork loin chop n/a 58°C/136°F 60°C/140°F 62°C/144°F
pork tenderloin n/a 56°C/133°F 59°C/138°F 61°C/142°F
(temperatures in red are those that we prefer)

And now some timing information, taken from D. Baldwin’s “A Practical Guide to Sous-Vide Cooking” (douglasbaldwin.com/sous-vide.html).

Thickness Meat
SLAB
thawed
Meat
CYL
thawed
Meat
SPHERE
thawed
Meat
SLAB
frozen
Meat
CYL
frozen
Meat
SPHERE
frozen
10 mm 19 min 11 min 8 min 30 min 17 min 12 min
20 mm 50 min 30 min 20 min 1¼ hr 40 min 30 min
25 mm (1″) 1¼ hr 40 min 25 min 1¾ hr 55 min 40 min
30 mm 1½ hr 50 min 35 min 2¼ hr 1¼ hr 55 min
40 mm 2½ hr 1¼ hr 55 min 3½ hr 2 hr 1½ hr
50 mm (2″) 3½ hr 2 hr 1½ hr 5¼ hr 2¾ hr 2 hr
60 mm 4¾ hr 2½ hr 2 hr 7¼ hr 4 hr 2¾ hr
70 mm 3½ hr 2½ hr 5 hr 3¾ hr
75 mm (3″) 3¾ hr 2¾ hr 5¾ hr 4½ hr

By the time you are cutting a “baseball” thickness sirloin steak, it’s basically a cylinder – roundish and not wider than it is thick. Hence why 5 hours was a good time for me.

Sautéed Mushrooms

2 cups   mushrooms, quartered or sliced
2 tbsp   butter
sherry

  1. Clean the mushrooms. The key to good sautéed mushrooms (according to Julia Child, at least, and who are we to argue?) is to not get them wet. Otherwise they are absorbing water instead of the flavourful butter, and they will tend to steam. So you should use a mushroom brush to get the dirt off the skins, and keep them dry. Then quarter or slice them down to a reasonable size (not required if you used bite-sized button mushrooms).
  2. Melt the butter in a frying pan and then add the mushrooms. You can vary the amount of butter to suit your tastes, and more is better – up to a point. You can overdo it. At some point the mushrooms will absorb all the butter, and you’ll momentarily think you didn’t use enough. But after a few moments the butter will start sweating out again.
  3. At that point, splash in a bunch of sherry. Again, this is to taste, but it should cover the bottom of the frying pan entirely; it’s just up to you to choose depth. Again, more is usually better, but only up to a point – too much sherry will end up putting too much sugar into them, and you’ll end up with mostly a butter and sugar candy, with precious little mushroom taste. Reduce the sherry until it’s a thick paste on the mushrooms.

Done! These mushrooms are an excellent accompaniment to any barbecued meat, even chicken, but best with red meats.

 

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One Response to Trekquinox Episode 06: Baseball Sirloin, or “Heart of Targ”

  1. Ellen Bruseker says:

    Actually I think those mushrooms would be excellent just on their own – SO good!

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