Saturday, 7 May 2011

In praise of the doggy bag. Recipe: Leftover porterhouse steak salad

The doggy bag... (box) from Dean Street Townhouse

How English of us to be embarrassed by the doggy bag. Sweeping up those bits we’ve chosen not to scoff, taking them home to reheat dodgy-style in a microwave.

How tight. How uncouth.

But surely it’s the second highest compliment a restaurant can receive: that the food was so fabulous and generous, we’d like to eat it again, thank you very much. The first compliment, of course, would have been to love it the first time round.

Well, the asking for the doggy bag needn’t be embarrassing nor confined to the back-street Chinese restaurant.

The porterhouse steak and béarnaise sauce

I’ve never been shy of asking (it’s my Chinese genes). My last doggy bag was from the impeccable Dean Street Townhouse in Soho. The Scottish porterhouse steak is a beast of a dish, all tender tenderloin fillet one side of the bone, and beefy sirloin on the other. Enriched with custardy yellow béarnaise and accompanied by thin-cut chips.

It wasn’t a cheap meal, this. In fact this beast will set you back a good £65, and it rather defeated us on the night. But it turned into a fantastic salad supper the day after (recipe below), and saved us having to pick up anything new.

Dean Street Townhouse was gracious enough to accept the compliment. In fact, they were prepared for it and as soon as we asked, packed us off with a fancy box and a bag. After our waiter informed us that many fail to finish the Porterhouse, I’d wager they’d not ask for the doggy bag, which to me seems a waste of prime steak.

Our waiter did wonder if we had a dog as we asked if he could pack the bone too.

“No dog”, we replied, “just us”.

Waitrose Food Illustrated’s William Sitwell started the campaign a couple of years back, and was taken on by Jay Rayner and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, but I wonder how mainstream doggy-bagging actually is.

Is it something that you’d be happy to do? Or is it just a bit too embarrassing?

The tenderloin fillet (left) and sirloin (right) before...

...and after

Recipe: Leftover beef salad

There were heated discussions while waiting for the bill on what to do with the beef, which was to be used for the next day’s dinner. Stir fry? Pasta?

Fears that the beef would lose its already fantastic flavour cast those ideas aside. We decided to freshen up the steak with lots of vibrant herbs, and enhance rather than hide the flavour with a simple lime dressing.

Serves 2

Beef marinade
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 heaped teaspoon palm sugar
Few drops sesame oil

Leftover rare steak from last night’s blowout
100g dried vermicelli noodles

Handful of herbs - anything like fresh mint leaves, coriander, thai basil or all three is great. I like mine with mint and coriander
Scatter of dry roasted peanuts - roughly crushed with a pestle
Half a cucumber, sliced

Juice from two limes
Fresh chilli or cheat with dollops of sweet chilli sauce

Using a pestle and mortar, crush the garlic, and then add the rest of the ingredients. Pour over the steak and marinate for at least an hour.

Cover the dried noodles with boiling water for ten minutes, then rinse under cold water

Flash fry the steak - you don’t want to cook that rareness out. If already sliced, then it’s a token heat through to take the edge off the marinade. If not, take out and leave to stand before slicing thinly.

Throw the noodles, sliced herbs, peanuts, cucumber, beef. Combine the lime juice and chilli, pour over, toss and serve.

Dean Street Townhouse
69 - 71 Dean Street


020 7434 1775

Thanks to Tom for the recipe


Lizzie said...

I'm not sure i've ever failed to finish a main course... but if I did and I'd spet that much on steak, i definitely would!

Charlotte said...

There have been occasions where I have longingly looked as my leftovers are whisked into the kitchen to be dumped in the bin because I was too reserved to ask. From now on though I will be queen of the doggy bag! Marvellous recipe too.

Anonymous said...

I'm far too gluttonous to leave food unfinished. Mine or my fellow diners. On my table or the next table.

Perhaps the doggy bag would be a good idea then. I'd be able to satisfy my revolting food lust in private and people might be willing to go to dinner with me without goggles.

Helena Lee said...

Lizzie - hats off to you - Felt a bit of a failure not finishing to be honest!

Charlotte - do it definitely. It's so sad to think of a good meal wasted.

Jack - Do whatever feels right. I have great admiration for those, like lizzie, who can always lick up what's on their plate...

Sonia Tsukagoshi said...

I'm also Oriental so I have no shame in asking for doggy-bags. I just didn't know that you could do it in a Western restaurant. Will defo give it a go. Guess it just seems a bit frugal and goes against the European idea of eating out is an experience out. Thai, Japanese, and definitely Chinese food: take it home, no problem!

Chris said...

I like the concept (we did it at Kennington Tandoori and we ate like kings the next day!), and I like the recipe. I don't like the word "doggy-bagging" though. It just sounds a bit... you know.

vegaway said...

love the blog Helena... passed to me by Alfie to take a look. keep up the great work! J

vtr1000 said...

Doggy Bags are the greatest form of flattery for any eatery. All that is required is a modern day spin to make it more acceptable in the more fine dining restaurents.

Perhaps aliments pour demain?

Helena Lee said...

Sonia - yes. Dare to doggy that's what I say.

Chris - You're right. I dread to think what sprang to your mind first. Re. eating like kings - I'm sure I order way too much sub-consciously so I can eat it the next day

Vegaway - thank you - so glad you're enjoying it! Do visit and let me know what you like!

vtr1000 - Yes - it's all about acceptability. the more people do it, the more acceptable it becomes

girtholomew said...

Was it worth £65?! I woudl expect it to be helicopter-ed back to my place, then carefully delivered to my fridge at a time of my choosing for that price.

Nothing wrong with a doggy bag - we took home half a hundred weight of cassoulet from Toulouse-lautrec last weekend. It's their fault for selling it by the hundred weight in the first place!

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