Sunday, February 25, 2007

Steak with Red Wine Sauce, Mushrooms, Onions and Roast Potatoes

If you eat beef, this is a recipe for you. I like steak, particularly a good piece of fillet. Unfortunately the night I made this steak, the fillet at the grocery store was $30 per pound! So instead of buying my favorite cut of meat, I opted for a nice sirloin, which was on special for something like $12 per pound. The chart below shows where different cuts of meat come from. The fillet, actually just a piece of the tenderloin, is the most tender part of the cow. The rule in regards to tenderness of meat is: the more the muscle has to work, the tougher it will be, and vice-versa.

Steak with Red Wine Sauce, Mushrooms, Onions and Roast Potatoes
Serves 2-3 for dinner

2 sirloin steaks
12 button mushrooms
1 large red onion
1 32fl oz package of Kitchen Basics Beef Stock
2 cups of red wine (decent enough quality that you would drink it!)
1 tsp of butter
1 tbsp of canola oil for the mushrooms, onion and steak
1/2 cup of canola oil for the potatoes
4-6 medium size red potatoes
fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp of dried rosemary

First things first. Wash and boil the potatoes whole. Start them in cold water, and bring to a boil. Simmer until cooked through, about 20 minutes. To tell if they are cooked, poke a knife through the middle of the potato. If the knife goes through easily, your potato is cooked. Once cooked, take the potatoes out of the water and let them cool until they are able to be handled.

While the potatoes are cooling, heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut each potato into 6 or 8 pieces. In an oven safe dish, place the oil, potatoes, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Toss until the potatoes are well covered in the mixture. Place the dish in the oven. After about 30-45 minutes, stir the potatoes. They should begin to get slightly crispy around the edges. Keep an eye on them, and stir them every 15 to 20 minutes until they are crisped to your taste. You should time them so that they are done at the same time your steak is ready to be served.

After you put your potatoes in, start reducing the stock and red wine in a pan, then slice the onion and mushrooms. Heat a tbsp of oil in a large bottomed pan that you will cook your steak in later. Fry the onion and add the mushrooms. When the onions start to brown. Add some salt and pepper. You want the onions and mushrooms to be slightly browned and crispy around the edges but not burned. If your pan is not large enough, you will end up boiling your onions and mushrooms as opposed to frying or sauteing them. Once cooked, set aside.

Keep an eye on the reducing stock and red wine to make sure you do not evaporate it completely. In the same pan you cooked the onions and mushrooms, you will cook the steak. The steak will be able to pick up some of the flavor already in the pan. When you cook a steak, it's important that the pan is nice and hot. This will help to seal in the juices and keep the steak succulent. If there is no oil left in the pan, add a tsp. Put some salt and pepper on both sides of your steak. Once the pan is hot, put the steak in. Leave it on one side for about a minute. There should be some nice brown color when you flip the steak. I cook my steak medium rare, probably about 3 minutes per side. But, you have to be the judge of how rare or well done you like yours.

When your steak is cooked to the desired amount, remove and set aside. It's good to let the meat rest for a few minutes. Add your reduced stock and red wine to the pan that you just cooked the steak in. Scrape the bottom of the pan to ensure you get all of the stuff that's stuck to the bottom of the pan because it's going to add a lot of flavor to your stock. Once the mixture has reduced to an almost syrup like consistency (you can reduce it less if you like thinner sauce), taste, and add salt and pepper as necessary. Finally, take the butter, break it up into a few pieces, and swirl it into the sauce until melted.

Serve the steak with some onion and mushrooms on top, and pour some sauce over. Serve with the roast potatoes, and some sort of green vegetable, salad, green bean, sauteed spinach or the like.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Gourmet Burgers

Burgers come in all shapes, sizes and varieties. I have two favorite places in New York City - the one and only Corner Bistro where you have to wait in line while drinking McSorely's (also another good place to go in NYC) beer, and The Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridian Hotel. Both of these places are worth going to for the experience alone. A quick note about the burgers at each place; Corner Bistro has bacon on their burgers, but the Burger Joint seems to have a tastier cooking method for their meat patty. Either way, try it out, get a burger, some fries and a beer, and embrace the grease!

