Monday: Cheese, Pesto and Crackers, Eggplant Napoleons with Pesto.
Tuesday: Crudités and toasted baguette with Fontainbleau Cheese, Lyonnaisse Salad
Wednesday: Fritto Misto (Another recipe from Cara Mangini – The Vegetable Butcher – see the ‘Cookbooks’ tab for a review of her book)
Thursday: Dunnings Gathering at the egregious Bill’s Bar and Burger
Friday: Roast Black Bass and Vegetables with Arugula Pesto, app of homemade tortilla chips and Roasted Red Pepper and Cannellini Dip
Saturday: Caprese salad with shallots, Pizza Margherita, Pizza with clams and red pepper
Sunday: Steak – Frites (Seared Sirloin and French fries), Green Salad, Homemade Baguette
“Meanwhile, the rain fell with a cruel persistence. You felt that the
heavens must at last be empty of water, but still it poured down,
straight and heavy, with a maddening iteration.”
– Somerset Maugham, from his short story, “Rain”
How can you fry and roast and eat steak in summer heat? Well, when it rains, roasting suggests itself and when it shines, there is little as perfect for a light summer meal as Fritto Misto, and any time you have a chance to eat classic Parisian Steak- frites, forget the damn weather and eat it. And by all means learn to cook it.
It was another smashing week of fine food – we’re getting pretty good at this. So, I’m tempted to tell you about the tomatoes with mozzarella, shallots and balsamic reduction – the best of all possible capreses, or the eggplant napoleon (eggplants are perfect now – if you get a fresh one, the skin has no bitterness), or the roasted black bass (a dish from Nina Compton, whose restaurant in New Orleans we ought not to have missed), or the pizza with clams and crushed red pepper (but SWMBO would not allow me – she didn’t like the dish) – but I’m sticking with the steak and the fritto misto, two spectacular dishes to serve your family and friends. (And by all means, have some yourself.) And also, two dishes that are neither expensive and, if you control the portions (and don’t have beef more than once a week), pretty healthy.
The steak we used for Steak-Frites (the sort of thing you might get in a Parisian bistro) took Beez and me back to our youth – Sirloin. The good news is that sirloin is fairly modestly priced these days, having falling out of favor except for grinding. It’s tasty (much more flavorful than filet) and one of the stronger beef tastes available in your average market. And it’s easy to cook.
The extra – Fritto Misto – is something I fell in love with in Venice. Although it’s fried, a very light breading and fresh vegetables create a light summer meal. Serve it with lemon wedges, a tzatziki sauce and some crisp white wine and you’ll be back in the old country. Well, not our old countries which were hard-scrabble, rainy Scotland and warmer, no less hardscrabble Ireland. But we’ve never been to either of those, and it would be hard to tempt us away from Italy – especially when you can eat like this over there – but, come to think of it, you can eat like that over here, which is a corollary of the main point of this blog. Wait – I’m getting confused – let’s get to the keepers of last week:
Steak – Frites
(Traditional French Bistro Beefsteak and Fries)
This is simple – you cook a steak (oil and season it first) on the grill – you cut up some potatoes and fry them twice – you make a green salad. You eat.
Steak Supplies (for 3-4)
2 – 2.5 lbs. of Sirloin Steak, 1″ thick (butchers will be happy to cut you a piece if the stuff in the display case is too thick or too thin – they crave recognition)
Salt and Pepper (a good flaky salt is good hear – Maldon is universally available, except in West Virginia – and nothing beats the taste and bite of freshly cracked pepper)
Heat a grill (or heat a grill pan for 15 minutes over medium plus). Unless you’ve bought ridiculously expensive and well-marbled Waigu beef, rub both sides of the sirloin with olive oil and season heavily with salt and pepper.
For medium rare – cook 4 to 5 minutes per side. Let rest for 4 minutes. Serve
Frites Supplies (for 4)
4 Large Yukon Gold Potatoes
4 cups cottonseed, grapeseed or canola oil (or, if you have a deep fryer, whatever quantity is required to come close to the “maximum” line in the tank)
Salt (again, a flaky salt is preferable – don’t forget to crumble the flakes as you sift them onto the fries)
Wash the potatoes, but don’t peel. Process them through a mandoline or cut them into 1/2″ rods, 0r, if you like shoestrings, into 1/8″ (you’ll need a mandoline for that)
Prep – Cook
Heat oil in a deep fryer or a deep dutch oven to 320 F and fry potatoes for 7 minutes. Remove from oil onto paper-towel lined vessel and cool.
Heat oil to 356 F and fry potatoes again for about 2 minutes – until golden and crispy. Remove from oil, season with salt and serve.
EXTRA: Fritto Misto (Adapted from Cara Mangini’s The Vegetable Butcher)
3/4 Cup All-Purpose Flour
3/4 Cup Bob’s Red Mill semolina (fine-milled) or another 3/4 Cup AP Flour
2 teaspoons baking power
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (or kosher salt)
1 Cup buttermilk (you can acidify regular milk or cream with vinegar or lemon juice – look it up)
Canola Oil (4-6 cups – enough to come up 1/3 of the height of a deep dutch oven – or enough to fill your deep fryer to just below the “Maximum” line)
8 Asparagus spears, trimmed of tough ends and cut into 2-inch lengths. Note: you don’t want that pencil-thin asparagus here – it will get lost in either the buttermilk or the oil.
Small fennel bulb, stem end trimmed, cut into 1/4″ slices with core intact to hold each piece together.
4 ounces or about 1 and 1/2 Cups of Sugar Snap Peas, strings removed.
Package of cremini mushrooms cleaned, stems removed – large ones cut in half.
Lemon cut into wedges for serving
Tarragon Yogurt Sauce for serving – you’ll have a crowd pleaser without this, but all you have to do is to mix about 2/3 Cup (one small container) of plain yogurt, with a teaspoon of finely chopped tarragon leaves, 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest, 3 teaspoons of lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon of salt (or more to taste), and 1/8 teaspoon each of Dijon mustard, ground cumin and black pepper (or more to taste).
Whisk the flours, baking powder and slat together in a medium bowl and transfer to a rectangular pan.
Pour the buttermilk into a similar-sized pan.
Line a baking sheet with paper towels or parchment paper and set it next to the stove or the deep fryer.
Fill a deep Dutch oven about one-third with the canola – or fill your deep fryer.
Heat the oil over medium-high to about 365 F (it will shimmer steadily at the sides of the pan).
Working in batches, dip vegetables in buttermilk, let excess drip off and then dredge in flour mixture. Shake off excess and lower (carefully) into the hot oil. Don’t crowd the pan. Fry, turning gently until golden brown – 1-3 minutes. Remove to the baking seet and sprinkle with salt. Note: you may have to adjust the heat to keep the temperature up or to avoid burning vegetables.
Arrange on a platter and serve with lemon wedges (and the yogurt sauce, if you wish).