A good home-cooked steak

Steak is not something that I order when I splurge for a meal in a fine restaurant; it’s too easy to do at home and good for single-serving cooking since it’s portioned when it comes home, and it’s easy to cook.

A good thick-cut, home-cooked steak is one of the things that I don’t mind having left over, since it’s usable as “roast beef” for a yummy sandwich.  (No, the roast beef from the deli simply does not do it.) My favorite way to cook the steak is from Cook’s Illustrated, 01 May 2007–it does take a little time and minimal effort, but it’s well worth it.

steaks in butcher caseMy usual choice of steak is a strip, or New York strip, cut 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 inches thick, with fat cap intact.  If I don’t find one lolling about   in the butcher case (you won’t likely find this in the pre-packaged section)  ask to have it cut the way you want it; my local Harris Teeter will cut to order but generally has thick-cut steaks in the butcher case.

This works fine with rib eye or with filet mignon, as long as it is thick-cut. Personally, I prefer strip or rib-eye to filet. Even with rib eye, it’s still not a substitute for real prime rib roast, but a good “second” so that I plan to have “leftovers”.

Ingredients

  • 1 boneless steak (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 inches thick (about 1 pound), strip or rib eye
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil for searing

Preparation

  1. Adjust oven rack to  mid-position and pre-heat oven to 275 °F .
  2. Pat steaks dry with paper towel and season liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Place steak on wire rack set in rimmed pan and place in oven.  (Steak does need to be raised rather in contact with pan).
  4. Cook until instant-read thermometer inserted in center of steak registers 90 to 95°F for rare to medium-rare, 20 to 25 minutes  (or 100 to 105°F  for medium, 25 to 30 minutes).
  5. Heat oil in  heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until smoking.
  6. Place steak in the skillet and sear until well-browned and nicely crusty–about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes, lifting once halfway through to redistribute fat under the steak.
  7. Using tongs, turn steak and cook until well browned on the other side, about 2 to 2-1/2 minutes.
  8. Use tongs to stand steak on the sides and sear on all sides. (This really is worth the effort–and it really does not take long.
  9. Transfer to cooling rack, tent with foil, and let rest for about 10 minutes–this also is really worth the wait.
  10. You can prepare a quick pan sauce while the steak is resting, or simply add a pat of herb butter, horseradish,  or some blue cheese crumbles to the warm steak.

Add some simple sides like salad or baked potato. Now pour yourself a another glass of that luscious  red wine that was  breathing while you were cooking, and enjoy.

A son goût!

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Roast pheasant for dinner

Two Whole Pheasants- Pheasant MeatOn a recent troll of the after-holiday, year-end goodies at my local Harris Teeter, which includes the free-standing freezer in the meat department (as well as the carts at the front of the store), I found pheasants on sale so I decided we (neighbors and friends) needed to have pheasant–especially since at least one had not tasted pheasant.

This is a first for me–I’ve never cooked farm-raised pheasant before; I’ve always cooked the wild birds that we got by hunting. Those we always braised since they could be old and tough.  I went to the McFarlane website Pheasant for Dinner to see what information I could find. I guess these are not likely to be either old  or tough, so I thought about roasting–then I decided that cooked in my Romertopf might be best since pheasants–even farm raised don’t have a lot of fat on them.  I decided that brown basmati rice would cook at the same time under the cut up birds; kind of self-seasoning with the pheasant juices–and whatever else I decided on.

Pheasant dinnerSince this was my first crack at farm-raised birds, I decided to seek expert consultation–from Mike Thomas in the meat department at Harris Teeter, thinking it likely that he’d be able to tell me more about the birds and how they would cook.  He agreed that the Romertopf should be a good way–so that decision was made.

As for seasoning, I was still debating. I wanted tangerines, but couldn’t find them. Tangelos? Well, maybe.  The meat of the tangelos was not very tasty, so I  got Mandarin oranges as well, but use only the tangelos as the mandarin oranges were too sweet.

