Monday: Roasted Chicken with Grapes and Sherry Vinegar, roasted Potatoes,Green Salad – App of Fountainbleau Cheese
Tuesday: Gonzalo Guzmán’s Pork-Braised Butter Beans with Eggs
Wednesday: Leftover chicken and Guzman’s Beans
Thursday: Caramelized Onion Tart with Green Salad
Friday: Freezer chicken breast with onions, tomatoes, hot sausage and jalapeños with vinegar sauce over arugula
The Sous-chefs from Saturday: Billy, Emily, Mike and Greg
Saturday: Salsa with Chips, Onion Tart / Grilled New York Strip or Delmonico Steaks / Baked Potatoes / Caesar Salad
Dark Chocolate and Toasted Almond Semifreddo
(Alas – I took no picture at the Slavishes – imagine cocktails and apps in the living room with the French doors open to the patio and the jungle green of this late Spring, and Lilly at your feet.)
Sunday: Tim Slavish’s risotto with peas and mushrooms and Hilda’s roasted root vegetables at the Slavish estate with Lily under the table.
I am excited about last week’s cooking – the Roasted Chicken with Grapes was a grand slam, the caramelized onion tart a triple play, the freezer chicken a revelation and the dinners on Saturday and Sunday (at the Slavishes) were as close to bliss as is afforded on this earth to people with a conscience and an artificial knee.
It is, alas, true, that when we get excited about too many dishes we usually create a disorganized yawner of a post. So we’re going to get hold of ourselves and focus on two things, both of which you need to cook. If you don’t you’ll regret it. Oh maybe not today or tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life. So wipe that look off your face Ilsa, and get cooking. [If you are over 60 and don’t get the reference to Casablanca, shame on you. If you are under 50 and do get it, you are spending too much time watching TCM]
I’ve never written about an entire dinner before, but I’m going to do so because on Saturday, with the help of Billy, Emily, Greg and Mike, we created a fine steak-house dinner right down to a wonderful dessert of chocolate-almond semifreddo. It is good that we did this, and that we laughed a lot because we had gathered to watch the Penguins play the third game of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Nashville Predators and the game did not go well. But the food certainly did.
Our menu couldn’t have been simpler – grilled Strip Steaks, baked potatoes, and Caesar salad – but each element was done well, with the salad being a particular stand-out and the way we cooked it was not quite traditional. We’ll share all that with you down below under “Steak House Cook Out.” (Note: we served a memorable onion tart appetizer and the semifreddo was spectacular, but you can add your own apps and dessert, if you like, and I can’t write up that many recipes in two days.
And here, before the steak house menu I’m throwing in an
EXTRA: Sautéed Freezer Chicken with Vegetables and Vinegar
not just because it’s good, but because it represents a sort of breakthrough dish for me. Every once in a while, if you’ve been cooking long enough and cooking for people who care about their food (SWMBO is a helpful albeit relentless critic), you simply know what to do with the ingredients on hand. We’re not talking Lynn Rosetto Kasper here (she is famous for taking calls from people who have prunes, almond milk and ground meat in the fridge and helping them turn this grab bag into a good dinner), we’re just talking about having enough experience to ‘know’ when something makes sense.
So there was I, the other night, rather lonely (Beez was in Chicago on business, Billy was playing soccer, and I was home alone with my synthetic knee), too sore to drive to the store, too stubborn to order in, and with a mere quarter pound of bulk hot sausage, a frozen chicken breast thawing in the refrigerator, some jalpeños, cherry tomatoes, some arugula and a small yellow onion. It occurred to me that, with the right seasonings and vegetables a sautéed chicken breast can be a star.
I like hot sausage and I know that if I cook it in a little vegetable oil, it will flavor that oil as well as give up some of its own fat. When I had the sausage broken into bits and almost cooked, I tossed some chopped onions, sliced jalapeños and halved cherry tomatoes into the pan, seasoned them with salt and pepper, then pushed them to the perimeter and put the chicken breast (patted dry and seasoned with salt and pepper) into the pan and cooked for about 6 minutes per side. I was out of lemons, and felt that lime would be too strong a taste. So I splashed some red wine vinegar into the pan to add some acid and make a sauce and then, thinking of the citrusy taste of Sumac, sprinkled some of that over the entire mélange.
I placed the chicken, sausage and vegetables on top of mound of arugula, poured the sauce over it and sat down to a good dinner, thought up and cooked in about 30 minutes total.
