Week of January 15 – 21, 2018
Monday: Left-over Stew with Brussels Sprouts Slaw
Tuesday: Black Pepper Steak and Caesar Salad
Wednesday: Roasted Root Vegetable Soup / Grilled Cheese and Spinach
Thursday: Left-over Soup with Salad Pizza
Friday: Pasta with Shrimp and Spinach
Saturday: Dunnings Holiday Party
Sunday Brunch: Pasta Frittata
Antipasto of Olives, Cheese, Pickled Cauliflower, Salami and Smoked Salmon
Ragu Bolognese with Tagliatelle, Green Salad
The highlight of last week was the magnificent party at Gene and Sandy O’Sullivan’s grand town-house. And the highlight of that party was Sandy’s cooking, which puts this blog to shame. From dangerously delicious hors d’ouevres (Merguez-en croute?, smoked salmon with dill and bits of potato, Goat Cheese and Beet on Toasts) through perfectly seared tuna and barbecued sliders to roasted vegetables and the desserts from the Krupers, Paula Rodgers and Hilda Slavish, we were replete. Out of modesty, I will not name the luminaries attending, other than to say that it was the Dunnings Group: a veritable Who’s who of Pittsburgh society, the legal profession, real estate, public relations and health care, along with a smattering of eloquent dilettantes. And the conversation, which flowed like the whisky, was, at once, a challenge and pleasure.*
*I may have drifted here into the area of what Hugh Kenner once called “Irish Fact” – ‘Providence in creating the Irish (finest of deeds) endowed them with a craving for occasional emphatic assertions, lacking which the most mellifluous discourse would be but as porter poured upon the floor. It is incumbent on each speaker to furnish these as the structure of discourse prompts, and that which it is structurally needful to say . . . wise Providence will surely underwrite.’
The Dunnings Gang is a group of friends who, for forty years or so, have been meeting one Thursday a month (it used to be once a week) for drinks and to curate a football pool, discuss the state of the world or a book, of which perhaps one of us has read the introduction or the NY Times book review. And, once a year, we have a party which includes our spouses, requiring an alteration of attire, language, diet and general attitude.
As great as the Dunnings Party dinner was (very), the dish we’ll be flogging this week is a modern take on meat and potatoes – pepper steak with Caesar salad. This is an elegant, but simple way to please your family or wow some guests. Serve some cocktails, toss in an appetizer and some dessert, and you have a dinner that takes minimal preparation, cooks quickly and will allow you to relax and drink with your guests so that as they begin to make less and less sense, you won’t notice or even care.
This is another great recipe from Alex Guarnaschelli – have you bought her book yet? (The Home Cook)
BLACK PEPPER STEAK AND CAESAR SALAD
(adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli’s The Home Cook)
Timing: About 40 minutes – Active prep and cooking, maybe 25 minutes
Salad Dressing and croutons can be made ahead, in which case you’ll be prepping
and cooking for 10 minutes tops – but the meat needs to rest for 8 minutes or so
Ingredients: Serves 4 reasonable eaters – I’d serve an appetizer
For the Dressing:
3 canned or bottled anchovy fillets (we usually use 5 or so – some of these fillets can be tiny)
1 teaspoon of capers, drained
1 small garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon Dijon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
Dash of tobacco (we give it 3-5 dashes)
½ cup olive oil
½ cup canola oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
For the croutons:
4 tablespoons of butter
2 medium garlic cloves, grated (we used ¼ of a clove at most)
6 1-inch-thick slices of sourdough, cut into 1-inch cubes [NOTE: This means that you’ll have to slice the bread yourself – stores slice bread ½-inch thick or less]
Steak and Greens and Cheese for Salad:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 hanger steak (about 2 lbs.), trimmed of sinew
Kosher salt and black pepper
3 medium romaine hearts, quartered length-wise (Alex calls for 6, but the package of 3 available in most grocery stores is perfect – shave off the rusty bottom of the lettuce, but do not cut off the whole stem or your lettuce will fall apart)
1 cup (about 4 ounces) of shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano (a vegetable-peeler is perfect for shaving this cheese)
Cook and Assemble:
Make the Salad Dressing:
(You can do this ahead – I usually keep it in the food processor for a final pulse or two before serving)
In a food processor, combine the anchovies, cappers, garlic, egg yolk, mustard, lemon juice, Worcestershire Sauce and Tabasco.
Pulse and then blend until smooth.
Now, with the machine running, add the olive oil, canola oil, salt and pepper. Taste and add anything needed.
Make the Croutons:
(These can also be made ahead)
In a medium sauté pan, melt half of the butter (2 tablespoons) over medium and add half the garlic, if using. (We did not use the garlic.)
Season with ¼ teaspoon of salt, or to taste, and cook until the garlic softens – maybe 2 minutes. You do not want the garlic to burn – lower heat if need be.
Add half the bread cubes and season with salt again – toss and cook over medium until they are golden brown (5-8 minutes). Drain on a paper towel.
Repeat the process with the other half of the butter and the bread cubes.
Cook the Steak:
Heat a large cast-iron pan over high (medium-high if you have high-btu burners). This means to heat the cast-iron for 3 minutes or more. [NOTE: This means that you’ll be able to sear the steak well, which is important. It also means that you’ll be generating some smoke and some spitting grease. Turn on your hood fan, open the windows and have a spatter screen handy.}
Pat the steak dry and season on all sides with salt and a serious amount of freshly ground black pepper.
Add the canola oil and, as it begins to smoke place the steak in the skillet carefully with tongs– you don’t want to splash yourself.
Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
Remove steak to a cutting bard and allow to rest for 8 to 10 minutes (for medium-rare).
Assemble Salad and Serve:
Arrange romaine spears on a platters and season them heavily with the dressing, then sprinkle the shaved cheese over the top and distribute the croutons.
Slice the steak against the grain and arrange on the platter.
Serve. (We put any extra dressing into a bowl with a spoon so diners can help themselves).
This is a wonderful dinner for meat-eaters. You’ll be able to charge them big bucks. (Uncle Rick, you owe me.)