Friday, March 02, 2007
A New Day...A New Menu
Every thing old is new again. All the fanciest dishes in the world can't beat a good steak cooked to your personal preference, whether it be rare, medium-rare, medium, or God forbid...well-done! Okay! Okay! We all have our individual ways. Mine choice is medium-rare. Invariably, I would cringe when an order was presented to me in a restaurant kitchen, in which a diner had requested 'well-done'. To me, it always seems such a waste of a good steak. However, as I mentioned, it is the individual's choice..so be it. Either which way, there's nothing worse than being presented with your steak, which you've been drooling over just at the thought of it and it's not cooked the way you desire. You've been thinking about it all day long and wham! In a couple of minutes...or in the case of 'over-cooked', lots of minutes...there in front of you, smack dab in the middle of your plate, is something that doesn't at all resemble what you had in mind! A moment like that can be very distressing! One day I'll tell you about a meal I received once when I was "on the road" traveling for the island. I shed tears over it! I'll keep that story for another day....just to keep you interested! Here are a couple of "oldies, but goodies" for you to chew over on the weekend.
Moules A La Mariniere: Heat about 50ml olive oil in a large saucepan and sweat 1 chopped onion and 1 (or more) cloves of garlic, crushed over low heat for 10 minutes or until transparent but not brown. Add 1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme and 1kg (2lb) mussels, de-bearded and cleaned. Cook over high heat, uncovered, for 1 minute. Add 125ml dry white wine and 200ml cream. Cover and boil rapidly for 2-3 minutes, or until the mussels open, discarding any that don't open. Stir in 2 tablespoons chopped mixed herbs, including parsley, chives and basil. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. To serve, divide mussels among individual serving dishes...or in one large bowl in the centre of the table. Spoon sauce over the mussels and serve immediately with crusty bread for the luscious juices. Don't forget the finger bowls!
Pepper Steak: Grab hold of 4 beef fillets (if you're serving four or if you have a massive appetite!), about 200g each. Season beef with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat a little olive oil in heavy-based frying pan/skillet until it just begins to smoke and sear the steaks quickly over medium to high heat. Reduce heat and cook to your liking. Remove from pan and rest on a wire rack in a warm place for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, for the sauce, melt butter in a frying pan and cook 1 onion, finely diced, 1 clove of garlic, crushed (me...I would add two...but that's me...I love garlic!), and 4 tablespoons green peppercorns over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons brandy (or cognac, if you're feeling extravagant or your bank balance is!). Allow the alcohol to get a little warm and then flame. Add 1/2 cup of beef stock (not too strong) and 1 cup cream. Reduce to desired consistency by simmering. Stir in parsley. To serve, spoon sauce on warm serving plates and top with steaks, cut in half if you like...or you can leave the steak whole...your choice. Also, if you don't like cream in your sauce, don't add any cream. Again, it's personal choice.
Pear and Mascarpone Tart: Sweet-crust pastry: Combine 185g sifted plain flour with 90g sugar in a bowl. Using fingertips (your own, of course), rub in 125 unsalted butter, chilled and roughly chopped, until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in enough iced water to mix to a soft dough. Turn out on a floured surface and knead lightly until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes (the pastry, that is...not you!). Roll out pastry and line a dep, 22cm, buttered flan tin with removable base. Line with greaseproof paper, weight with dried beans or rice and bake blind at 180C (375F) for 10 minutes. Remove beans and paper and cook for 10 minutes longer.
Filling: Core and peel 3 firm pears. Cut into thick slices. Melt 30g butter in a large frying pan and stir in 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Add the pears and cook over medium to high heat for 4-5 minutes, or until golden. Arrange over base of the prepared tart shell. Whisk 375g mascarpone with 5 lightly beaten eggs, 110g caster sugar, 3 tablespoons dark rum and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence until well combined. Pour over pears and bake at 160C (300-320F) for 1 hour, or until firm, covering the top with foil during cooking if surface browns too quickly. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Oh...I nearly forgot the Rosemary Roasted Potatoes! Out to your garden you go...dig up 1 large thin-skinned potato per person plus one for the pan. Cut the potatoes into large chunks. You, of course, have pre-heated the oven to 425F/220C. In a large bowl, combine 2-3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped coarsely, 1-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper and as much crushed garlic as you like. Toss in the potatoes until they are well-coated. Spread out the potatoes in one layer on a lipped oven tray and roast for 10 minutes or so. Using a spatula, turn the potatoes over so they crisp on both sides, and continue cooking for another 10 minutes or until they are soft in the centre (a bit like me!) when tested with a fork or skewer. Season to taste and serve with the pepper steak.
I think the above should, at least, suffice for one meal over the weekend.
Don't forget to open a bottle or two of a good Cabernet Sauvignon to go with that steak!
(If you can't partake this weekend, perhaps next weekend...it will give you something to look forward to!)