Pan sauces – 2 ways

So last week I was shopping and all I could think about is how badly I wanted a steak. Thick, tender steak, melting in my mouth. Now, had I catered to my every selfish whim, I would have purchased a filet, grilled it, maybe drizzled a little olive oil and lemon juice on it, and perhaps posted a photo for you to salivate over. But, that would have been it, with no editorial commentary about a recipe for you to try, and no learning experience. So for your (and I suppose mine) education, I bought a New York strip, cut it in half, and worked on 2 different pan sauces. I’m so giving. One is from the wondrous Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” (revised 10th edition) and the other is from the February 2011 Bon Appetit issue. In all honesty, they aren’t so different, I think in general it was just the added practice I got that improved my second sauce. Here they are:

Mark Bittman’s pan sauce:

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon minced shallot or onion

1/2 cup dry white or red wine

1/2 cup chicken, beef or vegetable stock (or water, warmed, which I didn’t use)

2 tablespoons softened butter (optional, per Bittman, but not so much in my eyes)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

A few drops freshly squeezed lemon juice or vinegar (optional, I didn’t use)

1. Pour off all but 1 or 2 tablespoons of the cooking fat (there weren’t really much from my steak). Turn the heat under the skillet or pan to medium-high and add the shallot and the wine. Cook, stirring and scraping, until most of the wine has evaporated, the shallot is soft, and the bottom of the pan is clean.

2. Add the stock and cook, stirring, until there is just under 1/2 cup of liquid, then turn off the heat. Add the butter, a little at a time, stirring well after each addition to incorporate it. Taste and sprinkle with salt, pepper and/or lemon juice or vinegar if necessary. Sauce the meat or vegetables however you like.

Bon Appetit’s recipe (I did not prepare the pink-peppercorn butter and didn’t include the instructions here, sorry):

Pan-Seared Strip Steak with Red-Wine Pan Sauce and Pink-Peppercorn Butter

Recipe by Jodi Liano

February 2011

Pan-Seared Strip Steak with Red-Wine Pan Sauce

* 1 10-ounce New York strip steak (about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick)

* 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

* 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

* Coarse kosher salt

* 1/4 cup thinly sliced shallot

* 1 cup dry red wine

* 1/2 cup low-salt beef broth or low-salt chicken broth

Preparation

Rub steak with 1 teaspoon oil; sprinkle both sides with thyme, then coarse salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Let steak stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Heat medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add steak; cook to desired doneness, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steak to plate; tent with foil. Add 1 teaspoon oil to skillet; add shallot and sauté until slightly softened, scraping up browned bits. Add wine; boil until liquid is reduced by half, stirring often, about 1 minute. Add broth; boil until sauce is thickened, about 2 minutes. Whisk in 3 tablespoons pink-peppercorn butter. Season sauce with coarse salt and pepper.

Read More http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2011/02/pan_seared_strip_steak_with_red_wine_pan_sauce_and_pink_peppercorn_butter#ixzz1EcyjLdUu

My cooking experience:

I pan seared the steak both times – the first on super high heat, as Bittman suggests (he also says don’t do this unless you have a good exhaust fan – I do not and spent the whole time praying the fire alarm wouldn’t go off – SMOKE EVERYWHERE!!!), the second on medium-high, which reduced the smoke, and also cooked the steak a bit more the way I liked, not too done on the outside, and cooked a bit more in the center (ie not burnt on outside and still moo-ing on the inside). For the Bon Appetit steak, I did rub it in olive oil and covered it in thyme. Nice, but not necessary.

It’s clear that pan sauces are made up of the following: wine, shallots, butter, broth and the . The rest are just flair! 🙂 I think that pan sauces are a fun thing to add to any sort of meat dish (chicken, beef etc) that adds to the meat, and doesn’t cover it up. It’s really not difficult to make, so don’t be intimidated, but I do think that with anything, the more you make, the better you get! Also a big part of the sauce is the drippings from whatever piece of meat you’re cooking! Yum!!

