Posts Tagged ‘Cook’

It’s a spring thing

March 23, 2013

It's a spring thing

The local fish monger had shad fillets and roe sets today. Just what I wanted for dinner.

I melted a couple of tablespoons of sweet butter in a large skillet with an equal amount of olive oil. When it got hot, I placed the shad fillet in the skillet skin side down. I had already salted and peppered the fillet.

I spooned some of the butter/oil over the top of the fillet and, after two minutes on the stove top, I placed the skillet in a pre-heated, 350 degree oven.

For the roe set, I had soaked them for an hour or so in some cool water with a hit of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Then I rinsed the set and patted it dry.

I gently separated the sacks and dusted them with some flour seasoned with white pepper and salt.

I heated up some bacon fat in small skillet over medium low heat and placed the roe set into the fat.

Meanwhile, I pulled the pan with the fillet out of the over and set it back on the stove top over medium heat. I let it cook for a couple of minutes and then poured in about 3 ounces of white wine. Turning the flame up to medium high, I let the wine reduce by half. Then I added a couple more tablespoons of butter and a few ounces of heavy cream. I removed the fish to a plate and kept it warm while continuing to sitr and reduce the wine/butter/cream mixture.

The roe set I turned over just as it was crisping up…about three minutes. I let the roe continue to cook for another three minutes or so and then removed from the heat.

As the sauce thickened, I added some finely chopped parsely, tasted for seasoning and salted and peppered as needed.

I napped the fillet with the sauce and sprinkled on more chopped parsely.

The roe set I placed on the side of the plate with the fillet. I had a small sprig of bronze fennel I got out of the garden that I minced up and sprinkled over the top of the roe.

As an accompaniment, I sauteed some oyster mushrooms and put them on the plate as well.

Spring had sprung!

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Spring, one way or the other

March 21, 2013

Trenette al pesto

Today was the first full day of Spring. It was, unfortunately, gray, cool and we had snow flurries this morning.

We haven’t had a bad winter, and I don’t mean to complain. Still we are ready to be done with the cold and the gray.

In an effort to welcome the season despite the weather, we opted to have a dish for dinner that reminds us of sunny, warm climes.

On our 2011 visit to the Cinque Terre in Italy, we had the local favorite known as “trenette al pesto.”

We’re all familiar with pesto, that wonderful sauce of fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and cheese. The traditional presentation in and around Genoa is to use the sauce to dress a bowl full of pasta (trenette, the Genovese “fettucini“) along with sliced, boiled new potatoes and fresh green beans.

Really! Pasta and potatoes in the same dish. And green beans for good measure. All dressed in fragrant, rich pesto. How could this not be good!

So, tonight, with company coming over and a real need for something to make us “think spring,” we whipped up a batch.  It did the trick.

Trenette al pesto

  • 1 pound fettucini
  • 4 new potatoes, boiled until just done and then peeled, sliced thin
  • 6 ounces fresh green beans, cleaned and cooked in salted, boiling water until just crisp tender
  • 1 cup of your favorite pesto, more or less to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. When done, drain, reserving 1/3 to 1/2 cup pasta water. Stir pasta water into pesto until blended. In large bowl, toss pasta with potato slices and cooked green beans. Add pesto and toss again.

Serves 4

Enjoy!

 

A brisket for all seasons

February 19, 2013

BrisketSand1

Who doesn’t love beef brisket?

Here on the East Coast, most people know and like it brined (corned beef). In Texas, it is a prime cut for long slow cooking (smoked). And then, of course, the ultimate brined and smoked brisket that is steamed (pastrami).

Years ago during one of our trips to New Orleans, we dined at Tujague’s. Reportedly the second oldest restaurant in a city known for all levels of dining, Tujague’s is more of a local favorite than a “tourists must visit” kind of place. It is not often written about in the foodie mags. It is, in its own way, a classic and one that in my opinion is worth seeking out.

One of the house specialties at Tujague’s is their “boiled brisket.” Nothing could be more humble in name yet more superlative in flavor.

Sometime after that trip, I discovered, on the restaurant’s website, their recipe for this dish. Since that time, I have made this brisket at least once year, usually served with latkes as part of my Hanukkah celebration honoring the Jewish part of my heritage. It amuses me that I prepare a New Orleans Creole brisket recipe to celebrate Hanukkah. This provides a rare opportunity for me to combine my love of New Orleans, my French (my maternal great-great-grandparents entered this country at the port of New Orleans) and my Jewish family.

