You wouldn’t know it by the creative menus of Ludo Lefebvre, the TV-famous chef behind Los Angeles’ Tres Mois and its sibling restaurant Petite Trois, but the humble steam oven has played an important role in Lefebvre’s kitchens.
"I have used steam ovens in the restaurants for years," says Lefebvre. "We use steam ovens to cook food to retain its natural flavors, textures, and nutrients."
Now, he has one in his Sherman Oaks, California home, thanks to Fisher & Paykel. In the video above, he shows off his new toy to his friend Athena Calderone, cookbook author and creator of the blog Eyeswoon.
Calderone had never used a steam oven before, so Lefebvre taught her how to prepare squash cakes in one. After piling cubed butternut squash onto a tray, Lefebvre put them into the steam oven and closed the oven door.
"The squash is at the spa!" quips Calderone.
Afterwards, they added lard, flour, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and scallions. A bit of steaming and pan frying later, they had squash cakes, a perfect fall dish for entertaining.
Steam cooking has its origins in China, where food is typically steamed in bamboo baskets, a method still in use today—as a visit to any dim sum joint confirms. Because this gentle cooking method doesn’t immerse food in water, it retains more of the food’s flavors and vitamins.
Fisher & Paykel makes it easy to steam cook at home with a sleek and modern appliance. Surprisingly compact at just 24 inches across and occupying 1.3 cubic feet, the Built-In Combination Steam Oven can fit easily fit into a home kitchen. Installation doesn’t involve any plumbing. (The water goes into a container.) Just plug it in and start using it.
"It is so great to now have the option to use one at home," says Lefebvre. "Plus, it can steam in much larger quantities than a stove top." He likes that the Fisher & Paykel steam oven has nine modes, including a true convection and broiling functions.
Lefebvre also seared rib-eye steaks (his favorite cut of meat to cook) on a Fisher & Paykel induction cooktop, another favorite appliance of his for how rapidly it heats up. The steaks cooked quickly and he and Calderone enjoyed them with a red wine sauce reduction.
When he’s entertaining, Lefebvre likes to keep things simple and serve food family style. "I don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen all night. As a chef, the most important thing to me is to always have enough food. It would be terrible to run out of food when you have invited guests into your home."
For entertaining during the holidays, which can be a potentially stressful time, he shares this advice: "Plan ahead! Make things that can be prepared in advance and warmed up. Don’t overthink it. People are grateful to be invited into your home. You don’t need to ‘impress’ anyone. Cook with love, and everyone will be happy."
Chef Ludo’s Steak with Beurre Rouge
Yield: 2 servings
Seared Steak Ingredients:
2 each 14-oz ribeye steak
1. Rub grapeseed oil on both sides of the ribeye steaks. Salt and pepper both sides liberally.
2. Heat a pan with approximately 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil and approximately 2 tablespoons of clarified butter. Sear on high heat until one side is browned and turn to sear the second side. Reduce heat and cook to the desired degree.
Beurre Rouge ingredients:
2 cups red wine (burgundy or other dry red wine)
2 each shallots, diced
4 ounce unsalted butter
In a small pot, bring the red wine and shallots to a boil and reduce until it is a syrupy consistency. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the butter in pieces and whisk to make sure the butter is emulsified into the sauce. Add salt, white pepper, and freshly squeezed lemon to taste.
Chef Ludo’s Steamed Squash Cake
Yield: one 9" x 12" baking dish
1200 grams butternut squash, peeled and large diced
200 grams lard, plus extra
600 grams rice flour, plus extra
6 tablespoons onion powder
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
4 teaspoons kosher salt
8 green onions, thinly sliced
1. Steam the squash in a steamer. Do not overcook as it will affect the final texture. The squash should still be firm.
2. Blend the cooked squash with the lard, transfer to a bowl and mix well with the rice flour, the onion powder, salt, and pepper. Mix in the green onions.
3. Grease a baking dish with the extra lard. Pour the squash mixture into the prepared dish and spread evenly. Steam the cake for 30 to 40 minutes until the edges pull away from the sides. Cool and refrigerate for one hour, until cold.
4. Cut cake in squares and dust with rice flour. Heat a cast iron pan, medium heat, add lard and sear both sides of the cake.
Video by 22 Waves Creative.
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