The first sauce, Bittman’s, I’m not sure the shallots were cooked long enough, and I’m not sure I allowed the sauce to cook long enough to thicken. The second sauce, I sauteed the shallots for a bit in olive oil, and found this to be helpful, but you had to be careful not to brown them too much. I let the wine cook down about the same, being sure both times to scrape the bottom of the pan to get the good drippings from the steak into the sauce. The second time around, I added a bit less of the chicken broth than before, but more importantly, I let the sauce cook longer to thicken, and let the flavors develop. As you can tell, I didn’t hold back either time on sauce – I wanted to be sure none of it went to waste and that I got to fully taste the sauce. I guess not such a great presentation though, haha. YUM.

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A little Sunday morning chuckle

I was sent this little story from my dad, and thought you all might like a laugh too….

My Favorite Animal

Our teacher asked us what our favorite animal was, and I said, “Fried chicken.”

She said I wasn’t funny, but she couldn’t have been right, because everyone else in the class laughed.

My parents told me to always be truthful and honest, and I am. Fried chicken is my favorite animal. I told my dad what happened, and he said my teacher was probably a member of PETA.

He said they love animals very much.

I do, too. Especially chicken, pork and beef. Anyway, my teacher sent me to the principal’s office. I told him what happened, and he laughed, too. Then he told me not to do it again.

The next day in class my teacher asked me what my favorite live animal was.

I told her it was chicken. She asked me why, just like she’d asked the other children.

So I told her it was because you could make them into fried chicken.

She sent me back to the principal’s office again. He laughed, and told me not to do it again. I don’t understand. My parents taught me to be honest, but my teacher doesn’t like it when I am.

Today, my teacher asked us to tell her what famous person we admire most.

I told her, “Colonel Sanders.”

Guess where I am now…

Grown up pigs in a blanket! mmmm…

I think there are a million cute pubs/bars in NYC, and probably a bajillion of them are located in the West Village. Wilfie & Nell’s is one of those. I have been there a couple of times now, and have discovered their pigs in a blanket.

Sage pork sausage links wrapped in bacon.

Yep, meat wrapped in meat, my favorite thing.

What’s nice about these is that while they are pub food, they are fancy pub food. And I’m sure the rest of the menu is delicious (well I know the fries are), but I thought you should know about these piggies.

And to those who went with me the first time, and ate these before I arrived with nary a word, I will remember this. How cruel of you.

2 2 8  West 4th Street
Between 7th Avenue & West 1 0th Street

One if by Land, Two if by Sea, and no more for me!

So I know restaurant week was a couple weeks ago (sorry for the delay in posting – I’ve been a bit preoccupied with some family stuff and traveling), but I have to post about this particular restaurant. I saw an opportunity to get in at One if by Land, Two if by Sea, and was so excited by this that I didn’t care if it was for 5:30pm on Sunday evening. Anyways, it was a school night, better to eat early anyways, right? Haha. I rang up Beth and she and Will were both on board. We’d heard such good things about this place, and the three course tasting menu starts at $78 a person (they increase from there), so we couldn’t wait to get a taste for $35 a person!

Before the sun had even gone down, we arrived at One if by Land, Two if by Sea. We walked in the through the bar, and were quite excited, loving the décor and the atmosphere. Then we were led upstairs, to where I presume all the restaurant week-ers were. We were seated and given a choice of focaccia or a warm roll to start. Meh. We got an amuse bouche of a Portobello soup with chives, which I quite enjoyed. We ordered wine, very reasonable prices if ordering by the glass: $8-$14.

The tasting menu was organized by starters, mains, and desserts, each with 3 options. As there were three people, we decided to each get something different, so we (I) could taste them all!! So smart.  Will started with the Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, which I quite liked at first. I liked the cinnamony flavor in my mouth, and the soup felt soft in my mouth. This being said, I’m not sure I could eat the whole bowl. I ordered the Heirloom Radish Salad, with wild arugula, Pecorino cheese and a citrus vinaigrette. Upon ordering, I was very excited for this dish, and upon consuming it, quite disappointed. The radish was good, not too spicy, but honestly, I think I could throw together a better salad with the same ingredients. I did like the texture of the popcorn they threw in! Beth ordered the Calamari a la Plancha, which, as I’m not sure if I’m allowed to eat, I let her do all the tasting. She felt it was just alright, the chickpeas were good, and it was a nice dish if you like olives, but that the calamari was just mediocre. She’d had better.

