I went into Chez Henri looking for a part-time job, something to supplement my income while I started my own business. I walked out with the position of sous-chef (and a temporary distraction from my entrepreneurial dreams). This was back in 1996, and Chez Henri had just opened to national praise for its inventive French-Cuban cuisine. I knew nothing of Cuban cuisine -- not even the now très-trendy Cuban sandwiches or mint mojitos.
I had to get smart fast! My first week on the job was writing the new spring menu with the chef de cuisine. I borrowed cookbooks from friends and scoured them for interesting recipes and general themes about the style of cooking.
I had fun playing with ideas – black rice with white beans, duck pate with pickled pineapple and plantain crusted halibut with mango coulis.
One dish that never made it to the menu, but became a staple on my Interactive Cuisine menus, was the Biste en Rollo. The idea came from Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz, but I quickly modified it to be my own. Typically, I prepare it with flank steak but the other night, I spiffed it up using beef tenderloin instead.
A few years ago, I contributed this recipe to a cookbook called “Great Chefs Cooking for Great Friends.” The book was published by Friends of Dana-Farber and all proceeds go to support cancer research. You can buy the book by clicking here. And if you live in the Boston-area, you can support the “Friends” by attending their annual fundraiser, “Chefs Cooking for Hope.”
Grilled Flank Steak and Red Pepper Roulade with Cilantro Mojo and Mashed Sweet Potatoes
2 lb. flank steak or beef tenderloin butterflied
1 red pepper, quartered, seeds removed
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 stalks thyme
1/2 tsp. cayenne or chili flakes
1 tsp. fresh oregano
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic
1 lime, juiced
2 sweet potatoes
2 slices ginger
¼ cup cream
1/2 stick butter
salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste
1. In a large sauce pot, add red peppers, thyme, 3 garlic cloves smashed and cayenne. Cover with olive oil. Simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes, or until peppers are tender. Let cool.
2. Season steak with salt, pepper, oregano and lime juice. Rub meat with garlic. Lay out steak, and place red peppers and carrots on top. Dot with butter. Roll steak with the grain, and tie with kitchen string.
3. Peel and quarter sweet potatoes. Put in a pot of salted water with ginger and bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking until potatoes are tender. Drain water and puree potatoes with cream. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
4. Heat oil in a pan. Brown meat on all sides, and finish cooking in the oven for 10 minutes for medium rare. Let meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Remove strings, and slice meat as thin as possible. Garnish with watercress, sweet potatoes and cilantro Mojo.
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup chopped garlic
½ cup chopped onion
2 tsp. cumin
1 tbs. fresh oregano
2 tsp. pepper
1 tbs. salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 ½ cup cilantro, leaves and stems
1. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, cumin and oregano. Cook for 3 minutes, or until garlic becomes aromatic.
2. Strain olive oil and reserve. Puree garlic onion mixture with remaining ingredients. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Adjust seasoning to taste