Monday, March 29, 2010

Steak and Eggs

I feel a little disingenuous sharing this recipe. It's barely a recipe. It's something anybody can make. A staple of Vegas breakfast buffets, a favorite of the protein-obsessed. But it's so delicious. I mean, look at that photo. Meaty, cheesy, oozy... I'm talking about steak and eggs.

A rib-eye steak topped with a fried egg is decadent enough. Add goat cheese and you're in gluttony territory. And what better time than the days before Easter (when we're supposed to be fasting) to tell you about Grilled Tuscan Steak with Fried Egg and Goat Cheese? Bistecca alla fiorentina, in case you didn't know (and I certainly didn't) is a t-bone or porterhouse steak grilled and seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil. Pure and simple. And that's how this recipe starts out, though it calls for more tender (and fattier) rib-eyes. You also sprinkle some herbes de Provence (I just used dried thyme, dried basil, and fennel seeds, since I didn't have dried marjoram, savory, rosemary, or sage) on the meat.

Although I have a cast iron grill pan, I find my nonstick griddle does a great job with steaks, as long as they aren't too thick. So I fired it up until it was smoking hot. When the steaks hit the pan, they sizzled pretty awesomely, and after five minutes per side, they were medium-rare. You let them rest for a few minutes on a plate (cover them with foil, if you'd like) while you fry a couple of eggs, sunny side up, in the grease that's left on the pan (oh, yes!). And once the whites are set, you slip the eggs atop the steaks, and adorn them with crumbled goat cheese and chopped parsley.

This is a heavenly meal. We ate salad alongside it, you know, to keep up appearances. But make no mistake. The cheese melts into the runny egg, making a sort of sauce for the tender beef. It's salty and creamy and meaty and, well, just about perfect.--S

Grilled Tuscan Steak with Fried Egg and Goat Cheese

serves 4

4 (8-oz) rib-eye steaks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T herbes de Provence
2 T plus 2 t olive oil
4 large eggs
1/4 c (2 oz) crumbled goat cheese
2 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

1. Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill.
2. Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Sprinkle both sides of each steak with the herbes de Provence. Drizzle with 2 T of the olive oil. Grill for 6 to 8 minutes per side for medium-rare. Remove the steaks, from the heat and allow to rest.
3. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the remaining 2 t olive oil over medium-high heat. Crack the eggs directly into the pan and season them with salt and pepper. Cook until the egg whites are set, 2 to 3 minutes.
4. To serve, place the steaks on 4 serving plates. Carefully top each steak with an egg. Sprinkle with the crumbled goat cheese. Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve.

Recipe courtesy of Giada at Home

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Smart Cookie

Carrot cake has been my favorite cake for a long time. The warm spices, the flecks of carrot, that cream cheese frosting.... Yet I rarely make carrot cake, mostly because I can't justify whipping up a big old cake for myself and eating the entire thing. A cake isn't so easy to toss in a Ziploc bag and share with friends. It's also not a very mobile dessert. (Try eating a slice while walking about town with a cup of coffee.) Enter Carrot Cake Cookies: perhaps the most practical way to get your carrot cake fix. Yes, this is the answer to one of the more vexing issues facing dessert eaters today.

We can thank Martha Stewart's Cookies, one of the loveliest cookie books to come out in recent years, for this rather obvious yet somehow groundbreaking concept. The recipe combines a standard cookie dough with the classic carrot cake spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, carrots (obvs!), raisins, and two cups of rolled oats. Once you've transformed the dough into soft cookies measuring about two inches in diameter, you assemble the iconic cream cheese frosting (truly, I think "iconic" sums up the marriage of cream cheese, butter, confectioners sugar and vanilla) and make sandwiches out of the cookies and frosting.

Soft, sweet cookies yielding to the thick and creamy filling, easy to share with friends and nibble on while strolling around the neighborhood? That's what I call innovation.--S

Saturday, March 13, 2010

When Life Hands You Potato Starch...

A few months ago, I wrote about a new website called Eat Your Books. It's a cool idea: you create a virtual bookshelf of all the cookbooks you own, and since Eat Your Books has indexed the recipes in those books, you can search for all kinds of things. Say you're wondering which of your cookbooks have recipes for cassoulet. Or you want to make a summery seafood appetizer but don't know which book to look in. Or there's a bag of potato starch in your fridge that you don't know what to do with.

