Friday, March 8, 2013

When you're in a hurry, why not have steak?

February 24, 2013
  • Panfried Ribeye Steak
  • Whipped Potatoes
  • Glazed Carrots
  • Poetic Cellars 2007 Mantra
  • Marionberry Pie
This dinner wasn't supposed to be present any challenges. I chose pan fried steak as the main course because it is so easy and so quick to prepare and so good to eat. But then I decided to try a new (for me) recipe for whipped potatoes, how hard could that be? And then, since I was preparing steak and potatoes, I thought we should have a fresh vegetable instead of frozen, except it's winter so there aren't any local vegetables. But carrots are always available, so carrots it is. While none of these dishes is particularly challenging in itself, they have one thing in common that made this a challenging meal. All three require your attention at the last minute. I don't know about you, but I find it difficult to do two things at once, say nothing about three.

The recipe recommended using ribeye, sirloin, or strip steak. Of these, the best looking in the butcher case at the store were some nice ribeye steaks. They appeared to be about the right thickness, 1-1¼", so I asked the butcher to pick one out. It weighed in at 1.2 pounds, good for the two of us to share for dinner and probably have enough for a second meal. As I was getting ready to cook I measured the steak and found it to be 2" thick. Oops. Pan frying using this recipe would probably not cook the middle so I turned on the oven to 300° so I could finish cooking the steak there after frying.

I followed the directions for frying, 5 minutes on the first side and 4 minutes on the second. This developed a nice brown crust, but checking the temperature confirmed that the middle was far from done. I transferred it to the oven to cook through, but due to the timing of the other dishes it wasn't there long enough to reach  125° for medium rare. We cut our pieces from the thinner end of the steak and they were done well enough to eat. The underdone leftovers provide an advantage as they are less likely to be overdone upon reheating, so it was not a disaster.

Common wisdom cautions against using a mixer to make mashed potatoes as they come out gummy, although Diane does this fairly often and I don't remember her serving me gummy mashed potatoes. The secret to avoiding this, according to the Test Kitchen, is to steam the potatoes rather than boiling them. It's the extra water they pick up that makes them gummy. Well, it turns out that when Diane cooks potatoes to mash she doesn't fill the sauce pan with water. So while some of the potatoes are submerged, many are not, and so are steamed rather than boiled. These potatoes, which were cooked in a steamer basket, turned out really well. They were light and fluffy and very well seasoned. I used two pounds of potatoes and that made 4 servings, enough for this meal plus one more.

I really liked the glazed carrots, despite them getting done early and having to sit for a few minutes while the potatoes and steak were finished. They were sweet without being too sweet from the added sugar, the natural sweetness of the carrots was still apparent. We opened a bottle of wine from Poetic Cellars, a winery in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains which we have visited several times. It was a blend of 45% Syrah, 45% Mourvedre, and 45% Sagiovese and it went very well with this meal. The bottle came with a short romantic poem on the label. For dessert, we had some pie that I bought at the supermarket.

In 20-20 hind sight, I should have done a few things differently. I wanted an easy meal to prepare, in large part because I was away from home all day Saturday at a Destination Imagination Tournament. I should have cut the steak into two 1" thick steaks when I learned how thick it was. I should have gone with frozen peas. I should have baked the potatoes (which is Diane's favorite way to fix potatoes anyway). It would have been so much easier. But then, I wouldn't have learned as much, so I guess it's all good. I get to try again next weekend as I have an even longer day at another  Destination Imagination Tournament, so I'll be looking for another easy meal.


Panfried Steaks from Cook's Illustrated
Whipped Potatoes from Cook's Country
Glazed Carrots from Cook's Illustrated


 For dinner one night the following week, Diane reheated the steak in a skillet, baked some potatoes, and served some peas, for a great and quick week night meal. This is what I should have done for Sunday. 

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