Monday, November 29, 2010

Chef Challenge: Meat & Potatoes

Editors Note:  This is a guest post from Colin.

Before you go any further, go ahead and cue this post's theme music.

Good.   Now that you've been put in the mood with staccato violin notes, behold:
If you've ever shot a gun, parallel parked, or used coozies as oven mitts, then you've cooked a steak, or stood over someone's shoulder drinking a beer while they cooked a steak.  If so, you can hear the crackle and pop of the meat and fat on the grill (as well as staccato violin notes, of course), and you can smell the meat cooking--turning from dead animal to prime delicacy.  If your steak was done well (and not well done), your mouth should be watering.  Lastly, if you ate something from a drive through tonight, you should be feeling regretful for more than just the indigestion you're going to have, and here's why:

You could have, and should have, spent that $6 drive through on a fulfilling full course steak dinner.

Strip Steak with Baked Potato and Blue Cheese & Chive Tomato Salad
1 Large Baking Potato
Butter (potato topping)
Sour Cream (potato topping)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half
1 Tablespoon Crumbled
Blue Cheese
1 Teaspoon Chives, thinly sliced
Balsamic Vinegar
1 8 - 10 oz Strip
Steak. at room temperature
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Add potato and bake for 45 - 50 minutes.  In a mixing bowl combine tomatoes, cheese, and chives.  Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar.  Toss to combine; set aside.  Preheat a skillet/heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat.  Season steak liberally with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Add enough olive oil to coat the pan - oil should shimmer and almost smoke in pan.  Add steak, and cook undisturbed for 3 minutes.  Flip steak, and place pan into the heated oven with the potato to heat through, another 5 - 7 minutes for medium rare/medium.  Remove steak from oven and set on a plate to rest and keep warm.  Meanwhile, remove and prep baked potato with desired toppings.  Add a generous helping of the tomato salad, and finally plate the steak.  Serve with copious amounts of your favorite Cab - red wine, for the layman.

This meal turned out to not only be the easiest to cook, but easily the best.   From personal experience, I recommend turning up the potato to at least 450 degrees, and make sure to cut a few holes/slices into it to let any steam out while it cooks, otherwise it will split.  Most importantly, take my advice on this one thing not included in the recipe--coat the skin lightly with olive oil, and lightly season with salt and pepper.  This small seasoning changes the potato skin from a serving dish into an additional delicacy.  (I almost sound like I know what I'm doing, don't I?).  Of course, you'll want to drown it in cheese and sour cream regardless when it is done.

As for the salad, I went feta instead of blue cheese, simply as a matter of personal taste.  Somewhere along my maturation into a grown ass man, tomatoes and broccoli turned from grudgingly edible veggies into personal favorites.  Of all the things I cooked in this chef challenge, this salad was the first thing I went ahead and repeated as a personal choice.  Freshly sliced, cold and ripe tomatoes, with the tartness of the oil and vinegar mix perfectly with cheese of any sort, and worked surprisingly well with the heavier side dishes.

The meat was cooked just like the fish from the first meal of my challenge, and was just as tasty.  Don't fear the kosher salt and the pepper.  Don't put the meat on until the pan is hot.  And do not be tempted to flip the steak multiple times or, even worse, cut into it and let that delicious flavor seep out of that dead cow.  Take the time to time putting your on meal too--you don't want to have to be keeping the meat warm and drying it out, or eating partially-baked potato, simply because your stomach made you jump the gun on tossing that steak on the pan.

Matt says to serve with copious amounts of Cab or red wine when you eat, but I'll let you in on a secret.  Steak and potatoes, even when served with a tomato salad, goes great with a beer.  Hell, it goes great with a glass of milk.  A water.  Iced Tea.  The only thing you need to keep away from is serving up a quickie value meal for your weeknight meal instead of this simple, satisfying, and spectacular serving of Steak and Potatoes.

Have Her Over for Dinner can't make a "her" come over for dinner, but at the very least it can make those days where you do dine alone allow for half of this day to be a guaranteed reality.

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