I joked about this dinner mimicking the classical New York steak house selection, grilled rib and creamed spinach, except there was no grill, and no rib, and the ‘spinach’ was an asian green, pleased to hold the cream.
And the beef came from Connecticut.
My timing for a reverse seared steak was a little ragged once again, because I hadn’t done my homework after the first time out, but I think I’ve finally gotten it down: I’m going with 275º for somewhere between 45 and 60 minutes, knowing that the ultimate arbiter will be my trusty instant read thermometer.
In any event, once again the process meant that the steak was delicious, but the credit has to start with the people who brought it to us. I had been seduced when I caught site of a beautifully marbled strip steak sitting on ice at their stand in Union Square the previous week. It was my first purchase from Ox Hollow Farm, which is fairly new to the Union Square Greenmarket.
- one beautifully marbled black angus boneless strip steak (.84 lbs) from Ox Hollow Farm brought to room temperature, seasoned on all sides with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, placed on a rack in a 275º oven for somewhere between 45 and 60 minutes (I lost track of the timing), or until medium rare, meaning a thermometer reading of 120º, then placed over high heat, on the surface of a heavy oval enameled cast iron pan that had been coated with then a very small amount of cooking oil, one with a higher smoke point than olive oil (I used Mac Nut macademia nut oil from Whole Foods Market), and, noting that the steak was already fully cooked, so the it only needed to be inside the pan long enough just long enough to impart color, seared briefly on all sides lingering just a bit longer on the top, fat-covered side, making sure to immediately apply pressure in the center with a wooden spoon when it was lying on its side, to keep the middle area from rising above the surface of the pan, removed from the heat, cut into 2 sections, and allowed to rest for up to 10 minutes while covered loosely with foil, arranged on 2 warm plates, some juice from an organic Whole Foods Market California lemon squeezed on top, sprinkled with chopped fresh rosemary from Keith’s Farm, and drizzled with a Whole Foods Market Portuguese house olive oil
- an Asian broccoli raab, otherwise unidentified, from Lani’s Farm, washed, drained, and braised very lightly in a heavy pot in which two halved rocambole garlic cloves from Keith’s Farm had been allowed to sweat in some olive oil, the dish finished with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil
- slices of a really excellent miche from Runner & Stone Bakery
- the wine was a French (Languedoc-Roussillon) red, Domaine Des Sauvaire – Mas Sauvaire Rouge 2016,from Foragers Wine
- continuing a French theme, the music was Jean-Baptiste Lully’s 1680 tragédie lyrique, ‘Proserpine’, Hervé Niquet conducting the choir and orchestra of Le Concert Spirituel
There was a dessert. The idea was to serve it after the Thanksgiving dinner, but by that time we couldn’t share much enthusiasm for another course.
- four tiny tartlets (pecan, squash, pumpkin, and custard, from Baker’s Bounty, in the Union Square Greenmarket
It was the first morning of December, so of course we enjoyed local tomatoes with our breakfast.
The 2 that I used in this meal, saving the rest for a dinner the next day, came from a small stash that I thought at the time would be the last of a long season, but at the Greenmarket 3 days later I picked up 2 medium heirloom tomatoes and a basket of heirloom cherry tomatoes from a Pennsylvania farmer located further to the south (roughly 60 miles further) than the New York farm where these had been grown.
- our breakfast, a little simpler than usual, included 4 slices of thick bacon from pastured pigs and 6 fresh eggs from pastured chickens, all from the Amish family-run Millport Dairy Farm stand in the Union Square Greenmarket, the eggs seasoned with a local Long Island sea salt (from P.E. & D.D. Seafood), freshly ground black pepper, and sprinkled with torn leaves off of a live basil plant from Stokes Farm, garnished on the side with a little purple micro radish from Windfall Farms; there was a small assembly of slices of small green tomatoes that had been warmed in a little olive oil inside a small copper skillet along with a few chopped seasoning peppers (aji dulce (red) and Granada, both from Eckerton Hill Farm, served on a few leaves from a small head of radicchio variegato di Castelfranco from Campo Rosso Farm; a rich local butter (Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’ from Chelsea Whole Foods, and slices, untoasted, of Homadama bread (wheat, corn, water, maple syrup, salt, slaked lime) from Lost Bread Co.
- the music was Francesco Bartolomeo Conti’s 1715 ‘Missa Sancti Pauli’, György Vashegyi conducting the Orfeo Orchestra and the Purcell Choir
It was another of those double take reactions, when the fish monger quotes you the price after you’ve chose your fish of the day: $3.50? Only $3.50, for enough excellent whole fresh fish for 2 diners?
