Holiday meals are a “cooperative”* effort in our house. Invariably I am responsible for the veg entree while the chef takes care of the meat. My family is a “mixed marriage.” Avowed meat eaters who think any day without meat is an abomination, vegetarians, and those on a sliding scale. So nearly every meal involves both options. So timing is also a joint effort (see note re cooperation*). So we always have this conversation:
Me: What is the timing on dinner?
Chef: I don’t know, what is your timing.
Me: Um, you are the chef, you are supposed to be orchestrating this whole thing, you tell me.
Chef: Well the meat will be done at X and it has to rest for X minutes.
I’ve seen this on tv too. Invariably at least once a season one of the Top Chef contestants says “I cut the meat too early” or Tom Collichio says “Why would you cut that and let it sit??” But I’ve never really understood why you need to let the meat rest. Why is it tired??? We did all the work! (badum bum!) But if I’ve learned anything from Top Chef, it is that your meat will be ruined if it doesn’t get its beauty rest. This year it happened during our holiday meal. It was “ruined”** because our chef cut the Beef Wellington too early. Here it is:
Ok, I’ll admit, it is overdone looking. But my daughter–the vegetarian–kept squealing with delight every time she hit a new layer…”What’s this? Mushrooms??? OOOOH!” “Prociutto????OMG”
And frankly everyone else was making yummy noises and we ate the entire thing, so “ruined” may be a bit of a hyperbole.
When I cut into the leftovers the next day though I found that they were cooked to perfection. Why? Because they sat longer before they were cut. Apparently its true. You need to wait to cut the meat. If you don’t, all the juices run out and the meat looks over cooked and is dry (though I really didn’t notice a big difference in the tenderness or juiciness between the two, but I don’t have a practiced meat palate.)
So, to review. Let the meat rest before you cut it.
Why? It keeps all the juices in so its tender and not over cooked.
Evidence: Two identical Wellingtons (if anything we served the bigger one for Christmas) cooked the same amount of time. The only difference between the one at the top and the one to the left, resting time.
*I’m not sure this is the word because it implies…cooperation. Really there is a lot of yelling, some pushing. Invariably the Chef who is accustomed to a commercial kitchen occasionally mutters “I fucking hate cooking in this kitchen.”
**By ruined I mean the chef muttered throughout the meal, “I cut the meat too early.” “Sorry.” “Its overdone. I ruined it.” Meanwhile, yes, the meat probably could be characterized as well done, but it was unbelievably tender and tastey. I think the chef was the only one who thought it was ruined.