Since opening Quince (1780 West 3rd Avenue) eight years ago, owner and chef Andrea Jefferson has seen an increase in the number of people interested in learning how to cook. The Kitsilano shop, café, and catering business offers nonprofessional cooking classes that teach students to make bread, French pastries, and Spanish tapas, among other things.
“The last class I taught was a spring shellfish class, where I showed how to prepare three different kinds of shellfish,” Jefferson tells the Georgia Straight. “I also teach technique-orientated classes over nine days that starts with knife-handling and goes on to stock-making, meat cookery, and sauces for the meat dishes. It’s a mini professional course in a way, but it’s designed for the home cook.”
For Jefferson, the classroom has always been a comfortable place. The Vancouver-born chef pursued a degree in biology at the University of Victoria before enrolling in the Dubrulle culinary school at the age of 30. After working for a few years in restaurants and hotels including the Metropolitan Hotel and the now-closed Lola’s at Century House, Jefferson returned to Dubrulle as an instructor.
“Although I don’t necessarily think I approached cooking in an academic way, I did from that point on when I started teaching,” she says. “I like the challenge of it and the science behind the cooking.”
Even though Jefferson teaches nonprofessional cooks these days, she says her approach is the same. She stresses the importance of proper food-handling and working in a clean space, and she tries to impart tips on how to season dishes and use herbs to her students.
“I think that people’s knowledge of food has increased,” Jefferson says. “They’re becoming a little bit savvier and discerning, which is good, and they have a general idea about how to do something, whereas before they didn’t.”
While steak and potatoes may appear simple and basic, Jefferson notes that cooking the dish well requires mastery of certain techniques. She says that knowing the cuisson, or doneness, of steak is the skill that home cooks have the most trouble with, but there are certain indicators.
“One is that you can just look at the meat, and you want to see that it has shrunk back a little bit. If it has shrunk back a lot and there’s water in the pan, that means you’ve gone too far. Second of all, you can sometimes see into cracks in the meat and that it’s still rare in the centre,” Jefferson notes. “The third thing is you want to feel the meat. You want to feel all different corners and compromise where part of the steak is a little bit thinner or the other may be thicker and not cook as fast.”
Jefferson says that when it’s time to remove the steak from the pan, it’s vital to allow it to sit for at least five minutes before cutting into it and serving it.
“Let the steak rest a little bit so that the juices redistribute—that’s a very important part. The bigger the meat, the longer it needs to rest,” she instructs.
To pair with the dish, Jefferson suggests a glass of red wine, such as a Pinot Noir or Côtes du Rhône.
Andrea Jefferson’s flatiron steak with porcini-roasted potatoes
1 tsp (5 mL) ancho chili powder
1 tsp (5 mL) ground coriander
¾ tsp (3 mL) freshly ground pepper
Zest and juice of half a lime
1 garlic clove, peeled and grated using a microplane grater
1 sprig thyme, finely chopped
4 flatiron steaks, about 5 oz (140 g) each
2 Tbsp (30 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp (15 mL) canola oil
Porcini-roasted potatoes (see recipe below)
- Rub the dry spices, lime zest and juice, garlic, and thyme onto the steaks. Pour olive oil over top and place steaks in a sealable plastic bag. Place in fridge for at least 2 hours, and ideally overnight.
- Remove steaks from bag, place on a plate, and allow to come up to room temperature before cooking. Season both sides of steaks with salt.
- Preheat oven to 375 ° F (190 ° C).
- On a burner over medium-high heat, heat canola oil in a large oven-safe pan until just smoking. Place steaks in pan and sear for 1 to 2 minutes, until brown on one side. Using tongs, carefully flip steaks, and place pan in oven for about 5 minutes, removing pan periodically to check steaks until they’re done to medium-rare.
- To serve, divide steaks and potatoes between 4 plates.
2 Tbsp (30 mL) canola or vegetable oil
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into a total of 8 to 10 wedges
1 Tbsp (15 mL) porcini mushroom powder (grind dried porcini mushrooms in a coffee grinder)
1 Tbsp (15 mL) butter
- Preheat oven to 375 ° F (190 ° C).
- In a large oven-safe skillet on a burner over medium-high heat, heat oil until just smoking, then add potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook about 3 minutes, until brown on outside.
- Toss in porcini powder and butter. Place skillet in oven for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through and fork-tender.
Yield: 4 main-size servings.
Recipe has not been tested by the Georgia Straight.