Yeah, it’s just a steak but, wow, what a steak!
My favorite beef purveyor didn’t have my favorite culotte/picanya cut the other day. After a short consultation at their Union Square Greenmarket stand with their guy Mike, I opted for a pair of very well marbled strip steaks (‘New York’ wasn’t anywhere in their description, but I was buying them in New York CIty, and the beef had been raised in New York State, so what’s in a name?).
I cooked them as I would have cooked culotte steaks, which is to say, using a reverse sear process, the only way I’ve become interested in cooking any steak, if it’s of a decent thickness, starting some time last fall.
- a beautifully marbled one pound 100% grass fed, dry-aged black angus strip steak from Sun Fed Beef (Earlville, Chenango County, NY) in the Union Square Greenmarket, brought to room temperature, seasoned on both sides with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, placed on a rack inside a heavy oval enameled cast iron pan in a 275º oven probably for somewhere between 45 and 60 minutes (I lost track of the timing), or until medium rare, checking after a half hour with an instant thermometer until it read 90º to 95º, for medium-rare (it will finish cooking in the skillet and continue to increase in temperature, removed, and if the accompanying vegetables are not yet ready, perfectly safe if allowed to wait on a warm plate, covered with tin foil (for, say, up to about 45 minutes), the steak[s] then placed over high heat on the surface of a very well seasoned small antique cast iron pan that had been coated with a very small amount of cooking oil, one with a higher smoke point than olive oil, alternatively a bit of ghee, or a combination of butter and olive oil (I used Mac Nut macademia nut oil from Whole Foods Market by itself), and, remembering that the steak was already fully cooked, and so only needed to be inside the pan long enough to acquire some color, seared briefly (a minute and a half or 2 minutes on each side), removed from the heat, allowed to rest for up to 10 minutes on 2 warm plates, covered loosely with foil, some lemon juice squeezed on top, sprinkled with chopped rosemary from Phillips Farms, drizzled with a Whole Foods Market Portuguese house olive oil, garnished with red amaranth from Windfall Farms
- one bunch of washed, drained, and roughly chopped rainbow chard from Lani’s Farm, wilted in a couple tablespoons ofWhole Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil in which 2 halved garlic cloves from Westside Market had first been heated and slightly softened, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, and finished with a little lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil
- the wine was a South Africa (Western Cape) red, Farrington Shiraz-Viognier Reserve 2016, from Bottlerocket Wines
- the music was Schubert’s 1823 three-act German opera with spoken dialogue, to a libretto by Joseph Kupelwieser, ‘Fierrabras’, performed by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the Arnold Schoenberg Chor conducted by Claudio Abbado
Sunday, April 5, early afternoon.
Okay, it wasn’t Eggs Benedict, but it was foolproof, even first thing in the morning, fun to assemble, and delicious. It was also efficient in its use of both kitchen materials and ingredients, in the way Ellen Swallow Richards, 19th-century chemist and the founder of Home Economics, might approve.
- The layers began, from bottom to top, with thick toasted slices of a loaf of Lost Bread Company’s very sturdy ‘Seedy Grains’ (wheat, spelt, rye, and barley organic bread flours; buckwheat; oats; flax sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds; water, and salt); pieces of thick Millport Dairy Farm pastured pigs bacon, fried lightly (removed while still juicy); slices of ripe Italian heirloom tomatoes from Shushan Hydroponic, with a bit of sliced Japanese scallion from Norwich Meadows Farm; jumbo eggs from free-range chickens, also from Millport Farm, the eggs seasoned with local sea salt and Aleppo pepper then dusted with chopped dill and scissored chives, both from Lani’s Farm [everything was prepared inside the same large enameled iron pan, which explains why the whites were colored a bit (the eggs had been preceded by the sliced tomatoes, which had been cooked until they had begun to brown on the edges]
This entrée would have been totally familiar on our table, and so also here on this blog, if it weren’t for two of its elements: the herb that garnished the tuna, and the unusual form of some otherwise common green vegetable.