My own burger recipe is a little different; not as greasy but still containing plenty of flavor! I kind of just made this up one night, but it proves to be a big hit with anybody I make it for.

Gourmet Burgers
Makes 4 Quarter Pound Burgers


1 lb of lean ground beef
1/3 cup finely diced red onion
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt (kosher or sea salt if you have it!)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
Buns or bread which will fit the meat nicely
Sharp Cheddar Cheese (I use 1/2 fat)
1 tomato

This recipe is pretty simple. Combine the meat, onions, and spices together in a bowl and mix well. Divide the mixture into four pieces and shape into patties. Heat up a grill pan to medium heat and then put your patties on. I leave them on one side until I can see the juices start to run and the colors start to change around the edges. Once you have flipped them, put your cheese on top. I usually turn the flame down to low at this point and let the cheese slowly melt. I don't trust grocery store ground meat so I make sure it is cooked all the way through.

Once the burger patties are done, take them off the grill pan and let them sit for a minute. Put your buns or bread (I used a loaf of Italian bread cut into pieces) on to the grill pan and toast them under they are slightly brown.

Assemble the warm toasted bread, burger pattie with melted cheese, and if you want, sliced tomatoes.

I also sauteed some spinach to accompany my burgers. Very simply, I sauteed a few sliced cloves of garlic in olive oil with a few red pepper flakes. Once the garlic had softened I added one bag of baby spinach and started to stir. As soon as I could see the spinach starting to wilt, I turned off the stove and continued to stir. By turning off the stove, I ensured the spinach did not get overcooked which is so often the case!

All in all, this is a quick and easy meal, which people love to eat!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Spaghetti Bolognese

The joys of comfort food. Nothing beats good pasta, especially a nice bowl of it in the dead of winter. Although it does not have the same status as Chicken Noodle Soup, the cold cure, it's actually full of very similar ingredients (minus the chicken and plus the beef and tomatoes). So, my conclusion is that it is pretty healthy, as long as you buy very lean ground beef. Plus, it's nice to eat on a cold winter evening with some friends and perhaps some red wine.

Spaghetti Bolognese
Serves approximately 4-5 people for dinner

2 strips of bacon, cut into small pieces
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 medium red onions, finely chopped
4-6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
salt to taste
1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 bay leaf (optional)
2 cups red wine
1 lb lean ground beef
1 can tomato paste
2 small cans of tomato sauce or 1 large can
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 package of thin spaghetti (I use whole wheat)
Parmesan cheese to garnish

I started by cutting up my bacon, and putting it to the pan on a medium heat. You want it to be fully cooked before you add in any other ingredients. While the bacon browned, I roughly chopped the carrots, celery, onions and garlic and then put them into my Cuisinart food processor and chopped then finely.

Once the bacon was browned, I added the olive oil and all of the chopped veggies and garlic to the pan, and sweated them until soft. I also added the salt, pepper, hot pepper flakes and bay leaf at this point. I stirred it occasionally so that nothing stuck and burned. Once everything was tender and soft, I added the red wine. Then I turned up the heat and cooked off the alcohol.

Once all of the liquid had evaporated, I added the tomato paste. I had to stir constantly to make sure I didn't burn the tomato paste, but I did this so that some of the acidic taste cooked off. After a minute, I added the ground beef which I broke up in the pan and browned. Finally, I added the tomato sauce and chopped tomatoes. Then I let it simmer, basically until I had to serve it (the longer you can let it simmer the more the flavors meld together and the more delicious it is!). I had it on a low flame for about an hour and a half, and stirred it approximately every 10 minutes.

I served my pasta al dente. When the pasta was cooked I put it into the simmering pasta sauce and stirred until it was mixed in well and had cooked with the sauce for a few seconds. I served it in bowls with an ample handful of Parmesan cheese and some fresh ground pepper on the top.