Cooking Class: Herb-Crusted Beef Loin at The Commoner
Cooking Class visits the kitchens of area restaurants, whose chefs share their popular recipes.
When he opened The Commoner in the Hotel Monaco, Downtown, two years ago, executive chef Wyatt Lash brought a penchant for English pub food with him.
The Lancaster native had directed the kitchen at The Whip Tavern, a celebrated destination in Chester County’s horse country, and wanted to incorporate some of the same concept here.
“This is mygastropub on a grand scale,” says Lash, 30, whose staff of 45 cooks prepares cuisine for the hotel’s industrial-chic dining room, rooftop beer garden, banquet facilities and grab-and-go corner. “Our menus are casual and approachable — not prissy — but we delve into ‘higher plates,’ too.”
Scotch egg — one of Lash’s personal favorites — shares the dinner menu’s Nibbles section with items as varied as beef tartare, hummus, Maine mussels and fish and chips. Dinner and luncheon staples include oysters on the half, shepherd’s pie, pork belly mac and cheese, vegetarian tikka masala, vegan corn soup and lamb burger with house-made India relish on brioche bun. Luncheon sandwiches include brisket, grilled assorted vegetables on farmhouse wheat and grilled cheese with parmesan tomato bisque.
Although entrees range from steak and potato to seafood paella, Lash offers plenty of small plates so diners can try different things or share.
“A lot of people don’t want to commit to an entree,” he says. “They find ordering several items more fun.”
And he finds customers are adventurous. When he has prepared an upscale spin on scrapple — the Pennsylvania Dutch classic made from pork scraps — it has sold surprisingly well, he says. “A city now known for great restaurants is ready for new things.”
The Commoner serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as Saturday and Sunday brunch. A new late-night menu features smoked wings, the Commoner burger on buckwheat brioche, hot pastrami on marbled rye, a fried chicken sandwich and beer cheese and bacon fries, all $12 or less.
Although desserts are the province of pastry chef Zak Kowalski, Lash takes personal pride in the best-selling sticky toffee pudding, a steamed date cake with toffee sauce and rye vanilla ice cream he first developed at The Whip.
The bar features classic and signature cocktails such as Waiting for My Uber, an Absolut Mandarin, cassis and prosecco concoctions; craft beers; barrel-aged negronis; and esoteric wines. After-dinner libations include fresh espresso spiked with Averna, Fernet Branca, or other select spirits, while Sunday brunch includes a Bloody Mary bar offering $10 Bloody Marys that diners can customize with dozens of different sauces, spices and other items.
Beer fanciers have their choice of bottled and canned brews paired with fried pickles, bratwurst and sauerbraten burgers and other German fare at the popular rooftop biergarten, which is open in good weather Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Deborah Weisberg is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.
Herb-Crusted Beef Loin With Braised Greens and Whipped Sweet Potatoes
The beauty of this recipe is that you can interchange the cut of beef you prefer, says The Commoner executive chef Wyatt Lash, who cooked a whole loin New York strip steak here. He cut it in half, removed the fat and veins, and tied the meat with butcher’s twine.
“You can ask your butcher to do the same,” he says.
Lash likes rainbow chard because it is colorful, but Swiss chard is typically more available. The sweet potatoes can be whipped to any consistency, Lash says. “I hand mash them because I like a pulpier texture.”
For the beef:
2 to 2 1⁄2 pounds whole strip loin or rib-eye roast
1⁄4 cup finely chopped parsley, thyme and rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
First thing in the morning, remove the beef from its packaging and liberally apply the chopped herbs, salt and pepper. Return the meat to the refrigerator, uncovered, for the remainder of the day to help develop a crust when searing later.
Remove roast from refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Over medium heat on the stovetop, add the olive oil to a heavy pan, such as a Dutch oven, and sear the meat on each side. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until an internal temperature of 125 degrees is reached. Remove the from pan from the oven and allow the meat to rest, then remove twine and cut into servings.
Makes 4 servings.
For the braised greens:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 pounds Swiss chard or rainbow chard, washed, with stems removed
Splash of white wine
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pour olive oil into large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic. When it bubbles, add the chard, tearing it with your hands. When it begins to wilt, add a splash of white wine, the lemon zest and the lemon juice. Allow to steam slightly, for about 2 minutes. Fold in the butter and season with salt and pepper.
For the sweet potatoes:
2 pounds sweet potatoes, washed, peeled, and rough-chopped
2 sprigs thyme
1⁄2 cup heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons honey
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a medium stockpot with cold water, add the thyme, a pinch of salt and the sweet potatoes and bring it to a slow boil. When tender, remove the sweet potatoes from the water and allow them to drain. Discard thyme.
Add the heavy cream, butter and honey, and season with salt and pepper.
You have a few options at this point: Whisk by hand or mash in a mixer for slightly pulpy potatoes; puree in food processor; or use a blender for a totally smooth and creamy product.