Monday, December 29, 2008

Upon Request: A Winter Meal

Here's the info on that dinner of flank steak with truffled maytag blue cheese sauce I mentioned in an earlier post. It's worth noting that I didn't use recipes and didn't measure anything I did, so these results may vary slightly; however, there wasn't anything especially fancy about what I did, so it's pretty easy and straightforward. I tried to lay everything out in order so you'll have everything done at about the same time (my Achilles heel is roasted veggies - I never account for how long they take and everything is done well before my vegetables can be plated.)

Roasted Winter Vegetables
Set oven to 375. Combine in baking dish: one small butternut squash, peeled and cubed; two medium-to-large parsnips, peeled and chopped; one large sweet potato, peeled and cubed; about one pound of carrots (either peeled and chopped regular carrots or baby carrots - I use baby carrots). Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper - roast in the oven until they begin to brown and crisp a bit on the outsides (about 30 minutes, depending on size - larger dice takes longer.)

Port Balsamic Reduction
Combine 1/4 c. of port with 3/4 c. of balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan. Simmer rapidly until sauce has reduced to about 1/4 - 1/3 of a cup and nicely coats the back of a spoon. Do not bring to a rapid boil or let the reduction get too hot, or it will scorch.

This reduction can be made at any time and stored in the fridge in a squeeze bottle - bring to room temperature for use. It's tangy-sweet and great for drizzling on meats or hearty soups. Keep your face away from the saucepan, though - a snort of this stuff while it's simmering will clear out your sinuses but good! Heat it on the back burner. :-)

Flank Steak
One pound flank or skirt steak (if necessary, pound to 1/2" - 3/4" thickness). Season with olive oil, salt, and pepper and cook evenly over medium high heat on a flat or grill pan to desired doneness, turning only once.

Truffled Maytag Blue Cheese Sauce
Combine 1/3 c. Maytag (or other high quality blue cheese) with 1/2 c. heavy cream. Blend or process until smooth. (You want a rich consistency, not too fluid but not too thick - the sauce should pour easily but stay in place without running much. Add more blue cheese if necessary.) Warm over the stove - you don't want to cook so much as just heat it for service. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper and drizzle with a small amount (about 1/2 tbsp) of white truffle oil.

(White truffle oil can be found at specialty food stores and some supermarkets. It's pricy, but here's a secret - check the specialty food aisles at places like Marshall's, Home Goods, and TJ Maxx. You'd be amazed the gourmet options you can get on the cheap - I get white truffle oil, which can run up to $20, for about $5.99. If this isn't something you're interested in having on hand, don't fret: the oil isn't a necessity - the sauce will be tasty without it. And finally, make sure to only use truffle oil as a finishing touch - it's not meant to be cooked with.)

Fried Sage Leaves
Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a saute pan - add fresh whole sage leaves (washed and thoroughly dried) and cook over medium high heat, keeping the pan in motion, until crisp. (This only takes maybe a few minutes - keep an eye on it, they can burn somewhat easily.)

For service:
Slice the steak on the bias and transfer to a warmed plate. Ladle the Maytag sauce over the steak, then drizzle with a small amount of the port-balsamic reduction and garnish with fried sage leaves. Serve the roasted vegetables as a side. This should serve three to four.

If you still have about half of the vegetables left over, you can make a great soup - combine the remaining vegetables in a blender with one of those cardboard containers of vegetable or chicken broth (or homemade broth, if you're that type) and puree. Heat in a saucepan with a few pinches of dried sage stirred in. Serve with some balsamic-port reduction drizzled on top and a slice of warm crusty bread.