When feeling guilty, some people buy their significant others flowers. I buy steak.
If Nick had his way, every dinner would include red meat. So after subjecting him to a particularly stressful morning of pre-wedding drama, I proposed a peace offering: steak salad for dinner.
Medium-rare steak on top of a bed of greens and other vegetables- the perfect way to make red meat seem healthy. I mean, yes, it’s still saturated fat and cholesterol, but at least you’re getting lots of vitamins at the same time.
Our version of steak salad includes the following: roasted potatoes and shallots, asparagus, tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, and pan-seared steak, all topped on the leafy greens of your choice (I like a mix of various greens; Nick is a baby spinach purist). Tonight we passed on cheese, but crumbled blue cheese or goat cheese goes quite nicely with this (yes, I’m an advocate for adding goat cheese to everything).
To start, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Then make the vinaigrette, which is based on the dressing from this recipe: Flank Steak Salad with Roasted Shallots and Goat Cheese. I don’t mess with throwing things in the blender; I avoid using appliances for weeknight cooking as much as I can. In our tiny kitchen with limited counter space, it means digging the blender out of the cabinets, and who wants to wash all those extra parts? Instead, I pressed two cloves of garlic, and whisked them together with about 1 cup of olive oil, somewhere around 5 tbsp of red wine vinegar, and a couple sprigs-worth of chopped fresh thyme, then added salt and pepper.
My potato options at the grocery store today were limited, so I had to settle for baby red potatoes, but if you can get them, buy fingerling potatoes. They have this great sweetness and hold their own when tossed with all the other salad components, plus they seem to cook faster than other potatoes. For fingerlings, cut them in half, lengthwise; or for baby reds (or extra-large fingerlings), quarter them. As far as shallots go, use more than you think you want. I think I used two small ones the first time I made this salad; last night I quartered three large shallots, and still wished I had some more. When they’re roasted, shallots get a little caramelized, and trust me, you’ll want them with every bite of the salad!
Toss the potatoes and shallots with a couple tablespoons of the dressing, and place in a roasting pan. I think at 400 degrees it takes about 20-25 minutes to roast the vegetables, but use your judgment (and a fork, if needed). This time I messed up at roasted them at 375 and it took a bit longer. A higher temperature not only speeds things up, but also gives you a nice crust on the ‘taters, and that caramelization on the shallots that I was talking about. (I think I might have just invented the word caramelization– spell check does not approve.) When the vegetables are close to being done, throw a handful of asparagus spears in the pan and let it all cook for another 5 minutes or so.
In the meantime, Nick took over, partially because he has mastered cooking the steak and mushrooms, and partially because I managed to burn my hand on the oven. So I’m going to ice my knuckles and turn things over to him, from the time he got home:
“What are you listening to?”
“Peter, Bjorn & John…”
“You’re just as bad as me. I’m just gonna put 10cc on…”
“I’m fine with that…”
Hi. I’m the soon to be Mr. But Academia. Or Mr. Butt Academia. That’s probably a more appropriate title. The nice lady who types the good stuff puts a lot of thought and care into her cooking. I’m her counterpart. That’s the antithesis of what I do. I just put the tunes on, get a drink going, and “feel it”. That’s my contribution. I have a wonderful time making food. But let’s face it, I don’t have a remote clue what I’m doing. I get real lucky, and revel in the luck I seem to have in the kitchen. The soon to be Mrs. But Academia is far more careful, has a grand plan, and tries to execute each plan with exacting precision.
I’m not that guy.
Each and every meal we collaborate on is much like most of our relationship is from day to day, and how much of our wedding planning is. Use your own imagination as to how it might roll out to you. You’re probably correct in your thinking.
If you’re looking for the next few sentences to shed some “grand view” as to how I made a piece of steak and some toadstools for our steak salad, then you’re terribly mistaken. I showed up, on the phone… she asked me if I could make the steak pretty soon, I hung up the phone and made it.
Heat the cast iron skillet up. Not too hot, or you’re in shitville. Put some butter in there. Not too much, or you’re gonna get yelled at by someone who cares more about your health and hers than you do. Dry the steak, apply salt and pepper. Then pour a little Worcestershire sauce in the pan with the butter. Cook it. Pour a little brandy in there too, right? What the hell. Meanwhile , to your left, take a little pot and add some butter and toadstools and some white wine. Put it on high, get ‘em boilin’ and let it rip. Add a little salt and pepper, and reduce that stuff. Once it gets to where it seems there’s no more liquid, let it burn a second, then add some more white wine. Turn off the stove. Put stuff on plates. Eat.
It’s just food. It’s way smaller than you. You tell IT what to do. Do whatever makes you and your significant person/persons enjoy consuming. Food is great. You get three or more chances to get it right a day. Those are pretty forgiving odds. Have a great time, and don’t worry about it.
Yep, that’s my almost-husband. And now you know I was not making anything up when I talked about our relationship in the kitchen.
So yes, he cooked the steak and sliced it up. Then I assembled the salads. Because that’s the part that is about making things pretty, and that happens to be one of my favorite parts of cooking.