And very nicely cleaned, as well.
They were easily and quickly prepared, and delicious; also, the bones were no problem.
So many reasons why it’s hard to persuade ourselves we should go out to dinner.
- six fresh whiting (16 ounces altogether), from P.E. & D. D. Seafood, heads already removed, stomach cavities cleaned, and, at home on the kitchen counter, all the fins cut off as best as possible, washed and drained, sprinkled with about a teaspoon, or maybe a little more, of Moroccan Fish Spice* and a little bit of salt, coated lightly with about a fourth of a cup of Union Square Greenmarket-purchased whole wheat flour from The Blew family of Oak Grove Plantation in Pittstown, N.J., arranged in a single layer on a large platter, and then about a third of a cup of olive oil was poured into a large enameled cast iron pan, fully coating the bottom, the pan heated for 2 or 3 minutes over medium heat before the whiting were placed inside without crowding, and fried, turning only once, until light to medium golden on both sides, adding a little more oil if needed (these 3-ounce whiting took 7 to 8 minutes on each side), transferred to a plate lined with paper towels to drain, arranged on the plates and served with lemon eighths
*Moroccan Fish Spice (amounts produce 3 teaspoons of spice)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- half a pound, maybe more, of scrubbed unpeeled red thumb potatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm, boiled, drained, dried inside the still-warm vintage Corning Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot in which they had cooked, halved, rolled inside the pan with a little olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, tossed with purple micro radish from Windfall Farms, served garnished with more tiny radish
- purple tomatillos (10 ounces) from Norwich Meadows Farm, chopped, tossed in a little olive oil along with one very small sliced red onion from Norwich Meadows Farm, fresh chopped oregano from from Rise & Root Farm, fresh basil off of a live plant from Stokes Farm, organic California lemon zest and juice from Whole Foods Market, sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and a generous pinch of fenugreek
- the wine was an Italian (Piedmont) white, Arneis ‘Moda Veja’, Gallino 2016, from Astor Wines
- the music was by Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville (1711-1772), his 1742 pastorale héroïque in 5 acts and a prologue, ‘Isbé’, György Vashegyiby conducting the Orfeo Orchestra and the Purcell Choir
When your 3-hour play started late, but you still need a supper, and then you want to continue the discussion that began when you entered the theater:
- thin slices of dense ‘Homadama’ (wheat, corn, water, maple syrup, salt, slaked lime) from Lost Bread Co., not toasted, because they were both very fresh and very firm, supporting 2 different spreads, a plain water buffalo milk labneh from Riverine Ranch, leaving a shallow depression to receive a bit of a very good Greek olive oil (Renieris Estate ‘Divina’ (Koroneiki varietal), then sprinkled with a few pinches of dried fenugreek from Bombay Emerald Chutney Company (purchased at the Saturday Chelsea Farmers Market); and an Umbrian-style ciauscolo, or spreadable salami made by Rico and Jill of Walnut Hill Farm in Pawlet, Vermont
- leaves from a small purple and green head of leaf lettuce from Fledging Crow Vegetables and a small head of Radicchio Variegato di Castelfranco from Campo Rosso Farm, dressed with the same Greek olive oil, local P.E. & D.D. Seafood sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a squeeze of organic California lemon from Chelsea Whole Foods Market
- the wine was an Italian (Veneto/Bardolini) rosé, Bardolino Chiaretto, Corte Sermana 2018, from Astor Wines
- because the performance we had come from was a that of Tony Kushner’s 1985 play, ‘A Bright Room Called Day’, set in Berlin in 1932-1933, the music we chose was pretty much in tune: it was ‘Leipzig Symphony‘, by one of the German composers most closely associated with resistance to the Nazis, Hanns Eisler; banned in 1933, the composer and his collaborator Bertolt Brecht went into exile; Eisler was eventually able to emigrate to the United States with a permanent visa in 1938, joining Brecht in Los Angeles in 1942, but, because he remained so deeply committed to everything most hated by the National Socialist regime, in 1948 Eisler and his wife were literally thrown out of the U.S. as well; they were reunited with Brecht in East Berlin, where he composed the magnificent national anthem of the German Democratic Republic, among many other works, many for theater and film, and both he and Brecht were celebrated as heroes, until the day they died, and beyond [Eisler’s ‘Leipzig Symphony’, unfinished when the composer died in 1962, was completed by composer Thilo Medek; the performance we heard was by Jürgen Bruns conducting the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra (the radio orchestra of Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk), the oldest German radio orchestra, based in Leipzig, where it was founded in 1923]
[the second image is of a large detail of the set, before the play begins, for ‘A Bright Room Called Day’ at The Public Theater, where it continues through December 22]
It would have been a pretty interesting menu for any important meal: Lots of oysters, venison chops, sweet potato frites, a baby brassica mix.
