I’ve got a few super-busy weeks ahead of me, on the catering side of things, so I’m going to try and keep the writing short and sweet. I know I can get pretty talkative, especially when it comes to food. So for a while at least, I’ll have to tailor down that side of this blogging project. Don’t worry though – as for the recipes and photos, I’ll be cutting no corners whatsoever!
This week we had our landlord Jay and his wife Aimee over. I know what it sounds like – like 14 weeks in, and we’re scraping the bottom the the barrel for dinner guests. But seriously, Jay is a totally cool landlord (way cooler than most I bet, and definitely the coolest we’ve ever had) and we’ve been saying that we want to have him over since we moved in, so it was about time. It was also the first time we really got to meet Aimee, and wow, is she neat too. A new girlfriend for me! Awesome! All in all, the evening’s menu was pretty simple. And really tasty.
The hors d’oeuvres were the simplest part, mainly because I made use of some of my homemade preserves, and so had most of the work done already. Although simple, these were really delicious. If you don’t happen to have homemade preserves on hand, never fear. Just grab a jar at the store, of whatever tickles your fancy – orange marmalade, red pepper jelly, mango chutney. This is a wonderful brand that’s easy to find all over. A great cheese, a great cracker and a special preserve – it’s my secret weapon for any last minute get-together.
It’s important that I fill you in a bit on hanger steak. This is a cut of meat that’s not so easy to find – You may have to go to a specialty butcher, or even special order it. This is because A) it’s suddenly become quite popular, especially among restaurant chefs, and B) there’s only one hanger steak per cow. But, it’s definitely worth searching for. It is full of flavor – Jay asked about three time whether I seasoned it with anything more than salt and pepper – He couldn’t believe I didn’t marinate it. And another thing: This is a cut of beef that’s best cooked no further than medium-rare. If you stay within that realm, it will be tender and juicy and all around incredible. If you venture even a little into the medium zone or beyond, it will be tough and chewy. So the key: grill it over really high heat, and do it fast. You won’t be disappointed!
There’s something to be said, I think, for lumpy mashed potatoes. For sure, there’s a time and a place for utterly smooth potato puree. But sometimes you’re in the mood for something a little less refined. Sometimes, a lump or two is not a bad thing at all. Buttery, creamy mashed potatoes, with a little bit of lumpiness, were exactly what I was after this week. To up the rustic feel even more, I left in a little bit of the pretty red skin.
Below, you’ll find my personal recipe for lumpy-style mashed potatoes, but with a bit of a twist. For this particular dinner, I tossed in a bunch of wilted watercress (to add a touch of spring) and handful of green onions (to add a kick of spicy flavor). I like the pretty green specks too, especially next to the pretty red specks. And oh yes, they’re all delicious, too.
Balsamic-Glazed Pearl Onions is one of my favorite side dishes. The sweet little onions, slowly sautéed in butter and extra-virgin olive oil, take on a deep and rich caramel flavor. A hit of balsamic vinegar lends a touch of brightness, and the last-minute dash of sugar certainly doesn’t hurt things either. For the sake of time, I won’t go on and on, but I definitely could! To keep it short, all I’ll say is, you really should give these a try.
The finishing touch to the main course was the Stilton-Rosemary Compound Butter, a simple mixture of butter, blue cheese and finely chopped rosemary. I dolloped a bit atop the steaks, hot off the grill, and it melted straight away into a wonderfully fragrant sauce. I hope you’re a fan of blue cheese, because this is a deliciously simple sauce for any cut of steak.
Dessert was supposed to be something altogether different. I’d been trying all week to perfect a new recipe for cardamom bread pudding. But I never got it quite perfect. Having to switch gears at the last minute, I went with one of my all time favorites – Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries. Man oh man, this stuff is good! But the beautiful thing is, it’s super easy! It’s a perfect 10 for deliciousness and a perfect 10 too for easiness. And every time I make it, everyone goes crazy. For those of you who aren’t familiar with panna cotta, it’s a creamy gelatin-based dessert. That simplistic description hardly does justice to how marvelous this is. But no description could, actually, no matter how eloquent. You’ll just have to try it out for yourself. Combined with a syrupy balsamic-strawberry sauce, it’s absolutely over-the-top incredible. The panna cotta recipe below is adapted from one by Lynne Rosetto Kasper, who’s a host of a wonderful radio show on NPR called The Splendid Table. I highly recommend that you both check out her show (you can download free podcasts), and that you try this recipe.
Scrolling through this post, I guess I was still rather wordy. But there was just so much to tell you! Ah, well, back to the kitchen. Happy cooking to all of you, too!