Where does confidence come from and how is it that a force so strong can be as fragile as an egg? Does confidence arise from a string of successes or is confidence the result of past failures? In many instances confidence dictates the decisions and challenges that we face. The fear of jeopardizing or losing confidence can often compel the individual to seek out weaker competition or remain within the boundaries in which we find comfort.
For me, confidence is a complete awareness of self-strengths and weaknesses. My confidence is the culmination of a small part of past successes but admittedly more from failures. I’m not a fan of failure and for the most part, I hate it. Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”
When I was a student at Le Cordon Bleu, I earned A's in all my courses except for two.
During a breads course, I made a major mistake in measuring salt while making croissants. The extra salt destroyed the yeast and produced salty, comatose croissants thus ruining a perfect mark in the class.
When making crème brule in Introduction to Baking, I failed to rotate the water bath causing the back corner of the hotel pan to overheat, thus producing scrambled eggs. Not the result we were looking for!
My first job in the city of Chicago was working a busy Sunday brunch shift at a Cajun joint close to Wrigley Field. My first day, the chef asked me to make blueberry muffins. Not a problem I thought. I measured all the dry components and added the blueberries along with the blue colored syrup that they were soaking in. Oops. When the muffins were pulled out of the oven, they were a Boise State shade of blue as opposed to the golden color that they were supposed to be. The chef walked past me, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Are you making muffins for Smurfs? Start over and rinse the blueberries.”
I’ve made a lot of great dishes in my career as a chef but what stands out to me most are my failures. My greatest lessons have been from failure and that’s where my confidence comes from.
This week’s dish is the perfect example of how overconfidence led to a near meltdown but was saved by some quick thinking, a few long skewers and a trusted hand.
Seared flank steak stuffed with lump crabmeat and goat cheese
What you’ll need to feed six:
- 3 pound flank steak- The flank steak available in most meat departments generally come in 1.5 pound portions so pick up two.
- 8 oz. goat cheese
- 1 pound crabmeat- Once again, it’s fine to purchase the combination claw and lump meat in this application. Save yourself a few bucks and the flavor will not be sacrificed at all!
To assemble. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the crabmeat and goat cheese and mix thoroughly. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and set aside. Lay the flank steak on a cutting board wrapped with plastic. Lay another sheet of plastic wrap over the flank steak and give it a few whacks with a tenderizer or the backside of a small sauté pan. Perform this task to both flank steaks. (Don’t go overboard here. We are simply tenderizing. If you need to relieve some stress a punching bag works much better than your beautiful flank steak.)
Divide the crabmeat, goat cheese mixture in two and place it down the center of each flank steak. Give the flank steak a gentle roll over the filling and place the seam side down. Coat the flank steak with a layer of olive oil and season with a combination of salt and pepper. At this point, tie the rolled flank steak using butcher’s twine.
For step-by-step instructions on how to tie a roast, there are great videos on YouTube demonstrating this process. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbWMw6lT3uY
Side note: When executing this technique for a very important dinner event last week, I opted not to tie the flank steak. I figured that a proper sear of the seam side would be sufficient and in all honesty, my overconfidence got the best of me as I took the easy route. Big mistake. When I transferred the flank steak from the sauté pan to a sheet pan in the oven, the steak began to unravel, the filling began to ooze out and I was on the brink of disaster. I didn’t panic however and was fortunate enough to save the dish with a few bamboo skewers and a fast acting sous chef. Take my advice and save yourself the adrenaline rush by taking the extra two minutes to tie the roll.
To cook. In a large sauté pan on medium high heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil and allow the oil to get good and hot. When the oil is hot, add a knob of butter and when the butter stops sizzling, add the flank steak seam side down. After approximately three minutes, roll the flank steak over and sear for another three minutes.
At this point, add the flank steak to a sheet pan in a 375-degree oven. Roast the flank steak for another ten minutes in the oven to reach a nice medium rare to medium internal temperature. I generally prefer most red meat cooked to a medium rare finish, however I find that flank steak performs better at medium so don’t be afraid to lengthen the cooking process here.
When cooked to desired temperature, remove the stuffed flank steak from the oven and let rest on a clean cutting board. Slice the flank steak in three equal sized portions and serve.
To plate. I chose to serve the stuffed flank steak with horseradish mashed red potatoes and asparagus. Feel free to do the same or let your culinary creativity reign supreme here. Whatever you feel confident with. The potatoes went down first on the center of the plate. The roasted asparagus was gently placed on the pillow of potatoes and the seam side of the stuffed flank steak rested upon the asparagus. (Tip, hide the seam side on the flank steak!) Lastly, I finished the dish with a wild mushroom demi glace.
The flavor combination of flank steak, horseradish, wild mushrooms, goat cheese and crabmeat were amazing, as I knew they would be. One small misstep however, almost cost me the entire dish. Stay confident in your components, your skills and most importantly your technique, as they will undoubtedly lead to much success in the kitchen.