I don’t claim any originality for cooking a chicken breast with these elements – but I do claim a certain satisfaction for recognizing what would work. We will cook this dish again, partly because we always end up with a few frozen chicken breasts or thighs in the freezer (the packages in the markets never seem to have the correct number for our recipes) but mostly because it tasted good. [If you don’t have Sumac – a Middle Eastern spice available in most super markets – just use some lemon juice instead and, if you like it, some dried oregano. (Skip the vinegar, if you’re using the lemon.) Please note that you can add almost any constellation of vegetables and spices to your sautéed chicken breast – zucchini or summer squash comes immediately to mind, or raw corn kernels later in the summer.
STEAK HOUSE COOKOUT
There are three dishes for this dinner and coordinating their timing is important. Basically, you want to start the potatoes about 35 minutes before you put the steaks on the grill – and you’ll want to start the coals about 20 minutes before (or turn on the gas grill about 10 minutes before). The dressing for the Caesar salad can be made up to one day ahead of time.
Ingredients: Serves 4
4 Baking (Russet Potatoes), a little vegetable oil for finishing, and sour cream or butter, sea salt and chives for serving
2 large or 3 small heads of Romaine (most supermarkets carry a package of 3 small heads of Romaine – perfect for this dinner)
3 New York Strip steaks, at least 1” thick, kosher salt and ground black pepper for seasoning
For the Caesar Dressing:
6 anchovy fillets drained
1 small garlic clove
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons lemon juice (more to adjust seasoning, if needed)
¾ teaspoon of Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons of olive oil
½ cup of vegetable oil
3 tablespoons finely grated parmigiano
Ground black pepper
Make Caesar dressing earlier in the day.
Set a baking rack or some sort of grid on a baking sheet (you don’t want the potatoes to rest directly on the baking sheet, since that will burn the bottoms)
80 minutes before you want to serve, turn oven to 450 F, clean potatoes, pierce about 6 times with a fork and toss them in a large bowl in which you have dissolved 2 tablespoons of table salt in 1/2cup of water, to moisten them. Place the potatoes on the rack on the baking sheet.
Either leave the romaine leaves intact (if you have a large enough salad bowl to toss them in) or break them in half.
Trim the strip steaks of as much fat as you can. Save this fat and render it in a sauté pan to create a sumptuous beefy gloss for your steak. (You’ll be searing the steaks on a hot grill and dripping fat will cause flare-ups that will char your steak – not a disaster, but not optimal.)
About 40 minutes before you wish to serve, start coals in chimney starter – or, if using a gas grill, turn on one area to high and another to medium, about 35 minutes before you want to serve.
Caesar Dressing (do this earlier in the day and refrigerate) – adapted from bon appétit
Chop the anchovy fillets and garlic with a good pinch of salt. You want to really mince this up well, so take your time. When you have a good mince, start using the side of your knife blade to mash into a paste. Scrape the paste into a medium-sized bowl.
Now whisk the 2 large egg yolks, the 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and the mustard into the anchovy paste.
Now, starting with just a drop or two, whisk in the olive oil and then whisk in the vegetable oil (using just a bit at a time – maybe 6 or 7 pours). Whisk until the dressing is thick and glossy.
Now whisk in the parmigiano and season with salt and pepper and more lemon juice if needed, to taste.
Cover with plastic and set aside or refrigerate.
Baked Potatoes (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)
About 70 minutes before serving, place the potatoes (prepared as above), in the oven and bake about 50 minutes (the largest should register 205 F at center, if it is cooked correctly).
Remove potatoes from oven and brush the tops and sides with vegetable oil, then put back into oven
to cook for 10 more minutes.
Season the steaks aggressively on both sides with salt and pepper.
Pour coals into grill creating a hot zone and one or two cool zones (i.e., bunch the coals in the center, if you have a flat grill, or to one side, if you have a concave Weber). Place grate(s) on grill, oil them and allow to heat for at least 5 minutes.
Now place the steaks over the hot spot and don’t touch them for about 3 minutes.
Flip the steaks and, again, don’t touch for 3 minutes.
Now move the steaks to the cooler zone to continue cooking until a thermometer slid horizontally into the steaks registers 130 F – for medium rare. (This will take 6 or 7 minutes – if you have grilled enough to know when the steaks are done by poking them, skip the thermometer.)
Remove the steaks, cover very loosely with foil and allow to rest for 5 – 7 minutes.
Finish Caesar Salad and Serve:
While the steaks are resting, toss the romaine with the Caesar dressing. You probably won’t need all of the dressing. Note: to coat the romaine evenly, it’s best to toss by hand.
Cut an “X” into each baked potato and, wearing oven mitts, squeeze the potatoes from each end to open them up.
Slice the steak and pour the rendered beef fat (or melted butter, if you wish) over the slices, then sprinkle with some sea salt flakes.
When guests are served, shave some parmigiano onto each salad (use a vegetable peeler).
Serve potatoes with sour cream or softened butter, sea salt and chives