steak, savory; mushrooms, spruce tips; broccolini (3 allium)

It was Barry‘s birthday, so the meal would have to be special (for me, they’re all special, if only for the wonderful company, but some ingredients may be more special than others). Because it was a Saturday night, when so many New Yorkers are searching for the right dinner table, we thought ‘special’ and right would mean dinner at home. Because we would be coming home from the opera, I wouldn’t be able to begin preparations until it was nearly ten o’clock in the evening (late even for us). Because it would take so little time, and because culotte steak is always special, the night before I had defrosted one we had on hand in the freezer.

Because it was his birthday, and because the kitchen boasted so many choices, I asked Barry to decide on which we’d have.

There was still time for snacks (breadsticks from Buon Italia) and a celebratory sort-of-sparkling (well, a little fizzy maybe, and delicious) wine before the main course.

And then to a main course, which is as far as we got that night.

  • picanha/culotte steak from Sun Fed Beef in the Union Square Greenmarket, defrosted, brought to room temperature, halved, seasoned on all sides with sea salt and a generous amount of freshly-ground black pepper, seared for less than a minute on the top, thick, fat-covered side inside a dry oval heavy enameled cast iron pan, then the 2 long sides cooked for 3 or 4 minutes each and the ends briefly seared, removed from the pan at the moment they had become perfectly medium-rare (checking with an instant-read thermometer), arranged on plates that were at least not cold, a bit of juice from an organic Chelsea Whole Foods Market lemon squeezed on top, a little bit of thinly sliced red spring onions from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm that had been heated in an antique enameled cast iron porringer to soften them, then scattered with chopped fresh winter savory from Keith’s Farm, drizzled with a bit of olive oil, and allowed to rest for about 4 more minutes before being served

  • just before the steaks went into the pan, 4 ounces of small nutty and much-more-delicious-than-you-can-imagine ‘chestnut mushrooms’ from Josh Carnes of Ramble Creek Farm in Washington County, purchased in the Union Square Greenmarket, were tossed (the larger stems cut in half) into a broad heavy copper skillet in which 2 or 3 tablespoons  of Whole Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil had been heated over a high flame, the fungi seared until they had begun to brown, a little more oil added if necessary, a pinch or so of dried habanada pepper and 3 small sliced fresh green, or spring, garlic cloves from Lani’s Farm stirred in, the mushrooms now salted as they cooked a bit more, and when they were ready, some foraged spruce tips from Violet Hill Farm tossed in and combined with the mushrooms, the mix then distributed between the 2 plates next to the steak, with more tips tossed on top

  • a generous bag of broccolini (a hybrid cross between broccoli and gai lan (aka Chinese broccoli) from Alewife Farm, washed and drained a couple of times in fresh cold water, chopped roughly, sautéed/wilted over a low flame until the stems had softened by gradually being added to a heavy medium size antique copper pot in which 6 ramp bulbs (they last longer than you’d expect) had first been heated until they had softened themselves and become fragrant, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper ad drizzled with a little olive oil
  • the wine was a Spanish (Castilla Y Leon) red, Ribera del Duero ‘LosCntos’, Finca Torremilanos, from Foragers Market Wine
  • the music was David Lang’s album, ‘The Woodmans’, because we can’t get enough of David Lang