An interview with Chef Chris Pandel, Owner, Executive Chef, Swift & Sons, Chicago
Despite all of the hoopla about plant proteins, real meat still reigns supreme with many consumers. Hyde Park Group interviewed award-winning Chef Chris Pandel, Executive Chef at the “amazingly perfect” (according to Zagat) Chicago steakhouse, Swift & Sons, for some contemporary insights.
Q. Different cuts of meat are trending – what are some new favorites?
Spider or Oyster Steak, cut from right inside the hip or Aitch Bone, Secreto, aka Pork Skirt Steak (some argue it’s a shoulder cut) and Belly On Pork Chops are in vogue. Not really a cut, but Bone Marrow is everywhere.
Q. Are these new cuts more difficult to work with than their classic counterparts? What are your suggestions for prep?
With many of these cuts being less forgiving than traditional steaks and chops, the cooking methods and timing play a crucial part in the execution of a tender piece of meat. We season any piece of meat over five ounces 24 hours in advance with a very specific ratio of salt. It allows the meat to firm up and the seasoning to penetrate to the center of the cut.
We also pan roast with patience. When we cook a Denver steak at the restaurant, we sear it once and let it rest. Sear it a second time and let it rest. Then finish it with a quick baste of butter in the same pan, followed by a rest. Because the muscle is dense this allows for a more traditional cooking method versus the sous vide approach to render a very tender steak.
Q. What are some contemporary seasonings, pairings, and sauces?
We have seen a lot of meat covered and cooked in ash, using various vegetable ash and cooking methods. In the deep search for umami, the resulting use of hondashi [dashi powder] and MSG have both become more acceptable as an addition to the repertoire of meat cookery. Dried fish and shrimp, herb powders, freeze-dried vegetable powders are all also used as seasoning.
Q. How is the cultural cuisine movement affecting the world of meat?
We see hay and various grasses used to cook meat in. This is a very, very old technique being brought back into vogue. Also boutique finished animals [hazelnut finished hogs/ apple finished hogs]. Lots of very classic French cooking and technique is being applied to beef in the United States right now – every thing from Escoffier-based sauces to using the offal to further enhance the flavor of a traditional steak or chop.
There are South American-based flavor profiles: Agua Chile, Aji Amarillo, Chimmichurri, Pebre, Mojo, Sour Orange. Also Asian based flavor profiles: Dashi, Seaweed, Fermented Fish, Miso Made of Everything, Miso Pickles, Soy, Yuzu Kosho.
Chefs are also testing the limits on aging of all proteins, beef, lamb, pork, game birds, etc. They are dry aging, rubbing the proteins with various condiments and ingredients, fats and the results are wild – Spruce Tip Cured Ham in the Style of Prosciutto, Miso and Beef Fat Rubbed Japanese A5 Beef Aged over 100 Days, and many others.
Thanks, Chef Chris, for your insights into the world of real meat! We look forward to your continued creativity and innovation.
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