Oh, did I say potato starch? Yeah. Close readers may recall I bought it (along with a bunch of other unusual ingredients) to make some recipes out of the BabyCakes NYC cookbook awhile back. Haven't used it since. So I searched "potato starch" in my cookbooks on Eat Your Books, and what do you know? Along with a bunch of vegan recipes from BabyCakes, there were recipes for cakes from BakeWise and Joy of Cooking, as well as a recipe for marshmallows from Baking by Dorie Greenspan. Sold!

You start by getting sugar and light corn syrup to a "soft ball" stage (that's 265 degrees F) on the stove. While that's going, you sprinkle unflavored gelatin onto cold water, let it get spongy, and then liquefy it in the microwave. Whip up some egg whites, add the syrup, then the gelatin, along with some vanilla, and you've got a very pretty meringue.

Here's where the potato starch comes in. It's like a powdery buffer that keeps the marshmallows from sticking to everything. You sprinkle it over a parchment paper-covered baking sheet, pour in the marshmallow mixture, and then top it off with more potato starch. Three hours later, you cut up the marshmallows and toss them in more of the stuff, which is similar in consistency to cornstarch or powdered sugar.

I probably should've made the marshmallows a bit thicker, but I'm still satisfied with them. They're light and springy, and don't taste at all like the plastic-y ones that come out of a bag from the supermarket. Oh, and in case you were wondering? Nothing like potatoes, either!--S

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Sweet Sustenance

One of the marvelous things about having a baby is all the visitors who come by to see the little one. Our month-old wonder is used to being passed around from aunt to grandmother, coworker to friend, neighbor to cousin--which is so wonderful to see. But, you know, oohing and aahing over tiny fingernails and ears is hard work. I've got to offer all the well-wishers some sustenance. Granted, many of them come bearing edible gifts, but I've been stepping up my efforts, too. The latest baby-holding fuel I've made? Braided Coffee Cake with Cardamom.

Unlike some coffee cakes, this one isn't chock full of butter, sugar, chocolate or sour cream (though I have nothing against those decadent delights). Nope--it has just one stick of butter and a half-cup of sugar, as well as three egg yolks and a half-cup or so of milk (I used 1%). What gives this cake--it's actually more like a bread--its character is the warm and toasty taste of cardamom. I always thought of cardamom as an Indian spice (Tamarind's basmati rice, loaded with whole cardamom pods, is divine), but apparently, it's common in Scandinavian baking, too. It lends an almost floral aroma to this otherwise simple bread.

The other lovely thing about this bread? It's braided--which not only looks pretty, but isn't even hard to do. Topped with a smattering of chopped pecans and cinnamon, this is one sweet-smelling, and sweet to look at--baked treat. Almost as sweet as holding a certain tiny little someone.--S

Braided Coffee Cake with Cardamom

Makes 8 or more servings

3 c flour, plus more for rolling the dough
1 1/2 t instant active dry yeast
Pinch of salt
1/2 c sugar
1 t ground cardamom
8 T butter, plus more as needed
3 egg yolks
1/2 to 1 c milk, as needed
1/2 c walnuts, pecans or almonds
1 t ground cinnamon

1. Combine the flour, yeast, salt, 1/ c sugar, and the cardamom in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add 6 T of the butter and the egg yolks and pulse again until well combined. With the machine running, drizzle about half the milk through the feed tube. Process just until a dough ball forms, adding a little more milk if necessary, then stop. Knead a little by hand, until the dough is smooth (add a little flour if necessary), then form the mixture into a ball and place it in a buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until about doubled in bulk, 1 to hours.
2. When the dough is ready, cut it into 3 pieces. On a floured board, roll each piece into a long rope just over a foot long. Braided the pieces, pinching both ends to seal. Put on a buttered cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise again for about an hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 375F. Chop the nuts and combine with the remaining 2 T butter (you can do this in a small food processor, but be careful not to pulverize the nuts) and the cinnamon. Brush the dough with a little milk and sprinkle the nut mixture over it.
4. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool, then slice and serve.

From The Best Recipes in the World