I originally planned to do fingerling potatoes in the Romertopf with the birds, but I couldn’t get my head around orange and potato together, so I changed to brown basmati rice instead since it could also cook right with the birds in the Romertopf.

My next decision was whole or cut up. I finally decided that cut up would be best–so that I could use the carcasses to make some stock for cooking the rice. So get out the knives! I found a good demonstration on cutting up a pheasant at the McFarlane website–as I thought it’s like disjointing a chicken.  Since it’s not something I do all that often when doing single-serving cooking, it did take a bit, but I got them cut up.  I left bones in–even in the breasts since I think there is a lot of flavor in meat on the bone.

Pheasant dinner-2

into the oven

The backs, wings, necks, and other miscellaneous pieces, with carrot, onion, and bay leaves went into the stockpot (after browning). Simmered and skimmed I had a good start on the rice.

I minced two medium onions, four large cloves of garlic, and sautéed these with the rice before adding it to the soaked Romertopf with the rinsed basmati rice (two cups) with stock.  I added the zest of two tangelos to the rice. I pulled the meat from the stock bones and the giblets, chopped them finely, and added those to the rice–kind of a “dirty” rice here. That plus the 4 cups of stock went into the soaked Romertopf with the pheasant pieces on top, and into a cold oven, as usual with the Romertopf.

For a sauce, I modeled it after the one used for duck with fresh figs; I reduced the remaining pheasant stock and the juice of one tangelo slowly to about 1-1/2 cups–it’s not intended to be thick–more “au jus”. It needed a bit of sweetness despite the tangelo juice. After tasting both thyme honey and leatherwood honey, I opted for the leatherwood, since there was thyme with the bird and the leatherwood added a “dark” contrast to the tangelo and the meatiness of the stock.

(It looked great when I opened the Romertopf, but I was too intent on eating to stop and take pictures.)

My friends brought some awesome roasted Brussels sprouts (with bacon and garlic) to accompany the pheasant–a good meal, with good company!

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I used the ratio suggested for the brown basmati rice, but it was just a bit soupy. Next time I’ll use 1 part rice to 1.5 water. Otherwise I was pretty happy with the results–we certainly made a dent it the rice and the pheasant.

The farm-raised pheasants are more chicken-like than wild-pheasant-like–a little disappointing if you are used to the wild ones. I’d cook them again–if I find them on sale, but I’d really rather have the wild ones, though I certainly wouldn’t have been roasting them.

Not knowing the flavor of the farm-raised birds made choosing a wine a bit difficult. We drank a 2012 Ravenswood “Besieged” with it, and it worked well. This limited release is a blend containing 35% Carignane, 20% Petite Sirah, 18% Zinfandel, 13% Mourvedre, 9% Alicante Bouschet, and 5% Barbera. (This was a wine that I stumbled upon while doing my shopping one Saturday at the local Harris Teeter. I’m a definite Alicante Bouschet fan and this blend was very mellow, and fruity so I did something that I don’t do often–I bought a half case of it–and I think I’m going to wish I had more of it.

Christmas eve–oysters!

Christmas eve tableI think my Christmas spirit has finally arrived!

I have the Messiah playing on WCPE, the oyster liquor is working its way through the coffee filter.  The sliced black truffles have steeped in warmed heavy cream  for several hours.  The half-and-half is warming. The cava (recommended by Randy at the Wine Authorities for this particular dish) is chilled and waiting to have the cork popped. There is a nice ripe sedge of Chaumes coming to room temperature.  A neighbor is coming to share the meal with me. The serving bowls are in a very low oven so that they will be warm for serving.

Note that this is intended to be a serious meal of oysters–not appetizer, or a light bowl of soup.

