Archive for January, 2012

Steak au poivre

Posted: January 26, 2012 in Beef, Food, French
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Unlike many people in my family, my relationship with pepper didn’t start early. Quite often my parents and my brother would praise an even mildly spicy dish, and I’d be complaining that it was too hot. My father even grew some chilies at our house, but I never got too close to them. When I moved to the US over 10 years ago, I thought most foods were quite spicy, even a cheese pizza from Domino’s or Pizza Hut would have me reaching for water… Maybe my taste buds couldn’t take anything other than the lowest foods on the Scoville scale, I simply didn’t like piquant foods.

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So when I decided to prepare a Steak au poivre, that was definitely a proof that tastes change. Maybe because of not having another option in many restaurants I went out with friends, I started getting more and more used to spicy foods, up to the point where nowadays I even ask for a few stars in most Thai restaurants. I’m still not up to a “wings of fire” challenge, but I may get there sometime. Meanwhile, I decided to go into the famous French dish when shopping at Costco the filet mignon looked at me and almost begged me to take it home – I had never tried one, but I remember that it looked good when my parents would order one in a restaurant.

The recipe is quite simple, and not overly spicy (the cracked peppercorns ended up being a great compliment to the steak, without overpowering it). I decided to go with one recipe from Alton Brown from Food Network which seemed quite easy. A few modifications I did was that I used whipping cream instead of heavy cream (that’s what I had in the fridge) and followed one of the commenters suggestion to finish the steak on the oven. The sauce ended up a little thinner than the ones I’ve seen in picture over the web (likely because of the difference in the cream), but it turned out really good.

Ingredients (for 4 people):

  • 4 filet mignon steaks, about 1” thick, fat trimmed
  • 2 tbsp. whole peppercorns (I used a mixture of red / green / black I had in my pantry)
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/3 cup cognac
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • salt

Crack the peppercorns with a mallet (I used a cheesecloth to prevent it from going everywhere in the kitchen), and spread them in a plate. Season the steaks with salt, then press them into the pepper, until the surface is coated.

Pre-heat the oven to 350F (175C). On an oven-proof skillet large enough for all steaks, heat the oil and the butter until it starts smoking. Sear the steaks (1-2 minutes each side), then transfer the pan to the oven for about 10 minutes (for medium; adjust the time for other levels of doneness). Remove the pan from the oven, remove the steaks from it and set them aside (wrapped in a tinfoil tent to keep warm).

Carefully add the cognac to the pan (it may catch fire right away). If it still isn’t on fire, light it up with a long match, then stir the pan scraping the bottom until the flames die. Add the cream, bring it to medium heat whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Adjust the salt, then bring the steaks back to the pan, coating them with the sauce.

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Serve immediately with rice and potatoes. Enjoy!

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Shrimp in a gorgonzola sauce

Posted: January 12, 2012 in Cheese, Food, Seafood
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I love shrimp. It has been one of my favorite foods growing up, both because it tastes really good, and because it used to be quite expensive, so we didn’t have it often and the wait often makes a dish taste better. After moving to the Seattle area and meeting Costco for the first time, with their quite inexpensive (huge) bags of shrimp (already peeled!) it seemed like I found my place to live :), and so far I always have some of the shrimp in my freezer for some special dinner.

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My love affair with gorgonzola wasn’t that clear. I know that, like most kids, I didn’t try it at first because I didn’t like its smell. Probably some day (which I don’t really remember) I decided to try it and liked it. Nowadays I really like it, so much that any time me (and my wife, who shares this taste) will order a salad in a restaurant, if they have one with it (or another blue cheese), odds are that we’ll end up choosing that.

One thing which I like about gorgonzola is that its flavor is strong enough that it doesn’t need much to make a very good sauce. I’ve started with about 5 and kept removing ingredients until I decided that, for my taste, you don’t need anything other than this wonderful cheese and some milk. Even salt and pepper aren’t really necessary for the sauce itself (some cooks will likely start browsing out of this page now), as long as the meat it goes with is properly seasoned.

So this was a very quick, and quite delicious dinner which I made in a week day last month. The fingerling potatoes (easy to make) and the quinoa (interesting texture) in the dish are two of the ingredients which I started using recently (somehow I always passed by them in the supermarket), and they ended up going quite well with the shrimp.

Ingredients:

  • Shrimp
    • 1lb shrimp, cooked, thawed
    • juice of 1 lime
    • salt & pepper
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Sauce
    • 4oz. gorgonzola cheese
    • 1 cup milk

Mix the shrimp with the lime juice, salt and pepper, then leave for at least 15 minutes. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic. Pat the shrimp dry and add it to the pan, frying it for 5 minutes, to get the garlic flavor, then remove the shrimp and reserve.

In the same pan, add the cheese and the milk, then mixing it over low heat until the cheese is dissolved. Add the shrimp back to the pan, mix it to coat with the sauce and serve immediately. I used for side dishes the quinoa salad (both red and white, with chopped tomatoes, olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper) and roasted fingerling potatoes (drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper).

Enjoy!

“Big-eyed beef”

Posted: January 1, 2012 in Comfort, Egg, Food
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As in most of the western countries, especially those with some Italian or Latin heritage, a spaghetti Bolognese is a quick and easy dinner which can be prepared when you’re either tired or out of other options. Spaghetti is common staple in most pantries, and some ground meat-based sauce is also quite easy to cook.

One thing which I don’t know how common is, but was a nice touch in such dinners that we had in my house growing up was to add a sunny-side up egg on top of the spaghetti. We called it the “bife do oião”, (loosely translated as “big-eyed beef”, due to the yolk “eye”), and to this day when I’m not too tired or lazy to clean up afterwards, whenever we’re having some Bolognese (or some variation, like the one shown in the picture below), I’ll have my plate with an egg on top.

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The recipe for this picture wasn’t really a traditional Bolognese sauce; instead it based on a lighter ground turkey and red wine (something a little healthier that which my kids happen to love). The yolk should still be running, and it gives a nice complement to the sauce (which isn’t as creamy as other ones).

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (1.25 lb.) ground turkey
  • 1 cup dry red wine (that’s usually what’s left off a bottle which we opened a couple of days before and didn’t finish)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 pack spaghetti
  • 1 egg per person
  • grated parmesan cheese

This serves quite well about 8 people, so feel free to reduce the quantities if you don’t want leftovers. I always prepare the whole pack of the meat, and refrigerate what I don’t use for later, and only prepare the pasta for the number of people in the table.

In a medium non-stick pan add the ground turkey and the wine, mixing them before turning on the heat, to break any lumps. Add salt and pepper, and then enough water to almost cover the meat. Cook over medium heat, stirring often (remember that no oil or butter was used, I mentioned this was a light sauce) to prevent burning on the bottom. When the liquid starts boiling, reduce the heat and cook for about 20-30 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the turkey is done. Try the meat and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary.

Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions, and when it’s done, drain it and return it to the pan; add the ground turkey sauce over it, and mix to bind.

When it’s time to serve, cook a sunny-side up egg in a small frying pan, and lay it over the spaghetti. Top with grated parmesan cheese and enjoy!