Recently, I had been overtaken by a strong craving for the brisket and so we purchased a seven pounder from the local BJ’s and I cooked it up for Sunday dinner with friends.

Preparing for our trip next month, yesterday I happened to be checking NOLA.com, the website of the New Orleans Times Picayune. In one of those quirky little coincidences,. I came across a story about the passing of one Steven Latter, the proprietor of Tujague’s It was interesting to read about how he and his brother took over the restaurant without any real food service experience and preserved this treasure.  Mr. Slatter (who, by the way, was Jewish) eventually bought his brother out to become the sole owner. Reading about him made me a little sad that I hadn’t actually met him as I think we might have enjoyed each other’s company.

I read the story and was contemplating what it might mean for the future of the restaurant. Sometimes, owners can be more than just the “boss” at a restaurant; they may provide the very soul of the establishment. As I mused on this, I noticed a link to a story from last year that talked about how great the “brisket sandwich” was. The sandwich was basically a roast beef poor boy/po’boy (the New Orleans version of a “hoagie” or “sub”) made with the house brisket and available only at the bar.

Aha!  Now I knew what I would do with some of the leftovers from Sunday’s brisket.

This noon, I ran out to Italian Peoples’ Bakery and picked up a loaf of their stick bread.

Back home, I made the sandwich and I was not disappointed.

Thank you, Mr. Slatter, for keeping Tujague’s traditions. 

 BrisketSand2

Boiled Brisket Po’ Boy

  • 12” length of good French or Italian stick bread sliced almost but not quite all the way through and opened up.
  • 5 ounces of leftover boiled brisket (see recipe below) warmed, slightly
  • Chopped lettuce
  • Fresh tomato slices
  • 2 Tbs Creole mustard (or dark, coarse grained mustard)
  • 2 Tbs mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbs prepared horseradish (or two taste)

“Dress” the bread with the mustard, mayo and horseradish. Add slices of tomato in one layer, then a light layer of lettuce. Cover evenly with slices of brisket (I warmed mine for one minute in the microwave). Close bread, using back edge of long knife to kind of stuff the filling back in while pressing down on the top of the bread with the palm of your free hand. Cut into two lengths and enjoy.  (I ate this myself but it would probably feed two normal people)

Boiled Brisket ala Tujague’s

  • Fresh beef brisket (about 4 pounds)
  • 2 onions sliced
  • 2 ribs celery chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ½ tbs. salt
  • 12 whole black peppercorns

Put the beef brisket in a coup pot, having trimmed excess fat. Add the onions, celery, garlic, parsley, bay leaves, salt, and peppercorns. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer slowly for 2 ½ to 3 hours or until brisket is very tender. When the brisket is ready, remove it form the pot, drain, and slice to serve. Serve brisket with horseradish sauce on the side.

Horseradish sauce

  • ½ cup horseradish
  • ½ cup Creole mustard
  • 1 cup Catsup.

Blend and chill.

 

Crawfish Monica

February 8, 2013
Crawfish Monica with sweet pepper garnish

Crawfish Monica with sweet pepper garnish

If you know me, you know that Thursday is “pasta night.”  There is little variation from that. It was the way it was as I was coming up and it is the way I prefer it now.

Unfortunately, every 1st and 3rd Thursday is also city council night. As such, I am often attending the meeting, which starts at 5;30 pm, and that throws dinner off schedule.

Last night, cold, damp, grey, was a council night. And a pasta night.

It was also the Thursday before Mardi Gras and just a few days after the Superbowl played in the Superdome, so I was especially attuned to New Orleans food inspirations.

In discussing dinner early in the day, I teasingly tossed out the idea of having Crawfish Monica for dinner. While we had everything we needed on hand (including the crawfish tailmeat), the evening’s schedule wasn’t condusive to an involved dinner prep.

We decided that pasta e fagioli would pass muster for Thursday night’s dinner. It could be slow simmered sans pasta until I was on my way home from city hall.

But the crawfish monica stuck in my mind.

With the threatened Snow-easter scheduled to come in overnight, we were prepared to batten down the hatches, have an adult beverage or two, build a fire and enjoy a relaxing dinner.

Crawfish Monica seemed to fit the bill.

It’s a rich dish. Fortunately, it is also satisfying so you don’t need to consume tons.

The dish screams NOLA! It is comforting and slightly decadent.  And it let afforded me the opportunity to have pasta two nights in a row.

Here’s a version of the dish from Emeril Lagasse and found on the Go Nola website.