Poached Oysters with Black Truffle Cream

Ingredients

For the black truffle cream:

  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 0.7 ounce jar of sliced black truffles, drained and oil reserved
  • grey sea salt, a pinch

For the poached oysters

  • 1-1/2 or 2  pints of select oysters with liquor (strained)
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • grey sea salt to taste

AssemblyOysters

  1. A couple of hours before you want to serve this, warm the heavy cream (to about body temperature or just a hair above that). Drain the truffles, add to the warm cream and let stand and steep until ready to poach the oysters–or make the oyster stew if you prefer. (Reserve the oil for another use
  2. After the cava is open, and you’re nibbling on the cheese, warm the half-and-half to a brisk simmer or a very gentle boil, add the oysters and the liquor, remove from the heat and stir very gently. (People must wait on the oysters, not the other way about, so you can really be the center of attention with this one.)
  3. Watch the oysters carefully and as soon as the edges begin to curl very slightly add the reheated truffle cream and stir gently.
  4. Serve immediately with more bubbly, and lots of good bread. (Be sure that your serving bowl are warm when you serve the oysters.

Sorry–no pictures–this dish needs to be eaten immediately!

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I love oysters, and truffles.  The inspiration to combine them for my Christmas Eve tradition came from Le Chef’s Kitchen. I wanted  the flavors to contrast: the earthiness of the truffles and the briny flavor of the oysters so I didn’t think that poaching the oysters in the truffle cream would give me that. As it turned out, adding the truffle cream just as we were ready to eat worked perfectly.  Plump tender briny oysters and the contrast of the truffle cream was fantastic–kind of a “surf and turf” effect.

We had   	Cava, Brut Nature Gran Reserva Cava, Brut Nature Gran Reserva “Coquet” (Mestres, Heretat, Spain) with this.  The cava was excellent–bold enough to stand up to the oysters and truffle flavors, but not quite the perfect combination that I’d hoped for. Both of us though the wine needed–well, we’re not sure just how to say it–I though maybe something a little “darker”, not quite so sharp and “bright”. Maybe I need a still wine with this rather than bubbly, though it’s a classic with oysters.

(We liked the cava;  I’ll certainly buy it again to drink with something else–but obviously I have to continue the search for the perfect wine to accompany this dish. (You do realize that I was very pleased with this combination–and it will definitely be repeated as it’s now on my list of favorites.)

A son goût!

…and now it’s turkey soup!

Remember those turkey thighs that I roasted a couple days ago? They have really been a bargain.  I spent about $5 on the package of thighs–two small-to-medium ones.

I had my roast turkey with sides of potatoes and cabbage (with juniper berries). Then I had two full-size sandwiches, and a half sandwich for lunches. Now I’m finishing the turkey thighs with a very hearty bowl of soup (and a  glass of good wine).

small Rival Crockette

a crockette

I popped those thigh bones (with what meat wasn’t easy to carve for sandwiches) in to my tiny little single-serving crock-pot to make some stock–I just added a little salt, a bay leaf, the brown stuff that I deglazed from the roasting pan, and enough water to cover the bones. After slow cooking overnight, I removed the thigh bones.  The meat just fell off into the pot.

In the same little crock-pot (don’t want extra dishes to wash), I added a small handful of barley, some dried mushrooms of various sorts–including shiitake, chanterelle, and porcini. The other things that went into this soup were the leftover cabbage (with juniper berries) and a few potatoes that were roasted with the turkey.  (You may be thinking that this is pretty heavy on starch, but to finish the soup, I added some green stuff.)

small leaves of greens

mixed greens

About half an hour before I was ready to eat, I went out to the garden (which I share through the good graces of a neighbor) and picked a good size handful of small kale, turnip, and mustard greens.

After washing, I cut these in bite size pieces (though that was almost unnecessary as they were really not as big as my hand). They went into the crock-pot; in about 20 minutes they were still bright green but tender.

I did a final adjustment of salt using French Grey sea salt, and finally added several drops of black truffle oil to finish the soup.

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I’ve had my bowl of soup for supper this evening–and it looks as if I’ll get one more meal out of those turkey thighs–with the barley, and the amount of meat that was left on the bones, there is easily another serving of this soup for lunch or supper tomorrow. (I’m sure that by the time I reheat it, those greens won’t be quite so bright green, but the flavors may have melded with the other ingredients so it should be good–maybe even better than this evening.

bowl of soup with greens

a warm, hearty supper

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I opened a bottle of wine this evening that was a completely unknown to me. It was a limited release called “Dark” from Apothic. I was completely beguiled by the description that said that it “blends dark fruit flavors of blueberry and blackberry with opulent notes of coffee and dark chocolate”.  How could I possibly pass that up? (I found it while shopping at Harris Teeter–just after I had bought a case of something called “Besieged”–more about that one later.)

