Pan-seared ribeye steaks with gremolata and parmesan polenta

Polenta: the cornmeal show-stealer

Two words:  cornmeal mush.  But please, dear reader, don’t let the ostensible lack of descriptive gentility fool you.  As Craig Claiborne writes in his New York Times Food Encyclopedia, “There are three foods of consummate goodness that may be served as either as main course or a side dish in the Italian kitchen.”  Claiborne lists rice (in the form of risotto) and, of course, pasta before giving a venerable nod to polenta, which, as the author suggests, “is infinite in its variations, is relatively and regrettably little known and appreciated in this country.”

To alleviate a bit of burden for the well-intentioned initiate, I recommend and instant variety of polenta, available along with the dry pasta or rice aisle at your local market.

Employing the cornmeal concoction as a side dish for this polenta permutation, I’ve paired it with a pan-seared ribeye and—supplying a callback to Italian cuisine—garnished with gremolata, an aromatic condiment composed of fresh herbs, garlic, and lemon zest.  Uncork a bottle of pinot noir (for sipping and for deglazing your pan for a loose, red wine reduction) and you’re set.

Is it mush?  Sure—I’ll respond with a shrug.  But it’s a noble sort of mush, my friend.

Pan-seared ribeye steaks with gremolata and parmesan polenta

Serves 2 – 3

  • ½ cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 3 – 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
  • 14 – 16 fluid ounces low-sodium chicken stock
  • ½ cup instant polenta
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese (plus additional for broiling)
  • ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2, 1-pound ribeye steaks
  • As needed, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • As needed, olive oil
  • ½ cup pinot noir

1.  Prepare gremolata, place in a lidded container and reserve in refrigerator.

2.  In a medium-size saucepan, heat stock to low simmer; add in polenta and cook until softened.  Add parmesan and stir in butter; adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Cover and set aside.

3.  Season exterior of ribeye steaks with kosher salt and cracked black pepper.  In a sauté pan over high heat, add a small amount of olive oil and pan-sear steaks to desired doneness.  Remove steaks, place on a plate, and cover with foil; allow to rest for at least ten minutes.  Reduce heat to medium-low and, using a wooden spoon, deglaze pan with red wine; allow to reduce by half before adding rendering steak juices from holding plate.

4.  Optional:  place polenta in small crocks, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and toast the top under a broiler.  Serve ribeyes with pan reduction and garnish with gremolata.



Published in: on November 17, 2012 at 6:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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Caesar salad with steak and blue cheese

Caesar reinterpreted

Originally appeared in the November 8, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

I realize there are more than a few conservative, culinary purists who would baulk at the liberal rearrangement of a traditional Caesar salad.  But hey, before you come to bury Caesar, at least give this week’s recipe a chance.  That being said, I am indeed one of the subscribers to this adage:  that the barometer for a chef’s skill should be the professional prowess of how they construct a classic Caesar.

The backbone of all noble Caesars is an emulsion essentially containing anchovies, eggs, oil, and parmesan cheese (and some additional seasonings).  The steak is solely employed to make this salad an entrée, and the additional elements—the egg, the tomato, and the haricot vert—well, they just sounded like they’d get along with the rest of the gastronomic gang.  And what’s that with two types of cheese?  Though I’d never have had the courage to tell one of my estimable chefs this, I have the guts to tell you, don’t sweat it.

And yes, I also realize that we’re ebbing away from salad season; but, like all the classics, we can always conjure an occasion to enjoy them.  And, like all the classics, we can always find an excuse for reinterpretation.

Caesar salad with steak and blue cheese

Serves 3 – 4

For dressing:

  • 8 – 10 anchovies (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • 2 large, cage-free eggs, beaten
  • 3 ounces fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 1 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper

For salad:

  • 20 ounces strip steak
  • 1 – 2 heads of romaine lettuce, cleaned, chopped into bite-size pieces, rinsed and drained.
  • 3 – 4 hardboiled eggs, chilled, cut into quarters
  • 4 – 6 ounces haricot vert (French green beans), blanched, shocked, chilled
  • As needed, cherry tomatoes, halved
  • As needed, crumbled blue cheese, for garnish

1.  For dressing:  mash anchovies and garlic together to make a paste.  Beat in eggs and lemon juice until smooth.  Beating constantly with a whisk, slowly add in olive oil to form an emulsion.  Add in Parmesan cheese and season to taste.  Place in refrigerator while you prepare remaining components.

2.  In a sanitized kitchen sink fill with potable water, rinse the chopped romaine and drain thoroughly; reserve in refrigerator.  Blanch green beans in boiling water, shocking afterwards in ice water to halt cooking process; drain and reserve in fridge.  Prepare hard-boiled eggs, peel and chill.  Season steak with kosher salt and cracked black pepper, and in a sauté pan over high-heat, sear steaks on both sides.  When desired doneness is reached, place steaks on a plate, cover with foil, and allow to rest for ten minutes before slicing.