It was at this point in the meal that our excitement had waned. Will’s Grilled Bavette Steak was so nice – I loved it, wished I had ordered it. Beth’s Red Beet Risotto was good – I liked that it captured the flavor of the beet, and I liked the red color. This brings me to my fish. I ordered the Pan Roasted Red Snapper. It was served with roasted root vegetables, all of which were crunchy and undercooked, kalamata olives, which I hardly noticed, and preserved lemons and chevril, also not really noticeable. I will have to say the piece of fish was very nice – soft and flaky, the dish’s only redeeming quality. I have only once sent a dish back, and had the fish not been nice, I would have sent this back. Ugh, I was so disappointed.

Dessert! Not really my favorite part of the meal, I always prefer savory over sweet, but since it came with, I was happy to oblige them by eating it!!! Will ordered the Gianduja Mousse, which was a concoction of bananas, hazelnut, and had some foam-like consistency. Beth ordered the Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta, which for panna cotta was good – it was served with blood orange made to look like caviar. I ordered the cheesecake – while not the best cheesecake I’ve ever had, it was certainly the best dessert of the evening. It was very light, not too rich, but it was served with this weird foam – a cinnamon flavored foam. There was certainly too much of it, and was not tasty.

I don’t know where we heard the hype about this restaurant, and I don’t know if we came in expecting too much. I do think that if there is a place that has its cheapest tasting menu start at $78, that when you take a bite into at least one of your courses, you stop to savor the bite in your mouth, feeling the sensation all over. There was not a single bite of food here that lit up my taste buds. I think the décor was a bit cheesy, and cringed (while simultaneously loving it) when the pianist broke into “My Heart Will Go On”. Oh Titanic. Don’t waste your money at this restaurant. If you’re really dying to go, speak to me, as they gave us $30 gift cards each, for our next trip in (keep in mind that’s not even half of one tasting menu). Or, you can pay me $50 and I will cook you a better meal.

An excuse to use those Parmesan rinds

So looking for inspiration, I turned to those girls from Big Girls Small Kitchen (I’m so jealous of them). I was looking for a soup to warm me up as the wintry mix falls outside the window, plus I wanted something to have for lunch the next day. I came across a recipe called Parmesan, White Bean and Kale Soup with Torn Pasta. I decided to make my own adaptations, and present you with that version, although here’s the link to the original:

http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/2010/04/recipe-flash-parmesan-white-bean-and.html

Anyways, this was so easy to throw together, once I figured it out. It takes about an hour to cook, start to finish and doesn’t require many ingredients. I think this is one of my first recipes in a while that doesn’t require sauteed garlic or onions. Very little prep – you need a can opener, a small cutting board and a knife. It does require 2 pots – but one is to cook the kale, and so once you’re done, a quick rinse out right away should do the trick.

I like this recipe as it has quite a lovely flavor – not dull as a lot of simple soups can be. I think a lot of credit can be given to the Parmesan rind. I love Parmesan rinds in soups 1) because of the flavor they add and 2) they make a delicious snack while cooking when you take it out of the broth. All of my rinds are from cheese blocks I’ve used, and so I always leave a little extra cheese on the rind before I freeze it, that way when I’m using it again, I can pull off the softened cheese with a fork, a nice little treat!

Ingredients:

2  14oz cans of chicken broth or vegetable stock

1 Parmesan rind

1 bunch of kale

1 14oz can of white beans

1 cup or so of dry pasta, bite size

Freshly ground pepper

Bring to a boil the chicken broth and Parmesan rind, and then simmer for 45-60 minutes, covered.

