May 31, 2010

Steak Night

We try to limit the amount of red meat we eat, for health reasons. Truth be told, Elizabeth is prone to high cholesterol, so that, coupled with the things you hear so often these days about the treatment and conditions of cattle raised on the large farms that supply the vast majority of the meat we buy at our uber-convenient mega grocers, leads us to try to cut our intake down to once a week or less.

But every now and then, the craving for a great steak comes calling, and there's no avoiding it. The only choice is to satiate the hunger. So Friday night, with a three day weekend in front of us and impeccable grilling weather at our disposal, we did just that.

Whole Foods supplied us with two small filets, which we chose for their leanness in comparison to other, possibly more flavorful cuts like strips or ribeyes. The menu we brought together was Filet Mignon with Mushrooms and Sauce Pinot Noir, cauliflower puree and sauteed broccolini with garlic. The result was a relatively simple meal that packed in all the flavors for which our appetites had been screaming. (Cook's note - the wine used for the Sauce Pinot Noir is best to eat with dinner, but pop open a Smokestack Series like the Tank 7 we had, to delight your palette as you taste-test your way through the cooking process. You'll be glad you did.)

For the Cauliflower Puree:

1 head cauliflower, 2 to 2 1/2 pounds
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pull the leaves off the cauliflower and cut out the core in a kind of cone-shaped section. Then pull the florets off the head with your fingers, using a knife when you need to. Break or cut the florets into smaller, regular pieces (about 1 1/2 inch) and put them in the steamer insert. Bring about 1 inch of water to a boil in the steamer pot, add the insert, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until you can poke a paring knife into the stems and you can feel that there's still a little texture there. (Tooth, it's called.) Stir the cauliflower well a few times while it's steaming so that it cooks evenly.

Dump about half of the cauliflower into a food processor. Measure out 3/4 cup of the steaming liquid, and pour in about 1/4 cup; purée until smooth. Now dump the rest of the cauliflower on top, add about 1/3 of the remaining liquid, and purée again. You'll need to stop and scrape and stir the purée a few times; add more liquid as you need to, but with the understanding that you really want to add as little liquid as you can get away with (I accidentally threw out the cooking water, so we substituted with buttermilk with tremendous results). With the motor running, process in the butter, salt, and pepper through the feed tube. Taste for seasoning and serve hot. (You can reheat over low heat in the same pan if you're not eating immediately.)

Ted Allen's Cook's Note:
Cauliflower is an excellent canvas for other flavors. I like things spicy and I love mustard, so I sometimes add a tablespoon of Colman's, the amazing English mustard powder, to this purée;. You might also add curry powder, grated Parmigiano, crumbled blue cheese, or a chopped fresh herbsd

For the Broccolini

1 1/2 lbs. broccolini
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
salt & black pepper to taste
(we also added red pepper flakes for a little added spice and flavor)

Boil the broccolini in a pot of salted water until crisp-tender (about five minutes). Drain.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Sautee half of the garlic until golden brown (about 30 seconds). Add half of the broccolini and sautee until heated through (you can actually cook the heck out of it - until the florets start to char - and it tastes even better). Remove from pan and repeat with the rest of the oil, garlic and broccolini.

For the Steaks, Mushroom and Sauce

Two 8 oz filets
Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 bacon strips (we omitted)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 pound assorted mushrooms
1 tbsp freshly chopped garlic
2 sprigs rosemary
2 cups pinot noir (we used Coppola's Rosso blended table wine which has great body that works well for cooking. Sometimes, finicky, light pinot noirs will turn out flavorless and make for a weak sauce, even when reduced)
2 tbsp prepared demi glace (Whole Foods didn't have any. We substituted beef broth which is not the same at all, but adds a different flavor and body to the sauce that is needed)
2 tbsp unsalted butter (increase this even more if you want a thicker, richer sauce and don't mind the calories. It's not necessary that you do, in order to achieve a tasty sauce, though.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Season both sides of the meat generously with salt and pepper. In a large, heavy OVEN PROOF skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat, until almost smoking. Place the steaks in the hot pan and cook until well seared on side 1, about 3 minutes. Turn the steaks over. There should be a nice crust on top. Add the mushrooms, garlic and rosemary. Transfer the pan to the oven. Roast for 10-12 minutes, until steaks are med-rare. 

Remove the steaks, mushrooms and rosemary to a platter; cover to keep warm. Return the pan to the stove over medium-high heat. Deglaze with the wine, scraping up all the yummy bits in the bottom of the pan. Mix in the demi glace, stirring to combine. Put the steaks and mushrooms back in the pan and coat with the sauce. Finish with the butter to make it rich.

(Note - we didn't want to heat up our oven, so we used our large toaster oven for this. To do so, after searing the steaks, we sautted the mushrooms, garlic and rosemary, which picked up the flavor from the meat and left their own flavor on the pan. We remove those ingredients and then poured in the wine and broth, letting it deglaze and reduce for several minutes. We placed the steaks and mushroom mixture in our toaster pan and then added the slightly-reduced wine sauce, then roasted everything together - this produced a great result.)

I've written about the cauliflower puree before. It's a great alternative to mashed potatoes if you're looking for something healthier and different. The broccolini, too, is a great twist on something you may (hopefully) already eat a lot but maybe doesn't have the cache you're looking for on steak night. When cooked correctly, their stems are sweet and crisp. The char on the florets is a salty, unexpected flavor contrast. And the kick of flavor and spice from the garlic and crushed pepper takes it to another level. Best of all, this rich wine sauce, pared with the earthy mushrooms and the fresh rosemary tastes like real steakhouse affair. If your steaks always seem to taste too much like your own cooking and not as special as you'd hope, give this recipe a try. I'm confident you'll surprise yourself in a good way.

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