Andie writes: So after many years of planning, I finally have a grown-up kitchen and I can FINALLY do high-heat cooking inside the house instead of relegating it to the gas grill outside, since I actually have a real vent-a-hood. Why don’t you plan the menu for our first meal in the kitchen – we’re easy to please, cuisine-wise. Only things that are a no-go are: bivalves (clams, oysters, mussels) green bell peppers (blegh) and raw onion or garlic. If it calls for anything like that, I always saute it first, or it’s all I can taste.
Tony’s take: I’m not sure if I’m honored by the privilege, just totally jealous, or curious about who your contractor was (and whether he’s interested in some pro-bono work). I think it’s mostly door #1 – the whole thing is very exciting and I’m glad to help with the first test drive. Since you do have that commercial grade stove-top and hood, why don’t you let loose with a little high heat, the kind of meal that you would normally eat out, but is now easy enough to make in your new kitchen? Pick up some filet mignons (or a rib eye or strip steak if that’s more your thing), sear it in a ripping hot pan until both sides are browned, transfer to the oven to finish cooking to the desired doneness, make a quick pan sauce with red wine and shallots (cooked!!), and serve the beef with sauteed spinach and mashed potatoes. Sound good? MENU FOR 2
How to do it: Season the beef : About 30 minutes before cooking, season the beef with kosher salt and pepper on both sides (be generous with the salt about 1 1/4 tsp. salt for 12 oz filet mignon or 1 1/4 lb. rib eye). Let the meat sit at room temperature so its interior starts to warm up a touch, which will help it cook through more quickly and evenly. Heat the oven to 400F.
Make the mashed potatoes: Peel 1 1/2 lb. potatoes (I’d prefer buttery Yukon gold’s for this, though Russets would be fine, too), cut into 3/4-inch pieces, set in a medium saucepan, cover with cold water by about 2 inches, stir in some salt (about 2 tsp.), and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook, until the potatoes are completely tender when pierced with the tines of a fork, about 10 minutes. Drain well and return the potatoes to the saucepan. Set over medium heat and mash with a couple of pats of butter (let’s say 2 Tbs.), a splash of heavy cream (about 1/4 cup), and 1/2 cup Parmigiano – rich, yes, but it’s an important meal, so live a little! Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in some fresh chives if you have. Cover and keep warm over very low heat.
Cook the steaks: Heat a large heavy-based skillet over medium high heat for 1 minute. Pour in a splash of olive oil (about 1 1/2 Tbs.) and heat until it’s shimmering hot. Add the steaks and cook without touching until they brown and easily release from the pan when you lift up an edge with tongs or a fork, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook the other side in the same manner. Transfer the browned steaks to a baking sheet and into the pre-heated oven. Cook them until they reach the desired level of doneness/pinkness – they’re expensive so it’s worth temping them with an instant-read thermometer to be sure (about 130F for medium rare) or make a nick in to a thicker steak with a paring knife, about 5 minutes depending on their thickness. Transfer them to a cutting board to cool for a couple of minutes.
Make the sauce: While the steaks are finishing cooking in the oven, set the pan (with the caramelized bits from searing the steak) back over medium heat, add 1 to 2 finely diced shallots (sounds like you might prefer 1), sprinkle lightly with salt, and cook, stirring to incorporate the browned bits, until the shallot starts to brown lightly and soften, about 2 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add 3/4 cup red wine (anything that you would drink should be fine), and cook, stirring, until the wine almost completely reduces, about 2 minutes. Add a splash of chicken broth (about 1/4 cup) and cook, stirring, until the sauce returns to a boil and reduces slightly. Remove from the heat and whisk in some fresh thyme (about 1 tsp.) if you have and a pat of butter (about 1 Tbs.). Season with salt and pepper to taste (and a little red wine vinegar if you want some more acidity).
Serve the steaks with the pan sauce spooned over it, some mashed potatoes, and sauteed spinach (saute 10 oz with a couple smashed garlic cloves until wilted) or a green salad. Bon appetit!