3.  In a large bowl, toss romaine with desired amount of dressing.  Plate each serving with a mound of dressed romaine, and arrange haricot vert, eggs, steak, and tomatoes on top.  Garnish each salad with crumbled blue cheese.

Whole wheat spaghetti with kale and pistachios

All hail kale

Originally appeared in the October 25, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

One of my favorite combinations is kale tossed with pasta; and to further accent the health benefits the aforementioned member of the cabbage species, I’ve selected whole wheat spaghetti for this week’s installment.  This is an ideal time for this sort of dish—it’s hearty yet healthy, savory and full of flavor.  The pistachios add a touch of crunch and a salty hint of bitterness.

Because the kale is so sturdy, I recommend tearing out the center rib before slicing.  When it comes to slow-steaming the leaves, you want to make sure you soften the kale without overcooking it, as overdoing it will not only damage the color but (like most heat-abused vegetables) deteriorate the nutritional value.  That being said, there is some research indicating that some varieties of this species of kale can withstand steaming and other gentle cooking techniques with little to no detriment to tis nutritional composition.

Use chicken stock or water to sloe-steam the kale.  And of course, if you’d like to make a switch with the butter, you can simply substitute olive oil.  Garnish with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and a scatter of pistachios, and you have a pasta dish ideal for a brisk October evening.

Whole wheat spaghetti with kale and pistachios

Serves 2

  • 5 – 6 large leaves of kale, center ribs removed a leaves sliced
  • Roughly 8 fluid ounces low-sodium chicken stock
  • 6 – 7 ounces whole wheat spaghetti (or pasta of choice)
  • 1 clove garlic, rough chop
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • As needed, grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons shelled, rough-chopped pistachios
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1.  Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large sauté pan; add kale and toss in hot oil to coat sliced leaves.  Add 2 – 3 ounces of chicken stock, lower heat to a simmer, and cover pan.  Repeat this process by stirring and adding stock to gently steam the kale until tender (you may not need all the stock).

2.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; cook pasta to al dente.  Drain well.

3.  Once tender and liquid has completely evaporated from pan, remove kale and reserve.  IN same pan, melt butter slow and allow to brown slightly.  Add crushed red pepper and garlic.  Once garlic is aromatic, pour in pasta and coat in butter; add kale and toss to coat.  Stir in parmesan.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  At service, garnish plates with chopped pistachios.

Published in: on October 27, 2012 at 7:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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A lamburger that’s baaad to the bone

Originally appeared in the September 6, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

You might have to do some investigating at your local market, but ground lamb is indeed available.  And while I didn’t include any cheese with this particular recipe, you could certainly do worse than add a bit of feta to the top of this lamburger.

Now, let’s talk about the “quickles.”  These are quick pickles, meaning that you can have them finished and cooled overnight, but they must remain refrigerated throughout their brined lifetime.  And owing to the subjectivity involved with the size of the cucumbers and desired application, I’ve kept the execution (read size of the pickling jars, the amount of garlic and arbol) rather loose.  And as this is a sort of basic “quick” brine, this is a really fun way to transform existing produce into a salty treat, and a wonderful way to get the kids involved in creating a personalized product.

Serve your lamburgers and quickles and some sort of crunchy side—fries, kettle chips, it’s your call.  And as I’ve indicated in the picture, fresh arugula—because of its peppery profile—is an appropriate accompaniment to your savory sandwich.  And though I invoke one of my former chefs who used to say, “You can never cook lamb too rare,” I encourage my readers to simply be judicious and create something delicious.

Lamburgers with homemade “quickles”

Serves 2

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • A few dashes Worcestershire
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chive
  • As needed, kosher salt and cracked black pepper

For pickles (to be done at least 24 hours ahead of time):

  • As needed, lid-and-band pickling jars (such as Ball brand)
  • 64 fluid ounces purified water
  • 3 ½ ounces seas salt
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 – 3 large cucumbers, cut into spears
  • As needed, fresh dill
  • 1 – 2 heads fresh garlic, cloves removed from skin
  • As needed, dried arbol chiles

1.  In a large stock pot, combine water, sea salt, and cider vinegar; bring to a gentle simmer for about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Bring a separate stockpot of water to a gentle boil (this will be for sealing jars, so make sure you account for the height and amount of water that will be displaced).  In prepared pickling jars, arrange cucumber spears with a judicious mixture of fresh dill, garlic, and arbol chiles.  Carefully fill each jar with brine mixture to the rim.  When jars are sealed tightly, place in boiling water and allow tops to pop, this will indicate the lid-and-band seal is tight.  Remove jars from water and allow to cool before placing in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

2.  Preheat sauté pan or grill to medium-high.  Combine ground lamb with garlic, Worcestershire, basil, chive.  Divide in half and form two large patties.  Season exterior with kosher salt and cracked black pepper and place on preheated device.  Allow burgers to cook to desired doneness before removing from heat and allowing to rest for 7 minutes.  Serve burgers with homemade “quickles.”