The picture at the top of the blog was taken by Billy who was in Paris to watch Euro 2016. La Sainte Chapelle is the apotheosis of gothic architecture – nearly all glass. If you are in Paris on a sunny day, go to see it, it’s like standing in a prism. (It’s on the Ile de la Cité)
Tuesday: Tomato and Potato Salad, Toasted Baguette
Wednesday: Grilled Haloumi Cheese with Green Beans and Merguez Sausage with cannellini and spinach
Thursday: Grilled Watermelon with Avocado, Cucumber and Jalapeño salsa, Grilled Bread (The Watermelon is a keeper and the salsa would go with fish, tacos – spectacular).
Friday: Oysters, Sausage Pizza, Arugula and berries.
Saturday: Grilled Skirt Steak with Roasted Tomato Salsa, crispy baked potatoes, romaine with buttermilk dressing (Ann Hilda Welsh Slavish) – App of Fontainbleau Cheese with crudités sliced baguette, salumi, cheese and pickles – Ice cream with blackberries and blackberry sauce
Sunday: Cheese, crackers, salumi / Arugula and romaine salad with whipped feta cream dressing, baguette
“Too few of us . . .feel that the breaking of bread, and the sharing of salt, the common dipping into one bowl mean more than the satisfaction of a need. . . Very simple men know that. . . there is honor and sanctity in eating together.”
– M.F.K. Fisher
Well, I don’t think we are all that simple and we didn’t dip into one bowl (although someone did have a sip of my martini), but our great friends Hilda and Tim came over on Saturday and we had a fine time, indeed. Like Fisher’s ideal dinner companions, the four of us are able to sit for hours, talking, eating and drinking (and smoking cigars) and I can’t image a better way of spending an evening. And when your friends bring some good food (Hilda brought a salad with a wonderful buttermilk dressing) and wine – well, I’d keep them on the list, if I were you.
The food itself was simple – meat and potatoes with an appetizer of fresh cheese and crudités. There is a twist you’ll want to try in the steak marinade and a new method for creating the perfect skin on perhaps the most perfect of nature’s prepackaged foods – the baked potato. This is not your grandmother’s steak and potatoes.
Now I have to confess that the fire was not quite hot enough to get the kind of satanic seer I like on a steak and that the feta cream was too salty, but in the company of good friends the good points of a meal are praised and the faults ignored. (Please remember that, the next time you visit for dinner.)
This stuff is so good that it would be wrong to waste any more time before sharing the recipes.
SKIRT STEAK WITH ROASTED TOMATO SALSA
(This recipe is adapted from Marc Murphy)
Note: You’ll want to marinate the steak for at least 1 ½ hours – it’s better if you do it overnight)
Supplies: (Serves about 6)
For the Salsa
1 lb. of tomatoes cut into thick wedges (if you can get beefsteaks, you’ll need about 2 – but you can also use halved plum tomatoes – I used a mixture)
½ Red Onion cut into wedges
1 small or ½ large jalapeno (I would remove the seeds, unless you like really hot salsa)
1 small garlic clove – unpeeled
½ Cup of fresh cilantro leaves (I used less and it worked out)
½ Tablespoon chopped canned chipotles in adobo sauce (this is the can you’ll see at the G.E. or Whole Foods) – I used a tablespoon plus. This is spicy stuff, but as the salsa sits it will become milder.
¼ Cup Canola Oil
For the Skirt Steak
1 ¾ lbs. of Skirt Steak (we had the leftovers for steak sandwiches after Mass on Sunday)
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
(Note: Murphy serves this with grilled Romaine dressed with more salsa, and this would be a fine thing to do. My own taste is to have a fresh salad to go with the smoky, spicy flavors of the grilled meat. And Hilda’s salad of romaine with buttermilk dressing was perfect.)
Marinate the steak for at least 1 1/2 hours or overnight
To make the salsa, preheat the oven to 450 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place the tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, and garlic on the parchment paper. Roast for about 17 minutes and remove the onions and garlic, then return the baking sheet to the oven for another fifteen minutes until the jalapeño and tomatoes are charred and softened.
Peel the garlic and transfer all of the vegetables to a blender.* Add the cilantro, the chipotles and a pinch of salt. Blend on medium until you have a uniform purée. Then, with the motor running, slowly add the oil until it is incorporated. You may need to thin the salsa with some water. We had to add one or two tablespoons of water to transform it from a paste to a salsa. Taste and correct seasoning (remember that it’s going to taste hotter now than it will after sitting – you’ll probably need to add some salt). Let this cool before using on the steak.
*You can use a food processor – I did. There is no medium, so give the vegetables a couple of pulses first, to get them going.
Season the steak on both sides with salt and pepper and toss with some of the sals and marinate refrigerated for at least 1.5 hours, but preferably overnight.
Remove the steak from the marinade, let the marinade drip off, and bring it to room temperature.
Start a medium-hot fire in a grill.
When the fire is ready, put the grate on the grill and allow it to heat up before cleaning and oiling.
Now place the steak on the grill and grill about 5 minutes for medium-rare.
(Look – every fire burns more or less hot and skirt steak usually has thicker and thinner areas. You’re on your own here to get the steak right. Remember, you can always put it back on the grill to cook some more – but you can never restore the pink to the meat. In the end, it comes down to experience.)
Let the steak rest for 5 minutes before slicing it across the grain. (This is really important – you want thin slices across the grain – just slice off a corner of the steak and keep going.)
Put the steak on a platter (with baked potatoes or other vegetables, if using) and spoon some of the salsa across the middle of the slices.
Serve with more salsa on the side.
CRUSTY BAKED POTATOES with WHIPPED FETA
(Adapted from Ina Garten, Make it Ahead)
Supplies: (1 potato per diner – the whipped feta cream is enough for at least 8 potatoes)
4 Idaho potatoes (8-10 oz. each)
1 Tablespoon chopped rosemary
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Grated zest of 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
Whipped Feta (see “Extra” below)
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Place the rosemary, thyme, lemon zest and coarse salt in a spice grinder or mini food-processor and pulse into finely chopped, but not pureed. Spread the mixture on a plate.
Scrub the potatoes and dry them well.
Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.
Pierce the potatoes all over with a fork.
Rub the potatoes with olive oil, then roll them in the herb mixture and place on the sheet pan.
Bake for 60 minutes or until tender (test them with a fork).
Slit each potato and press the ends to open a pocket. Put a dollop of sour cream with chives or butter with chives or the whipped feta cream (see “Extra” below) on each and serve extra sour cream, butter, or feta cream and chives on the side.
Extra Whipped Feta Cream
Note: This stuff is good, not just on potatoes but as a dip for crudités or celery. For my taste, I prefer plain sour cream with chives and ground pepper for this particularly flavorful crispy baked potato recipe. I enjoy the flat, earthy mealiness of the potato to come through and I think the feta cream, while delicious, overwhelms it.
You’ll need 6 ounces of Greek feta, crumbled, 2 ounces of cream cheese at room temperature, 1/3 cup of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and some kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper.
Process the feta and cream cheese – pulse until mixed. Add the olive oil, lemon juice and ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve. (We mixed chopped chives into the finished cream)