When I first laid eyes on Ludo Levebvre’s cookbook Crave: The Feast of the Five Senses I didn’t know what to make of it. I would go into detail about the hilarious photographs (which I’m sure were not the intention and thus making it all the more sad because of it) but I have seen enough entries online treading that path, and a joke told too many times ceases to be funny (The Aristocrats aside). I think it best to present this link to SoCalorie’s An Open Letter to Ludo Lefebvre, from the May, 2005 entry from, and leave it there. Aside from the pretty pictures, what kept me looking through this cookbook were the recipes, flavours different from what I was used to, but recognizable all the same. They looked really good, I mean, look at the guy’s creds, Lefebvre’s worked under some amazing people in some impressive places. He obviously knows what he’s doing—in the recipes, if not branding. The book was filled with spices that weren’t (yet) in my pantry (or my vocabulary), things like Chinese star anise which is the seed from the Badian tree, a small evergreen related to the magnolia. The seed contains anethole, the same ingredient which gives the unrelated anise its flavor. In China these beautiful little things are called bājiǎo, “eight-horn”. Lefebvre also calls for Indian long pepper which I’ve yet to track down but he describes the flavour as sharp, bitter and slightly sweet with a “light floral aroma”. Similar to regular pepper only hotter. Interestingly enough, the word pepper is derived from the Sanskrit word for long pepper, pippali.

I decided to try the one recipe I read over and over again, like a fine poem, his red wine poached beef recipe, a refinement of
bœuf à la bourguignonne. Without the searing step and sliced very thin he claimed the meat would be "soft as butter." Over the week I slipped out during lunch breaks and evenings to Whole Foods, the LCBO (known as the liquor store to those outside of Ontario), and Kensington Market to get the ingredients together. As stated, the only thing I have yet to find is the long pepper, I substitute freshly ground pepper instead. All the burners of my tiny 20 inch Magic Chef crapomatic stove were called into duty. I even broke out my new mortar and pestle for the spices. Then followed a sweaty dance with pots and pans do-si-do’ing around the burners. With an allemande left and an allemende right I jumped back and forth between the beef, endives and reductions with as much grace as my ample frame could muster. As long as it is, I found the recipe particularly easy to follow and in the end both dishes were ready at the same time (which for me, is quite the feat), well, somewhat ready—the lemon reduction hadn’t reached the right consistancy, but to wait the extra five minutes or so would have compromised the rest of the meal. I plated and served it immediately. A complete success. The Port reduction was rich and velvety and its deep notes of sweetness a great balance to the citrus tang of the carmalized Belgian endive, which is cooked in lemon juice and water leaving just a hint of its usual bitterness. As promised the meat was amazingly tender alive with hints of spice from the poaching liquid. L had no complaint about the runniness of the lemon reduction.


(My version—for two)

For the Beef:
750-ml bottle dry red wine
2 whole star anise, slightly smashed
2 tsp coarsely ground pepper (long if you can find it)
1 tsp coarsely ground green cardamom seeds
1 1/2 lb piece of filet mignon, trimmed

For the Port Reduction Sauce:
2 cups ruby port (Paarl Vintage Character Ruby Port)
1 cup Wolfgang Puck Organic Beef Broth
2 tbsp chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper
...and for garnish additional freshly ground star anise, pepper (again, long if you can find it), and green cardamom

I needed:
  • 3 saucepans for the poaching and two reductions
  • 1 skillet for caramelizing the endive
  • 1 small melon baIler I bought for the occasion
  • 1 liquid thermometer for the poaching liquid temperature
  • 1 meat thermometer (instant or not) to check the internal temperature of the beef
  • 1 mortar & pestle (or spice mill) for the spices
For the Beef:
Combine the wine, star anise, pepper, and cardamom in a heavy large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the cooking liquid from the heat and cool to 185°F. Add the beef to the cooking liquid. Place the saucepan over low heat so that the cooking liquid barely simmers. Cook, uncovered, until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the center of the beef registers 135°F for medium-rare, about 25 minutes.

For the Port Reduction Sauce:
Combine the port and beef stock in a heavy medium saucepan. Boil over high heat until the liquid thickens slightly and is reduced to 1/2 cup,about 25 minutes. Whisk in the butter to form a smooth sauce. Season the sauce to taste with fleur de sel and pepper. Keep warm.

To Serve:
Cut the beef crosswise into 6-8 slices. Arrange the beef slices to the side of 2 large plates, overlapping slightly and dividing equally. Sprinkle the beef with fleur de sel and black pepper. Drizzle the port sauce around the beef (yum). Sprinkle with the additional ground star anise, long pepper, and cardamom. Serve the caramelized belgian endive with lemon alongside.


2 heads of Belgian endive
1 cup strained fresh lemon juice
1 cup water
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sugar
fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper

Combine the endive, lemon juice, and water in a heavy medium saucepan. Cover and cook over low heat until the endive is tender, about 15-20 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the endive to a plate. Cool for 5 minutes. Cut each endive lengthwise in half. Using a small melon baIler, trim the tough center core of the endive halves—gently now as the leaves come apart easily. Season the endive with fleur de sel and ground pepper. Continue boiling the cooking liquid until it is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 12 minutes. Keep the lemon reduction warm.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the sugar over the oil. Place the endive halves, cut side down, in the pan. Cook until the sugar begins to caramelize and the endive halves are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Arrange 2 caramelized endive halves on each of the two plates. Drizzle the warm lemon reduction over the endive and serve.


Anonymous said...

oooo that looks super tasty :) thanks for the recipe :D