In a separate pot, bring to a boil a couple inches of water, add salt, and then drop in the kale. Cook with a lid for about 10 minutes or so until the kale is soft. Remove from water and allow to cool. When cool, cut off the stems and cut the remaining kale into bite size pieces. Keep to the side.

After about 45 minutes or so, remove the cheese rind (put it to the side on a plate so you can eat it while you’re waiting for the pasta to cook) from the broth, and add the pasta. Cook the pasta in the broth as directed on the box. With about five minutes to go on the pasta, add the can of un-drained white beans and the kale, allowing them to heat. You don’t want to add the beans too early or they can tend to get too mushy. Once the pasta has cooked and the beans and kale are warmed, add pepper to taste. I think the pepper gives it a good finish.

I have to admit, when I started putting this recipe together I was half-regretting the use of my Parm rind, and was counting on the rind to being the best part. I was wrong! I really enjoyed the flavors of this soup, the beans providing protein, the kale, a serving of veggies, and the pasta adds substance. I used Pipe Rigate (leftover from last week’s cauliflower goat cheese pasta), and I found that the beans found their way into the pasta openings. I can see that some people might find the soup a bit too salty, or too high in sodium (they are really cracking down people’s daily consumption of sodium these days), I think that you wouldn’t loose any flavor with the reduced sodium broth or vegetable broth. This makes about 2-3 servings, depending on how big your bowls are!

Enjoy!

Risotto City!

Sorry for the lag in posts – have had a bit of a hard week or so, and a faltering computer on top of it (if you feel so compelled, I would not turn away donations. What? Julie Powell took them, I can at least joke!). But don’t you worry, I have been slaving away, eating my heart out just for you! In all reality, I’ve been quite tame, but I do have some things in the backlog coming up!

Okay so Risotto City might be a bit of an exaggeration, but Beth taught me how to make risotto Saturday night!! I must admit, I’m quite intimidated by risotto, as it is a part of the rice family, and I have not had good experiences with cooking rice. It is not as easy as it seems, and I will be investing in a rice cooker. Judge away, but when all I have to do is add water and rice to a machine and get flawless rice, I will not feel an ounce of guilt. Beth has, however, taken away my fear of risotto. Not entirely, as I will not be scared-free until I reproduce this on my own, but definitely heaps less scared. I also found that a glass or two of a nice red during preparation significantly aids the process.

Ingredients for a chicken, tomato and spinach risotto a la Beth:

1/2 large onion, or 1 small onion, diced

1-2 cloves garlic, smashed or diced

1 punnet of grape tomatoes – the ones that “pop” in your mouth are the best

a bunch of leaf spinach

Chicken breast (we used 2 to feed 3 people, but its up to you) cut up into bite sizes

Box of Arborio rice

1 box of chicken stock – Beth says it’s best to make your own, but otherwise choose a low sodium stock, as otherwise the ones in the US seem too salty!

1/4 cup butter

1/2 lb of Parmesan cheese, grated

Pine nuts, toasted

Toast the pine nuts in a pan until lightly browned. Cook the onion and garlic in butter in a large pan. Add the chicken, and cook until almost done (will continue to cook while you simmer once you’ve added the rice). Add about half a box of the Arborio rice (1/2 lb), and be sure to stir it around, coating it with the butter already in the pan. Cover with chicken stock. Let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, adding more stock as it cooks. Also add the Parmesan as it cooks, tasting for the flavor as you go. When the rice is almost done (you want it al dente), add in tomatoes and spinach. Throw in a bit more butter, and heat the veggies, melt in the butter.

Serve in bowls, top with pine nuts.

Correct me Beth, if I am wrong. 😀

I loved this dish. And though I am still a bit worried about reproducing this on my own, I have ventured out to buy the Arborio rice and ingredients for maybe a mid-week attempt. The dish was so warm and filling, but unlike a lot of risottos I have had in the past, its not to creamy or rich, although it has a wonderful Parmesan flavor.  And be careful when biting into those tomatoes – as William says: “Everyone gets squirted in the face the first time”.