Chef Chris Pandel of the Bristol challenged Greg Biggers, executive chef at Cafe des Architectes, to come up with a recipe using beef tendon for this installment of our weekly feature.
“I kind of got lucky,” Greg Biggers said of the beef tendon he’d been assigned to work with. “I figured Chris Pandel was going to give me possum feet or something.”
Still, he says, “it’s hard to get right. If you don’t cook it long enough it’s tough and hard to eat, and if you cook it too long it’s a gelatinous mess.”
Typically used in Asian soups and stews, beef tendon is a dense, fibrous connective tissue. Biggers has used it before, at a restaurant he worked at in Philadelphia, but “the only thing I’ve ever done with it is Vietnamese pho. I learned that from a Chinese gentleman who would cook it for line cooks when they came in hungover,” he said.
For this dish, Biggers started with what he knew, simmering the tendon for about eight hours in a Vietnamese-style broth with lemongrass, ginger, star anise, leeks, coriander, cinnamon, and other spices and aromatics. “It seems to take flavor pretty easily,” he says of the tendon. “It’s porous.” And while it takes a while to cook, “once you get it to a point where it’s edible, it’s got this really pliable, nice, soft, velvety texture that’s really great.”
Having worked with tendon in a hot preparation before, Biggers decided to try it cold. He prepared the cooked tendon two ways, dicing and deep-frying some of it and shaving another chunk (he froze it first to make it easier to shave it thinly). The diced tendon went into a salad with beets, chives, diced fennel, and lemon confit, which he served with goat cheese on a tart dough made with bone marrow, on top of apples. Biggers went with the earthy flavors of beets and fennel because “I don’t know how much earthier you can get than tendon,” he said. The shaved tendon he put into another salad of cold smoked duck, beet puree, and frisee. “Smoked duck has a lot of the star anise, citrus, and cinnamon as well. We tried to play those elements together.”
“I like the shaved aspect of both the tendon and the duck—I think that works well for me,” Biggers said. “It’s not like eating a piece of steak; it’s definitely something that is an accompaniment. I was trying to figure out a way that we could do bigger pieces, and I didn’t find it worked for me.”
Another early misstep was undercooking the tendon—”it was like chewing on a pink rubber ball. It was terrible.” But he was satisfied with the preparation he came up with, and also decided to use the tendon to make pho for a staff meal. “As soon as I heard beef tendon, I’ve been wanting it ever since,” Biggers said. “They saw me working with it, and everybody’s curious as to what it is. Some people were a little petrified of it . . . so we’re going to let ’em see what we were working with all week.”
Jared van Camp of Old Town Social, working with anko, or sweetened azuki bean paste. “I’ve worked with it in the past, and I know it’s kind of tricky to use,” Biggers said. “That guy—all he does is meat. He loves him some meat, and pork. So I wanted to give him a little bit of a curveball, and see if he can work with it.”
Video by Michael Gebert/Sky Full of Bacon
Beef Tendon With Chioggia Beets and Smoked Duck
Braised Beef Tendon
4 stalks lemongrass, smashed
2 large leeks, washed and sliced
1 nub ginger
1 T toasted coriander seed
1 bunch cilantro
1 gallon chicken stock
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup fish sauce
3 celery stalks
½ cup salt
5 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
Place all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and add beef tendons. Simmer for eight to ten hours, adding water or chicken stock as needed. Once tendon is tender, remove from heat and let cool in the stock, then remove and clean off connective tissue from the outside. Cut up one cup into a small dice. Place two small pieces of tendon together and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Freeze, then shave very thin.
Smoked Duck Salad
Several slices smoked duck (recipe below)
3 sprouts frisee lettuce
1 shaved beef tendon
6 celery leaves
Mix duck, frisee, and celery leaves together and season with salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon zest. Top with beef tendon.
2 Magret duck breasts
1 cup of rub (star anise, juniper, calypso, sage, thyme, salt, black pepper)
Rub duck breast with ground spices and refrigerate for 48 hours. Cold smoke in smoker with hickory chips for an hour and 15 minutes. Remove and slice thin.
7 oz butter
7 oz rendered bone marrow
18 ounces flour
1 pinch salt
Mix all ingredients in a mixer. Remove and let rest overnight. Roll out dough and cut into 1-by-3-inch pieces. Bake at 350 degrees for eight minutes.
½ cup candy-striped beets, diced small
½ cup golden beets, diced small
¼ cup fennel, diced small
¼ cup diced beef tendon
Lemon vinaigrette (recipe below)
Salt and pepper to taste
Toss diced beef tendon in Wondra flour, then deep-fry at 325 degrees for a few minutes, until puffed up but not dark. Combine with the other ingredients.
½ cup lemon juice
1½ cups olive oil
1 T honey
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix lemon juice, honey, and olive oil until emulsified. Season with salt and white pepper.
1 quart beet juice
1 cup sugar
Mix beet juice and sugar and heat over medium heat until reduced by approximately three quarters (to a syrupy consistency).
3 golden beets
½ cup mascarpone cheese
1 T olive oil
1 sprig thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash beets and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme. Cover with foil and roast at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until fork-tender.
Remove skins, chop, and blend with mascarpone in a blender until smooth.
6 balls poached Granny Smith apple, scooped out with a melon baller
Spoon beet puree on one half of the plate, and top with smoked duck salad and tendon. Place six poached apple balls on the other half of the plate, and top with a beef tart, goat cheese, and beet salad, then garnish with fennel fronds. Pipe beet reduction into the middle of the plate.