Crawfish Monica

  • 1 pound linguine or fettucine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Essence, recipe follows
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pound crawfish tails*
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Return to the pot and toss with the olive oil and reserved cooking liquid. Cover to keep warm.

In a large saute pan or skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, Essence, salt, and cayenne, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the white wine and cook over high heat until nearly all evaporated. Add the cream lemon juice and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced. Add the crawfish tails and cook, stirring, to warm through. Add the onions and parsley and cook for 1 minute. Add the cooked pasta and toss to coat with the sauce. Cook until the pasta is warmed through, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add 1/2 cup of the cheese.

Turn out into a serving bowl and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Serves 6 – 8

*What? You don’t have crawfish tailmeat in the freezer? Why not? Check the frozen seafood section of your favorite supermarket or fish monger. You can order it online from Cajun Grocer. I know, it is not cheap. Splurge and get a couple of pounds to keep in the freezer. You never know when you might want to make some crawfish etoufee or crawfish cheesebread (a recipe I’ll get around to posting someday).  And if you can’t find the crawfish tailmeat or don’t want to order it, use the small “salad” shrimp that are readily available in the grocery store.

Just remember to rename the dish, SHRIMP Monica.

A good night for a good woman’s chicken

January 11, 2013

PouletalaBonneFemme

It’s that time of year again when my mind and tastes turn to all things New Orleans. Carnival season officially started on January 6 (3 Kings Day/Epiphany) and runs until Mardi Gras…the day before Ash Wednesday. Even as I fret about the post holiday “bloat”, I find myself planning if/when I’ll make a King Cake; who I will share Muffalettas with; when I’ll make my next batch of “Jersey Street Gumbo,” etc. My pre-dinner Negroni or Manhattan morphs into a Sazerac; the medieval influenced Christmas carols segue into the second line and rumba rhythms.

Therefore, it really wasn’t a surprise that the daily question of “what do you want for dinner tonight” was answered with a dish from the Cajun/Creole canon. “Chicken a la Bonne Femme.”

I’m told the name means “Good woman’s chicken” or “Good wife’s chicken.” What it is, is just plain G-O-O-D!

While there are myriad vTalkAboutGood!ersions of preparing this dish, we have always stuck with the recipe we found in this book:

We picked this up on our first trip to New Orleans back in 1989. We bought its sequel on our second trip a year later. We use them as much for reference and inspiration as we do for actually preparing all the recipes from them. The recipe for Chicken Bonne Femme is one we do go back to often. It’s a little labor intensive but rustic, satisfying and oh so tasty. Unfortunately, this recipe is for a company-sized meal (serves 8).

On this damp, chilly night when we were craving the dish, we sought a way to scale it down.

Using what we had at the ready, we were able to put together a very tasty rendition of this homey dish just the right size for us.

Give this a try…the “small version” for two. Add a bottle of wine and simple salad. It’s a real big easy…

Chicken Bonne Femme (for two)

(Poulet bonne femme pour deux)

  • 3/4 to 1 pound chicken thighs
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, skin left on, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/4 pound thin sliced pancetta
  • 1 medium yellow onion sliced thinly
  • Salt, pepper and red (cayenne) pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a 10 inch, ovenproof skillet, cook the pancetta slices over medium low heat until nicely browned. Remove from pan and reserve.

Increase heat to medium and in the fat that has rendered out from the pancetta, lightly brown the chicken thighs (about 3 minutes per side.) Season well with salt, pepper, and red pepper. Remove from pan and reserve.

Brown the sliced potatoes in the remaining drippings 2 or 3 minutes per side. Add a little olive oil if need be to prevent the potatoes from sticking. Remove from pan.

In same skillet, layer some of the chicken thighs, the potatoes, some of the crisped pancetta and some of the onions. Repeat layers as needed to use up ingredients.

NOTE: don’t be afraid to season the potatoes as you layer them into the pan; you can be assertive with the seasoning of this dish.

Cover the pan and place in the pre-heated oven. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove cover and bake for 10 more.

Remove from oven and plate up. Serves 2.

Sausage pie

April 7, 2012

Note: This entry is slightly revised from a note I posted on Facebook a few years ago. It was, in fact, the seed from which this blog sprouted.

Sausage pie

As I was growing up, holidays and family gatherings were as significant for the food served as for the actual “reason” driving the get-together.  Easter was no exception.  We would often go out to the cemetery for a sunrise service, then visit my grandfather’s grave before starting the rounds of visiting various relatives.

