Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Dinner Party

My first! This weekend I had my brother and his wife and her family over for dinner. It's been so nice to be close to family this summer, and what better way to show my appreciation than to cook for them!
Joanna and Courtney...ready for dessert!

I've read before that you're supposed to try no new recipes for a dinner party. That advice is probably wise. I'd still recommend that for any new dinner party you use only recipes you're already comfortable with.

But I've cooked meat, what...3 times? (not really, but very few times overall). So I chose a new recipe for steak, cobbled together from various websites and inspired by the haul of mushrooms I bought from the farmers market.


I chose this recipe also because it includes a marinade. I've had much better success with the flavor and cooking of marinaded and/or brined food (see: pork chops!), but it's especially good when you happen to be planning a dinner party. It requires some foresight (easy to do when you're already in planning mode) and gives some extra insurance against dry/bland meat.


The mushrooms though. There's no reason every meal shouldn't include sauteed mushrooms. With their deep, buttery, salty flavor, they're the bacon of the vegetarian world. Thank you fungus! You rock. These are extra special because they're thrown back in a red wine pan sauce at the end, to make a gloriously glossy coating that drips off onto the tender steak.


Another thing I learned about dinner parties (and this one, I think I did right): It's easiest if only one dish is being made at a time. This means cold things are particularly awesome!
In other news, only two burners of our stove work...


I paired the steak with pre-made polenta, green salad (thanks to Joanna for helping out with that--you make a nice salad!), and green bean salad with pickled shallots. All were delicious. I just microwaved the polenta with some chicken broth to make it loose again, and it made a great base for the meat and saucy mushrooms.

SAUCY.



If you're wondering about the cookies...they're just as chocolaty as they look! Sort of a soft sable or shortbread but intensely and unabashedly filled with chocolate flavor. Crumbled over vanilla ice cream, it's practially perfect.

Here's the steak recipe, and links to the other dishes!

Grean Bean Salad with Pickled Shallots
World Peace Cookies

Marinated Flank Steak with Red Wine Sauteed Mushrooms
Yield: enough for 4 people

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dijon/grainy mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 1/2 - 2 pounds flank steak (I threw in a strip steak as well since I was worried there wouldn't be enough, but there was plenty)
  • 12 ounces assorted mushrooms, torn or cut into large pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
  • 1 6" sprig rosemary
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 3/4 cup low-salt chicken stock
Method
  1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a dish large enough to hold the steak, and whisk together. Place steak in marinade, poke all over with a fork, and flip to coat. Marinate in fridge for 1-3 hours, slightly longer if needed.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and season with a bit of salt. Stir to coat with the butter and continue to cooking, stirring so mushrooms cook evenly, for about 7 minutes, or until golden brown and smelling heavenly. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter with a tablespoon of oil in the same skillet. Add the garlic and rosemary to skillet and move to the edges, then remove the steak from the marinade and place in skillet. Cook for about 3 minutes per side. Depending on the thickness of your meat and how you like it done, you can then put it in a 350 degree oven for an additional 5-10 minutes to finish cooking to your liking. Just check the inside with a small knife, but be aware that the meat will continue to cook a bit as it rests. Once done, remove and tent with foil. 
  4. Pour off all but a tablespoon of the oil, then deglaze with the red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to get all of the delicious browned bits up and in the sauce. Reduce to 3/4 cup, then strain out any burned solid bits and return the liquid to the pan. Add the stock and reduce to 1/2 cup. Whisk in a knob of butter, then add the mushrooms back into the sauce and stir to reheat and coat. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.
  5. Slice the steak thinly against the grain and serve with mushroom sauce on top.
Recipe frankensteined from: epicurious and Emeril Lagasse

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Caramelized Peach and Lavender Scones

This weekend I visited friends and had basically every sunny summery experience that tends to be curiously absent in foggy San Francisco (what's up, Karl?). My friend Caroline kindly lent me her air mattress to crash on, and when we woke up we mozyed over to whole foods and the farmer's market to get ingredients for breakfast.


I think you can tell a lot about a person by the type of eggs they buy. I'm a $3 egg kind of person, but all due respect to those who are $9 egg people. (again, hello SF). You can also tell a lot about a person by the way they like their eggs cooked...mostly I think I just really like runny yolks. But for some, it is strangely accurate.


Anyhow, we ate scrambled eggs with cheese while waiting for the peaches to roast for these scones. I'm not going to say the scones are quick to make, but they are fairly simple, and the complex, flowery, and fruity flavors are well worth the wait. Also, by the time they come out of the oven, you can count elevensies as brunch, breakfast, and lunch.

(P.S. Whole foods sells lavender in a little package for about $3...a price I was happy to pay over the $8 we were quoted at the farmer's market! Again, you can tell a lot about a person by their grocery shopping strategies and habits)

The recipe starts with three peaches, sliced and coated in olive oil and brown sugar. Good things are starting.


Then, butter is rubbed into the dry ingredients. It's my favorite part...get your hands in there! Then come the peaches, soft and caramelized, and buttermilk (or milk curdled with lemon juice, in our case). A gentle stir and slight bit of kneading, and then the dough is ready to form straight on the baking sheet.
This could be the same baking sheet as you used to cook the peaches.
Got that? One baking sheet, one bowl!

The scones are done pretty quickly, in 15 or so minutes, and then a glaze is made with a few leftover caramelized peach slices. These scones rocked my world! They're rich and almost cake-like, not too dry and crumbly, and full of summery peach flavor and sophisticated lavender. It's a treat...treatyoself!


Caramelized Peach and Lavender Scones
Yield: 8 big or 12-16 smaller scones

Ingredients:

  • 3 peaches, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon culinary lavender
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes, or grate frozen butter on a box grater for easy handling!
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk (or milk with a scant tablespoon of lemon juice)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • milk or cream, for brushing and glazing
  • sugar (coarse if you have it), for sprinkling
  • 1 to 2 cups powdered sugar

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss peaches with olive oil and brown sugar, then spread in a *rimmed* baking sheet or other baking pan with sides. Roast for 35 minutes, stirring halfway through. 
  2. Mix together all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingertips (or your usual method) until chunks are about the size of peas. Toss in three quarters of the peach slices and stir to combine.
  3. Add buttermilk and vanilla extract, then stir until a soft dough forms. Near the end, reach in the bowl and knead a few times to help incorporate all the dry ingredients. Turn out onto a baking sheet, and either form into two smaller disks or one larger disk. Cut each disk into 6 or 8 slices and separate the scones from each other by pulling the wedges away from the center of the circle.
  4. Bake for 12-16 minutes (depending on size), in that same 400 degree oven, until golden brown around the edges. 
  5. To make the glaze, mash up the remaining peach slices with a tablespoon or so of milk. Slowly add powdered sugar until the consistency is to your liking, then smother the scones in glaze and chow down!
Recipe from How Sweet It Is.