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CHEF DU JOUR

Ghaffari's Secret Is in the Sauce

October 01, 1992|MIKE SPENCER | Mike Spencer is a member of The Times Orange County Edition staff who has authored several cookbooks. and

As a restaurateur, Paul Ghaffari spends all his working hours on those myriad details that when added up equal a total dining experience for guests.

The aimed-for experience is the same when he and his wife are entertaining at their San Clemente home, but he also wants to join in the festivities.

So, over the years, he's developed cooking methods and dishes that dazzle his guests and leave them wondering who's back there doing all the work.

As a certain fast-food chain used to say, the secret is in the sauce (but that's the only resemblance his dishes bare to that stuff that's hurled at you in your car). "Start with quality meat, fish or fowl," he says, "and serve it with a simple salad and vegetables. Without a sauce, it's just ordinary.

"But serve it with a sauce that perks up both the dish and your taste buds, and the meal becomes special."

An excellent example is a sorrel and sun-dried tomato concoction he perfected when he was chef-owner of a highly acclaimed restaurant in Dana Point several years ago.

It goes wonderfully with just about any meat, but especially with a whole beef tenderloin or filet mignon.

"The beauty of a whole filet," he says, "is that you can cook it so that the one piece of meat in a single cooking process will satisfy the tastes of everyone--whether they want it blood-rare or well-done."

Ghaffari, who no longer cooks professionally (he manages Las Brisas in Laguna Beach), explains that a whole filet is shaped like a fish: thick at one end, tapered at the other.

"The tail will obviously cook faster and will be medium to medium-well when you've finished, while rareness of the meat will increase as you move toward the head."

And the whole process takes only about 30 minutes when you use Ghaffari's method.

"Have the butcher trim the muscle out of the filet and tuck the tail back up under so that it looks like a large roast. Have him tie it with string in a crisscross pattern.

"When you're ready to cook it, rub it with olive oil and fresh ground pepper and sear it a hot heavy skillet or on the barbecue. When it's browned all over, place it in a preheated hot oven and go have a drink with your guests.

"When you've finished the drink, or (in) about 15 minutes, it's done to perfection."

WHOLE FILET MIGNON

Have butcher trim fat from 8- to 10-pound whole tenderloin and string-tie crisscross with tail folded under. Rub with fresh ground black pepper and olive oil. Sear in heavy skillet or on barbecue. Remove to preheated 400-degree oven and roast for 15 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before carving.

SORREL SAUCE

6 cups veal or beef stock

6 bunches fresh sorrel

3 whole shallot clusters

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Heat olive oil in frying pan. Dice shallots, sorrel and tomatoes and saute in oil. Add stock and pepper and bring to boil. Turn heat down to simmer and reduce mixture by half. Puree in blender and strain. Reheat when ready to serve.

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