Easter bread, pastiera, and “sausage pie” were seemingly on the table everywhere we went that day.  The last one was my favorite and I could never get enough.  My mom quizzed my great aunts and cousins for their recipes.  She had to transcribe an oral tradition distilled through years of experience to come up with a written recipe.  I still have the ragged copy she sent me when I was in college so I could make my first attempt at this family tradition.

Well used recipe from Mom

Over the years, I’ve read dozens of variations on this theme known by several different names (pizza rustica, pizza chiena).  One variety uses cubes of Italian lunch meats and cheese in place of the crumbled sausage and I make that every so often.  Still, each spring I make the recipe I got from Mom who got it from her Aunts-in-law and their children.  I don’t know how many of my cousins still make this treat, I hope many.

Easter “Sausage”  Pie

Dough

  • 2.5 pounds of flour
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 package of yeast dissolved in warm water (approximately 2/3 to 1 cup)
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ pound butter melted

Mix all ingredients to form soft dough.  Cover and let rise in draft free place (overnight).

Filling

  • 2.5 pounds Italian sweet sausage (out of casing)
  • 2.5 pounds Italian hot sausage (out of casing)
  • 3 pounds of ricotta
  • 8 eggs
  • Parsley
  • Grated cheese

Beat eggs and add to ricotta.  Mix in sausage, parsley and grated cheese until well blended.
Roll out dough (NOTE: this is a covered pie. Be sure to reserve dough to roll out and cover once the shell has been filled), fill, cover.  Brush top of pies with beaten egg, prick top to vent.  Back in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, then lower temp to 375 until done (approximately one hour more).

Yield: 1 8 x 13 pie or 3 really full 8×8 pies.

Buon Pascale!

I hate Mondays (sometimes)

December 20, 2011

Mondays.

While I don’t normally think the worst of the first day of the work week, sometimes they just don’t get off to a good start. It had been one of those days.

By the time I was grabbing my second cup of coffee, I was getting agitated with various and sundry “things.” A walk to city hall and then the bank to take care of a couple of errands chilled me a little but upon returning home found the aggravation level going up again due to some computer “issues.”

The question came up about dinner and was solved with grabbing a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts out of the freezer. Sort of.

The way the day had started I thought it might be advisable to come up with something more pleasing than some dry old sautéed chicken breasts accompanied by some yellow rice or a baked potato.

I started taking a mental inventory of what we had on hand in the pantry and a plan began to take shape. Something warm and comforting. And out of the ordinary.

Chicken paprikas came to mind. While I had eaten paprikas (veal or chicken) dozens of times, I had never made it. Well, once, I just sort of dusted some cut up chicken breasts with paprika, browned them off and made a quick pan gravy with some stock and a little butter/flour roux. I knew there was more to the dish so I did a quick Google and looked at the first entry that came up.

It was a link to this entry on Food.com. I had just about everything I needed, except sour cream. But there was a half of a half pint of light cream in the fridge. I bet I could make this work.

So, using the recipe provided by the late BoxO’Wine on Food.com, I put together what I referred to as my “half a**sed chicken paprikas” for the two of us. It passed the test. It might not be 100% authentic but I gotta tell ya it was quite tasty.

There can be no denying, the key is good paprika and I was fortunate to have not one but three tins of Spanish smoked paprika purchased through La Tienda. This assortment of La Chinata paprika includes one, 2.5 ounce tin each of sweet, bittersweet and hot paprikas. And I put all three to work.

The paprikas smelled great while it was cooking (and that was no small feat because I was also braising the brisket for the next night’s Hanukkah dinner and IT smelled pretty good too). I wished I had a bottle of “Bulls Blood” on hand to go with the dish. A California Merlot would have to do.

It was a pretty good ending for what had started off as a less than spectacular day. Not bad for a half-a**ed attempt at a classic.

Half A**ed Chicken Paprikas (for two)

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into pieces approximately 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons Spanish smoked paprika, 1 each sweet and bittersweet
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 small onion, sliced thinly lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon Spanish sweet, smoked paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon Spanish hot, smoked paprika (can use cayenne pepper in a pinch)
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (or, in a pinch light cream)

Mix flour, paprikas, salt and black pepper in a plastic bag large enough to hold all the chicken slices.  Add the chicken, seal the bag and toss to coat evenly.  Remove the chicken and reserve the seasoned flour.

Add oil to Dutch oven or large skillet and heat over medium high flame until shimmering. Place chicken in pan and brown on each side.

Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and set aside. Add butter and a little more oil to the pan. Once butter has melted, toss in onions sweet and hot paprika (or cayenne) and a pinch of salt. Sauté until the onions have softened, 2 or 3 minutes.

Add chicken back to the pan along with the can of chicken stock.

Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer.  Cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and let paprikas cool down.

Whisk the reserved flour into the light or sour cream until well blended and smooth.

Add small amount of liquid from pot into flour/cream mixture and stir until mixed thoroughly. This tempers the dairy product so it won’t break when you add it, stirring constantly, back into the pot.

Simmer 5 minutes. Ladle over egg noodles.  Pour some nice, but not expensive red wine and accompany with a tossed salad.

Serves 2 (with a little left over for lunch the next day).

 

Sugo alle melanzane

October 6, 2011

It was one of those days around here.

I was out all day with a tour group and didn’t get home until just in time to walk the dogs. The wife is under the weather and a little stressed about the new job. It’s Thursday night…which is pasta night around here. What to have that is satisfying but not just everyday sauce.

Then the aha! moment.

I’d acquired two smallish eggplants as payment for a favor.  Why not an eggplant/tomato sauce for the pasta?

A couple of years ago we had discovered an imported, jarred sauce that included eggplant. It was just different enough from the everyday, familiar sauces and we were fond of it.

Using that thought for inspiration, here’s what I did:

Sugo alle melanzane (Eggpant Sauce)

I washed the eggplants and then cut them into a rough dice (I was rushed. A little more time and a nice quarter inch dice would be perfect).  NOTE: I did not peel the eggplant; nor did I salt them and leave them to “weep”.  They were smallish and young and not bitter at all.

In a large skillet, I heated up some extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. When it started to shimmer, I threw in the cut-up eggplant and tossed it around.  I gave the eggplant a generous sprinkle of salt and cracked pepper.

After about two minutes, I added the garlic which I had chopped.  I also tossed in a healthy pinch of dried red pepper flakes.

A quick stir or two and then I added the tomatoes. (When using canned whole plum tomatoes, crush them with your hands first so they are broken up). Stir.  Keep a watch, stir or toss frequently to keep at a low simmer.

In the pot of boiling, salted water toss in a pound of pasta (we used penne). Cook until just al dente.  About half way through the cooking time for the pasta, add half of the fresh basil, minced to the sauce. When the pasta is done, mix a ladle or two of the pasta cooking water into the skillet with the sauce.  Drain the pasta. Toss with the sauce. Add the remainder of the basil.

Serves 4 – 6

Chopped?

July 31, 2011

The real life application of the “reality television” conceit.

Years ago…before there was The Food Network; before “reality TV” took over the networks, broadcast and cable, there was real life.

Years ago, I found myself home alone on a Saturday night. The wife was away for the weekend visiting with her parents at their then full-time residence in Pennsylvania‘s Poconos (Note: “the Poconos” are often referred to as mountains but, in truth, they are just a time-worn and eroded plateau.  Or so my geologic-oriented friends tell me). As dinner time came, I started rummaging around in the kitchen and pantry to find something to prepare for my evening meal.  The result of my in-house foraging was a smoked oyster risotto.  But that is a story for another day.

Today’s installment is about a similar situation but with just a little more planning and that includes using what was on hand with one quick trip to the market.

My in laws have long since relocated to the far reaches of Montgomery County, PA.  It’s about an hour’s drive from our home in Trenton.  They’ve been dealing with some health issues and my wife went out today to stay with them for about a week.  Thinking about dinner tonight, I decided to grab some sort of seafood…a lovely 3/4 pound tuna steak.

After yesterday’s trip to the local farmers’ market I had on hand at the house some Jersey peaches, moderately hot banana peppers, tomatoes and a very interesting spanish spice mix called “pinchito” seasoning.  There was also a handful of locally grown romano beans.

This put me in mind of a meal I had on one of our trips to the Florida Keys…a kingfish steak with a mango/habanero salsa.

I fired up the grill and took one of the peaches, cut it in half and removed the pit. I washed off one of the banana peppers. Once the grill was hot, I put the peach halves…flesh side down, and the chile on the grill.

In the meantime, I rinsed the tuna steak and dried it then dusted it with some pinchitos seasoning that I bought from La Tienda.  Both sides.

When I could smell the peach caramelizing, I flipped it over.  I also turned the pepper so it would char all over. While they roasted, I diced up a tomato and tossed it into a bowl.

Once the skin of the peach was charred and the pepper roasted, I took them off the grill and put my cast iron skillet on to heat.

