Andy always says that my idea of a “steak dinner” is not like everyone else’s…and I am ok with that because, mine is better! No minimally seasoned hunk of meat with a side of baked potato and a dollop of sour cream for me. Although these do have their place, I usually can’t help but add a little something extra to make it special. Instead: Steak with wine and mushroom sauce, gratin dauphinois and spinach salad. That’s what I call a steak dinner Hungry Ginger style!
First, start with the most time consuming element, the gratin dauphinois, which is basically layers of thinly sliced potatoes with butter, milk and cheese. How can you go wrong with that!
The Ingredients: two largish Yukon Gold potatoes (no others will do. The sweetness and texture of these potatoes really lend themselves to a dish like this. Other potatoes would be less flavorful and more likely to fall apart.), a cup of boiling whole milk, a couple handfuls of gruyere cheese (to taste), about 8 knobs of butter (4 tablespoons) plus some for greasing the pan, a clove of garlic, white pepper.
The Recipe: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Smash a clove of garlic with the side of your knife and rub it all over the inside of a gratin dish (see pictures below for the kind of dish I mean) then take a bit of softened butter and rub it all over the inside of the dish so it is evenly and very well coated. Peel and slice thinly two Yukon gold potatoes. Layer the first one on the bottom of the pan, just overlapping so that the entire bottom is covered. Take 4 of your knobs of butter (about 2 tablespoons quartered) and scatter them across the potatoes. Give them a good grinding of white pepper and sprinkle one handful of the shredded gruyere cheese. Do the same with the second potato, remaining knobs of butter, gruyere and more pepper. As you are doing this, heat up a cup of whole milk on the stove (keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t boil over). Transfer your baking dish to the stove and turn it on medium. Pour on the boiling milk and wait until the milk begins to simmer in the dish as well before you put it in the oven. Set the timer for 20 minutes, start the eggs for the salad (2 eggs on cold water set on high heat) and turn your attention to the steak.
I like this steak because the flavor of the meat is totally enhanced by the red wine and mushrooms. You can still taste the meatiness of the steak but with the addition of the slightly tangy red wine and earthy mushrooms it becomes a more complete dish. A more perfect marriage of flavors is hard to find with so few ingredients.
Speaking of Ingredients: Two NY Strip steaks, one shallot, a nob of butter and a dash of olive oil, about 7 or 8 wild mushrooms (I prefer a mixture of Crimini and Shitake), about half a bottle of robust red wine, a cup or so of beef stock.
The Recipe: Season the steaks on both sides with a little coarse salt and freshly ground pepper and let sit for a few minutes. Set a heavy bottomed pan on the stove on medium high heat. Add the butter and a dash of your preferred cooking oil (this helps the butter not to burn since we will be cooking these steaks on pretty high heat for maximum browning). As soon as the butter begins to turn golden and the pan is hot, add the steaks. Increase the heat a little as the steaks will cool the pan down. If the steaks are thick (an inch or more) you should cook them 5 to 6 min per side for medium rare. If they are less than an inch, I would say no more than 4 min per side. As the steaks are cooking, put 4 slices of bacon (for the salad) to cook on the stove. The egg water should be boiling about this time. Set the timer for 15 min. When the steaks are finished, set them on a plate and cover with tin foil. Turn the heat down a little and add some diced shallot and the mushrooms, chopped. Cook until the shallot is just starting to brown and the mushrooms are softening and then add the red wine and beef stock to deglaze. Cook until the liquid is reduced by about half and only then do you season (the flavors are being concentrated and you don’t want the salt to be concentrated as well). As your sauce is reducing, remove your bacon to a paper towel lined plate and check on the gratin dauphinois. It may need 10 more minutes depending on your oven. It will be starting to really brown at this point and you must remind yourself of the difference between brown and black. Brown is good, especially around the edges so don’t be afraid of a little or a lot of color in this case. Remove the dish from the oven when it is ready and tent with some foil while you finish the steak and put the salad together.
This salad is something that you don’t want to make too often (you will see why) but it is so yummy and a great way to use that random bag of spinach (or really any other salad fixings you may have in the crisper) to make something really elegant.
The Ingredients: 2 of the aforementioned hard boiled eggs, two handfuls of fresh spinach, 4 slices of bacon, three tablespoons of the bacon fat, half a tablespoon Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, blue cheese crumbles.
The Recipe: Once your eggs have been boiling for 15 minutes, remove to a bath of ice water. In a small sauce pan, heat the bacon fat and add the Dijon and vinegar. Wisk to mix and turn off heat. Peel and slice the eggs and place on top of the Spinach on two plates. Crumble the cooked bacon and scatter on the blue cheese. Top with the dressing.
To finish the steak: when your sauce has reduced, season and add the steaks back to the pan, turning them to coat with sauce. Place them on two plates and smother with the sauce. Add a sprinkling of fresh parsley. Put the gratin dauphinois on the plate where it can also soak up some of the sauce. Serve with bread for mopping.