For Mike’s family, the absolute fanciest dinner you can have (with the exception of turkey at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas) is steak. (Or cornish hens circa 1982.) So when I was at my sister’s for Mother’s Day brunch this morning, I ran across the street to Sobey’s, one of few grocery chains that sells fresh bison in their meat case, and picked up some steaks.
I know I’ve talked about bison before, but just a reminder: because it’s so lean (containing half the fat of beef, and even less fat than skinless turkey or chicken, or even halibut) cuts like steak need to be given about a third less cooking time than a similar cut of beef. Because it looks and tastes like beef, people tend to treat it the same way in the kitchen, often drying it out. If you’re a beginner, try using ground bison first – it’s foolproof in chilis, meatballs, pasta sauces, etc.
When I did some foodstyling for Trish Magwood a few months ago, while she was in town promoting the 100th birthday of Melitta coffee, she taught me a quick spice rub that included actual coffee grounds. I’ve revised it a little.
Mike: “I can’t imagine ever having steak without this rub on it now!”
Coffee Rubbed Steak
steaks of your choice
2 Tbsp. dark Mexican chili powder (or any good quality chili powder)
1 Tbsp. cocoa
1 Tbsp. finely ground coffee or espresso
1 tsp. coarse salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Make sure your steak is at room temperature. Combine all the rub ingredients and rub it all over both sides of the steak(s); let them sit for about 10 minutes.
Heat your grill, a cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat until it’s hot but not smoking. (If you don’t have cast iron, use a regular skillet and drizzle with canola oil.) Put the steak onto the grill or into the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes per side (2-3 minutes for bison steaks) for medium-rare. Let them rest, tented with foil so that they don’t cool down, for 10 minutes before slicing.
The smashed potatoes were simply my easiest option. My in-laws are very much the type to construct dinner out of 1) meat. 2) potato. 3) vegetable, preferably boiled. Mashed potatoes I love, but they are more tedious and require peeling, something I’d prefer not to do. Baked potatoes seemed far too steakhouse; I pondered going the twice-baked route with chives from the garden, but Yukon golds tend to have flimsy skins for that sort of thing. They are ideal, however, for a rough mash. To shake things up a bit, try throwing a small sweet potato into the mix as well; the mashing is so quick that they aren’t completely incorporated into each other, which keeps things interesting.
You don’t need a recipe for this; just like traditional mashed potatoes, add low fat sour cream, buttermilk, oil and Parmesan until you have the consistency you like. Leftovers are sturdy enough to be easily shaped into small patties (with or without the addition of a drained can of salmon or leftover flaked fish) and fried until crisp. (Stay tuned for Day 133.)
If you ever happen to have a head of roasted garlic on hand, squeeze it into the potato mixture. Or to infuse your potatoes with garlic, toss a few cloves into the water as they boil.
Yukon gold potatoes (I used 5, and have leftovers)
grated Parmesan cheese (a handful)
low fat sour cream and/or olive or canola oil and/or buttermilk
salt and pepper
Cut the unpeeled potatoes into 4-6 pieces and boil in plenty of water until very tender. Drain and return to the pot. Add the Parmesan cheese, sour cream, oil and buttermilk (or any combination of them) along with some salt and pepper, and roughly mash with a potato masher or fork.
The Ichiban salad is a throwback to the 80s, when my Mom made it a lot. It’s made with ramen noodles (but sorry, I can’t bring myself to call it ramen noodle salad) – the kind that come in the little packets of instant soup, not deep fried chow mein noodles. I haven’t had it for probably two decades, but thought of it as I wondered how to use up the last of the head of cabbage I’ve been chipping away at for the past two weeks. I’m glad I rediscovered this; to be honest it was my favorite part of the meal, and I finished it off straight from the bowl. (Hey, the noodles are just going to get soggy by tomorrow anyway.)
This salad is great with shredded leftover roast chicken.
1 pkg. Ichiban or other ramen noodles
1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds, and/or sesame seeds
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
1/4 small purple onion, thinly sliced (optional)
1 carrot, grated
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup oil – I use about 1 Tbsp. sesame oil and 3 Tbsp. canola oil
the packet from the noodles
Crumble the ichiban noodles onto a baking sheet, sprinkle with the almonds and/or sesame seeds and toast in the oven or under the broiler until golden and fragrant.
Toss the salad ingredients in a bowl. Shake all the dressing ingredients up in a jar. Toss them together.
Because I completely burned my first batch of noodles and sesame seeds, I had to open a second package, which meant an extra seasoning packet, and you know how much I hate throwing stuff away, so I mixed up a second batch of dressing to keep in a jar in the fridge. It will go very well with any sort of Asian noodle salad.
The pavlovas I made so that I could bring half to brunch this morning and use the rest at dinner. They seem fancy, but are one of the easiest things you can make. All you do is beat egg whites with sugar until you have a stiff mixture you can spoon onto a cookie sheet and scoop a divet into the middle of; they can be any size you want. Then bake them at 250F for a little over an hour, until they are dry on the outside but still chewy and marshmallowy on the inside. As a bonus, they will take care of dessert anytime you need to feed someone who has an intolerance to wheat or lactose or fat. And you can top them with cream, custard, ice cream, and any kind of juicy fruit that’s in season.
This recipe will make about 40 small (two or three bite) pavlovas, which could not be more perfect for a summer party. One passionfruit will pretty much do the lot of them. I adore passionfruit with pavlova – the sweetness, crunch and cream offsets the intense flavor, juiciness and incredible tang of the passionfruit.
(This is what to look for. I got mine from More than Mangos, at the Canyon Meadows Community Hall every Friday from 2-8pm.)