I skinned the peach halves and rough chopped them.  The pepper I skinned and removed the top, seeds and membranes.  That also got chopped and tossed into the bowl with the peach, tomato and a splash of “juice” left over from a container of salsa from the mexican stall at the market.  Stir and let sit.

Now the pan was smoking hot.  I added a little olive oil and then,, once the oil was hot,  laid the tuna into the pan.  Two minutes a side and dinner was ready.

I plated up the tuna steak, topped it with some of the salsa and added the beans which I had prepared earlier (boiled in salted water for 4 minutes, drained tossed with salt, pepper and peperoncino and a drizzle of garlic/rosemary infused olive oil then placed in the fridge to chill).

The wine cellar is a little light on whites right now, but I had this bottle of Nissely Classic White (2008) from a wine tour of Lancaster County we had taken last year.  Dinner was served.

It filled the belly and brought some contentment even though my beloved spouse was gone on the eve of our 24th wedding anniversary.

For Dad

June 18, 2011

WARNING: If you are not into consuming meat, you probably don’t want to read this.

38 ounce Porterhouse with garlic/rosemary smashed potatoes

Steak was arguably my father’s favorite food. Dad was enamored of those steakhouses that used to dot Manhattan where they charbroiled the meat to order in the front window.  The meals were relatively inexpensive and the meat pretty good.

As far back as I can remember we managed to have steak on the table at least once each week.  In the winter, my father would cook them under the broiler of the oven.  In the summer it was charcoal grill all the way.

When home gas grills first became available, Dad bought one that ran on natural gas rather than LPG and ran a line out to it. No more smoking up the kitchen, he could “grill” a steak year round.

I’m fond of steak, too, but not on a weekly basis. In fact, I can go a couple or three months between servings of “big meat” but when the craving hits, nothing else will do.

After returning from an extended trip to Italy, a friend recently noted her regret at not having tried the famed ‘bistecca alla fiorentina”: a porterhouse cut of the famously tender and flavorful Chianina beef indigenous to Tuscany.

That comment flashed me back to our experience with that wonderful steak served up from a wood fired grill in a restaurant in the little mountain village about 25 miles northwest of Florence. Four of us had put in a long hard day of being tourists and stopped at the restaurant on our way to our apartment on a nearby farm.  Two immense slabs of beef, a simple salad and, of course, some local red wine were just what we needed. 

The memory planted a seed.  I knew I’d be visiting Pat’s Market in Lincroft after a charity bicycling event at Brookdale Community College.  Pat’s is an Italian deli and honest to goodness butcher shop that serves up some mean sandwiches and hosts a meat counter full of tempting slabs of beef and pork.

I ordered my sandwich and then studied the meat case so I’d be ready for the inevitable question “Would you like something else?”

Down in the front of the case, at the head of a row of gorgeous porterhouses was a steak with a nice sized filet portion as well as the sirloin.  That and a filet mignon for Ann completed the order.

Sunday, after the Thunder game, I fired up the grill and cooked up the steaks.  Ann’s 8 ounce filet was a lovely size.  My 38 ounce monster by rights, should have fed two people (or more) but I allowed myself to indulge since I’d put in 25 miles on the bike for a charitable cause the day before. A salad, some garlic/rosemary smashed potatoes and a bottle of Brunello.  What more could anyone want?

So treat your Dad this year (and the rest of the family) and grill up a large, thick porterhouse. If he’s a real carnivore, he may be up to eating one whole steak himself.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Porterhouse Florence-style)

  •  Porterhouse steak, dry aged if possible, a minimum of 1 to 1½ inches thick
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Optional

Pre-heat your grill or ignite your charcoal.  You will want a very hot area on one part of your grill and a cooler area on the other.  Bring steak to room temperature.

Lightly salt, but liberally pepper one side of the meat.  When grill is ready, place steak, seasoned side down over hottest part of grill.  After three minutes, season the top side and then flip it. Cook another three minutes.

Depending upon your preferred degree of doneness and the thickness of the steak, your meat may be ready if you like it rare.  If it is exceptionally thick or large, move it to the cooler side of the grill and cook to desired doneness, flipping once more if need be.

The object here is to have a nicely seared exterior but a juicy (and, in my case red) interior.

Remove from grill, rub each side with the cut garlic and drizzle a little very good olive oil and/or lemon juice over the meat and serve. For presentation, the meat can be cut from the bone and neatly parsed in to ¼ inch slices for easier serving.  Serves one hearty beef eater or two to three regular folks.