- 15-ounces of yellowfin tuna steak from Pura Vida Seafood, rinsed, dried, halved, tops and bottoms seasoned with local sea salt processed by the fisherman, Phil Karlin of P.E & D.D. Seafood, on the grounds of his Riverside home, and freshly-ground black pepper, then ‘paved’ with a mixture of less than a tablespoon of some incredibly pungent dried Semi di Finocchietto Ibleo [wild Sicilian fennel seed] harvested in the Iblei Mountains, purchased from Eataly Flatiron, and a little dried Calabrian peperoncino from Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market] (both first crushed together in a porcelain mortar and pestle), plus a very small amount of dried aji dulce pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm, the steak halves pan-grilled above a medium-high flame for little more than a minute or so on each side, finished on the plates with a good squeeze of lemon juice, garnished with chopped payqu (aka epazote) from Lani’s Farm and finished with a drizzle of Chelsea Whole Foods Market Portuguese house olive oil
- two Italian heirloom tomatoes from from Shushan Hydroponic Farm, seasoned with salt and pepper, sautéed briefly in a little olive oil, sprinkled with torn basil from a live plant from Central Valley Farm
- a small basket of what appeared to me to be immature, open-bud Brussels sprouts that I found at Lani’s Farm (I did not ask at the farm stall, because of the awkwardness of the current distancing arrangements within the Union Square Greenmarket, and I can’t find anything that resembles them on line), sautéed very gently in a little olive oil, tossing in some chopped spring garlic, also from Lani’s Farm, and the tiniest amount of balsamic vinegar, and they were delicious
- the wine was an Italian (Sicily) white, Stefano di Blasi Sicilia Zibibbo Catarratto 2018, from Naked Wines
- the music was a brilliant performance of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, followed by his Seventh Symphony, with Anne-Sophie Mutter, Yo-Yo Ma, Daniel Barenboim, and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
The eggs were beautiful, and they were much larger than quail eggs usually are (they were all double yolk, from young layers, considered good fortune in some cultures, including mine). I had no idea what I was going to do with them, but as soon as I spotted them I knew that I was ready to buy some beautiful large quail eggs.
I decided to make them part of a main course, but I quickly realized that soft boiling 10 eggs (I broke 2 on the way home) was going to be too labor intensive, if not time consuming, so I went for a luscious, savory pasta with fried quail eggs on top, not much unlike spaghetti alla carbonara, without the raw egg thing.
- the eggs came from Feisty Acres; the 8 ounces of pasta was Setaro spaghetti from Buon Italia; 3 pieces of thick Millport Dairy Farm bacon stood in for the classic guanciale; there was a mix of chopped red onions from Norwich Meadows Farm and yellow onions from Phillips Farms; chopped garlic, freshly grated pecorino cheese; butter; fresh local bread chopped, tossed with a little olive oil and baked on a pan in the oven; and some chopped parsley from Lani’s Farm
- the wine was an Italian/Süd Tirol (Trentino-Alto Adige) white, Alois Lageder Terra Alpina Pinot Bianco Vigneti delle Dolomiti 2018
- the music was Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’, performed by Igor Levit
I do this dish, or variation of it, more often than any other in my kitchen practice. There is good reason: It’s simple, always delicious and, for us at least, extremely good comfort food.
I don’t know why I’m posting it now when I’m so far behind, and also otherwise distracted, except that this was one of the best versions ever.
- two 6-ounce cod fillets from American Seafood Company in the Union Square greenmarket, washed, rinsed, placed inside a platter on a bed of coarse sea salt, with more salt added on top until completely covered, then set aside while a bed was prepared for them, composed of 12 ounces of of French fingerings (aka Roseval potatoes) from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm sliced to a thickness of roughly 1/4″ and tossed into a bowl with olive oil, salt, black pepper, and a pinch of a dried smoked serrano pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm, the potatoes arranged overlapping inside a rectangular glazed ceramic oven pan, cooked for 25 minutes or so in a 400º oven, or until they were tender when pierced but not fully cooked, then, the cod having already been thoroughly immersed in many fresh changes of water to bring down the saltiness, the two fillets were drained, dried, and placed inside the pan on top of the potatoes, drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with black pepper, blanketed with thin slices of 2 ripe Italian heirloom tomatoes from Shushan Farm, the tomatoes seasoned lightly with salt and pepper, and the pan returned to the oven for about 8 or 9 minutes (the exact time depends on the thickness of the fillets), the fillets removed with the help of 2 spatulas, along with as much of the tomatoes and potatoes as can be brought along with each piece, and everything arranged on the plates as intact as possible
- flowering lacinato (aka cavolo nero, Tuscan kale, or black kale, among other names) from Norwich Meadows Farm, with stems so tender that the leaves were stripped only from the thickest sections, wilted briefly inside a large heavy antique tin-lined copper pot in a tablespoon or so of olive oil after two cloves of garlic had first been heated inside until fragrant and softened, the greens seasoned with salt and pepper and drizzled with a little more oil
- the wine was a California (Russian River) white, Ondine Chattan Russian River Chardonnay 2018, from Naked Wines
- the music was Handel’s 1734-1735 opera seria, ‘Ariodante’, with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, conducted by Nichkolas McGegan, soloists including Rufus Müller, Jörn Lindemann, Nicolas Cavallier, Lisa Saffer, Jennifer Lane, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, and Juliana Gondek