It was also, in spite of the absence of turkey (and many of the other fetish items associated with everyone’s very proprietary holiday), very much in tune with the occasion we observed last Thursday: On the shores of Plymouth Bay in 1621 there were no mashed potatoes (no potatoes of any kind in fact), cranberry sauce, or pie on the long tables the precarious little community of Pilgrims had set up. Their thanksgiving meal did however include shellfish and venison, and those delights were our inspiration for our own holiday meal.
But we aren’t strict constructionists when it comes to the enjoyment of food, so Barry and I did decide to add some fine drink and a few other accompaniments we would have appreciated had we been there 400 years ago, and they were available.
The image below is of the bowl of ‘Originals’, the first of two caches of oysters that Barry and I opened and spread across a broad expanse of partially crushed ice. I’d packed the ice inside a vintage 13 1/2-inch majolica bowl that my lover Tom had purchased in Majorca and brought back with him from a US Navy tour to the Mediterranean in the early 1970’s, carefully stowed inside his duffel bag.
- a full 50 Walrus and Carpenter Oysters from South County, Rhode Island, Crassostera Virginica (25 ‘Originals’, from Ninigret Pond, in Charlestown, and 25 ‘Dutchies’, from Dutch Harbor in Jamestown), that Barry and I had ordered from Jules Opton-Himmel, the founder of the 2 farms, and carried home from his Mother’s Broadway apartment house roof the night before, opened and consumed in 2 stages, the ‘Originals’ first, followed by the Dutchies’, early in the evening of Thanksgiving
- slices of a small sunflower, flax and peasant sourdough baguette from Hawthorne Valley Farm
- the ‘wine’ was a local New York (Esopus) cider, Metal House Cider from Copake Wine, but because we were with the oysters for so long, we exhausted the bottle and ended sampling them with a wonderful chilled Chicago gin, Letherbee’s flagship bottle
There was an interval before we were able to begin the main course, but it was welcome, above all to the cook.
- four fresh (never frozen), local 6-ounce, Dutchess County fallow deer venison loin chops from Quattro’s Game Farm & Store in the Union Square Greenmarket, rinsed, dried, rubbed with olive oil and a very generous coating of freshly-cracked black peppercorns, then set aside on the counter covered with waxed paper for about an hour, placed over moderately high heat in 1 to 2 tablespoons of a combination of butter and olive oil inside a heavy oval 11-inch enameled cast iron pan and cooked rare to medium rare, or until juices had begun accumulating on the top, which meant little more than 2 minutes on each side, transferred to warm plates to rest while the bottom of the pan was scraped with a wooden spatula to collect the juices, 2 tablespoons of a decent brandy (I used Courvoisier V.O.) added to the pan and briefly cooked over high heat, until it had almost become a syrup, the sauce poured over the chops, which were then garnished with micro chervil from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- twelve or more ounces of Japanese sweet potatoes from Lani’s Farm, unpeeled, but scrubbed pretty thoroughly, cut as french fries, tossed inside a bowl with a little olive oil, sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, 5 medium unpeeled Keith’s Farm rocambole garlic cloves and a little crushed dried habanada pepper, roasted just above 400º in a large, well-seasoned Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic oven pan for about 35 minutes, or until crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and chewy on the edges, garnished with chopped parsley from Philipps Farms
- a beautiful, fresh, and superb-tasting ‘braising mix’ (in late-November!) of many kinds of young brassicas (kale, collards, mustards, escarole, and dandelion) from Keith’s Farm, barely wilted in a little olive oil in which several small rocambole garlic cloves, also from his Farm, had first been heated until fragrant and beginning to soften, seasoned with sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper
- the wine was a great California (Sonoma) red, Triumph by 1849 Wine Co., a blend of Petit Syrah, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, the generous gift from an
- artist friend, Saber
We skipped the planned dessert (it would have been 4 different kinds of tiny pies from the Greenmarket, with a very mature gift Sauternes, but we stayed around for some sips of Koval, a phenomenal Chicago Bourbon