I was surprised how dark it was when I poured it into the glass! (I even tried to take a picture–but it just looks almost black–so forget that.) It is definitely a “big” wine and right out of the bottle it was fruity and mellow–but after breathing for a bit it lives up to its description.

I thought it might overwhelm my bowl of turkey soup, but with the juniper berries, the rather emphatic mushrooms, the flavors of the greens, and the truffle oil, it turned out to be a great combination.  Fortunately there is some of the wine left for tomorrow’s soup! This is one time when I’m looking forward to the “leftovers”.

After-holiday sales…love ’em!

My favorite most-frequented supermarket is my local Harris Teeter, though I do occasionally wander into the Kroger. I’m a pretty frequent shopper since I don’t do well at meal planning.

Right after the holidays I always seem to find  some goodies in those end-of-holiday-season, reduced-price carts that I wouldn’t purchase otherwise.  Last year it was black truffle oil which has been put to good use this past year, and even recently when I was trying to do some wine-food pairing. (It’s been drizzled on baked potatoes too–my serious, decadent comfort food.)

A couple years ago, I was planning to do a roast goose (obviously requires friends in attendance).  When I got to the checkout, the price of the goose was SO low that I got a second one.  Good thing because we had snow and ice on the day I’d  planned the dinner.  You really can’t undo the thawed goose, so I toured the neighborhood within walking distance with impromptu invitations to eat goose–and found willing neighbors.  (These who missed that got to help eat the second goose when the weather permitted.) So the freezer case has become a place that I also skulk through at this time of the year as well as those “manager’s special” carts.

Two Whole Pheasants- Pheasant Meat

Dinner!

This year so far my “find” is pheasants on sale. I’m planning a pheasant dinner with friends shortly.

I get the pleasure of planning the meal, picking a wine, and then eating and drinking with good company. It’s in the planning stages now–braise or roast? Maybe the Romertopf since I do have a very large one?

Perusing recipes and thinking about wine is pleasurable activity. I’m leaning toward a bottle of the Ravenswood “Besieged”, but I might have to check with my favorite wine store before I make a final decision, and after I’ve decided what seasoning these birds will get.

Sugar plums

I think that these are a special holiday treat. Too bad that we don’t see more of them.

Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide

Despite the title, these little treats are quite dense and spicy, but not overly sweet. Feel free to alter the fruit mix. A number of recipes only used dates and apricots. Most recipes we saw called for using a food processor, but we don’t have one and were worried the blender would gum up on the first pulse. If you have the same dilemma just remember to chop the fruit very fine.

Sugar Plums

  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped very fine
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried plums
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (aka confectioners’ or icing sugar)

Combine nuts, fruits and spice in a large bowl. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, mix in honey stirring to coat evenly. Pinch off teaspoon-sized…

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Christmas Spiced Biscuits

Sounds like real holiday treat. Good discussion on biscuits (English and American), and scones, too.

FrugalFeeding

Frugal Christmas Spiced Biscuits

If there’s one time of the year at which biscuits should be made and eaten in prodigious quantity, it is at Christmas. There’s something clean and joyful about a proper English biscuit that makes them a smidge more festive than, to give one example, a cookie. It’s far easier to pick out individual flavours in biscuits than in food that is excessively sugary – a cookie, for instance, is something of a devilish experience.

Not only are biscuits rather light on one’s stomach, they are also one of the more frugal bakes one can embark upon. Of course, this is largely due to the dearth of expensive superlatives, such as chocolate, that are often added to cookies or cake. Instead, biscuits are often left plain or flavoured with spices or citrus fruits – as is the case in this recipe. Indeed, if the spiciness of these biscuits doesn’t appeal…

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