That was a lot easier before we had a rugrat. Now, our babysitting trades all want that day out, too (and they have family close-by that can manage their kiddos for the night.)
On Valentine’s Day morning, I set the table with a bouquet of red heart-shaped balloons and whip up some red velvet pancakes topped with mascarpone and little gummy hearts, then I turn the remaining batter into cupcakes with mascarpone frosting, topped with those same little gummy hearts from Trader Joes (fruit juice sweetened and nothing artificial.) The kiddo goes crazy for this tradition (and Hubsy and I love it too!) But that means any sort of one-on-one V-day fun, either has to be planned for another night (not really Valentine’s Day, then) or we make the best of things after sending the little man off to bed.
That means it’s after 8pm and I obviously want to cook something that tastes beautiful and is satisfying and romantic but I still wanna have some energy left for l’amour. How do you pull it off? With a wee bit of help from the freezer section, the skill of a perfectly cooked steak and a little flourish in the garnish department.
No matter what kind of cocktails you decide to have, I suggest getting a bottle of some juicy red wine to serve with this mouthwatering meat — some of my favorites are a good Barbara d’Alba or Sangiovese.
I, of course, am a huge fan of the tenderloin cuts but since they’re more expensive (not as expensive as eating them out) if you want to save some dough, you could opt for a flash grill on a skirt or flank steak — even a lean sirloin can be wonderfully tender and delicious if not overcooked. (It’s the fat marbling that people rely on for a tender juicy steak — but it doesn’t have to be fat-laden to be good.)
Steak Prep: As You Like it
Though I know there are people who cannot stand any pink in their meat– I say that it’s really not steak unless you see some pink — if you prefer your steak well-done, do yourself a favor and opt for a less expensive cut of meat because otherwise you are just wasting your money. The more expensive cuts only pay off if you eat your steak, at the very least, medium.
For me, medium rare to rare (not blue mind you) is the only way to go to get that juicy, succulent flavor that has me salivating just thinking about it and my theory is — the rarer the meat the more raring to go your honey will be post meal time.
As far as what to season your steak with, that’s completely a matter of taste but, as is ALWAYS my mantra when it comes to steak — less is more. Less cooking, less seasoning, less fuss — more meaty flavor. I think the key to a great steak lies in the trinity that happens before it hits the pan — patting it dry, seasoning simply with sea salt and pepper (both sides) and the small nob of butter (1/2 Tbsp) that has been melted in your hot pan — and the resting after it leaves the pan.
Always make sure that your pan is hot (not smoking and butter not burning but hot) before adding meat to it, this will ensure that your meat cooks properly, that it browns well and that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of your pan. For a 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick steak, cook the meat for 2 minutes before turning, 2 minutes on the opposite side, then flip and cook for 1 more minute each side. Then, remove the meat from the pan and let it rest, sealing in the juices. If you have a thicker cut like Filet Mignon, the start is the same to get all those beautiful browned butter tones but instead of resting the meat at this point you would instead finish your steak in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for 4 to 6 minutes depending on the thickness.
You can use a meat thermometer to gauge your meat’s doneness, but be sure to take it out a few degrees cooler as it will continue to cook as it rests. Here are some temperature guidelines for cooking steak to your desired level of donenes. All temps are measured at the core of the meat.
- Rare — (52 °C or 126 °F) Browned outside with the center bright red and slightly warm.
- Medium rare — (55 °C or 131 °F) Browned with a pink to red center — warm center.
- Medium — (63 °C or 145 °F) Browned and pink in the center — hot.
- Medium well done — (68 °C or 154 °F) Browned with a grayish brown to lightly pink center– hot.
- Well done — (73 °C or 163 °F) Browned to slightly charred and grayish brown all the way through.
Steak: Dress it Up with a Post-Marinade
There is one other way I like my steak — it’s a preparation my hubby made for me for the first time in 2010 (yes, The GrooVy Hubby can cook!), he got it from the fabulous Nigella Lawson‘s Nigella Express cookbook (a favorite of his, I suspect, for the ease of the dishes, as well as the dishy pics of the gorgeous Ms. Nigella herself.) She calls it Steak Slice with Lemon and Thyme and it tastes amazing over fresh arugula and a generous shave of parm or paired with pomme frites (fancy French-speak for fries.) The technique is simple in that you create a marinade of lemon, thyme and garlic for the steak to rest in, post cooking. The result is vibrant, juicy and packed with flavor.
Pomme Frites the Easy Way
Since the steak is going to take you about 15 to 20 minutes to prepare and you want this all to come together like clockwork, with as little prep and work as possible, I suggest grabbing a bag of Alexia Yukon Gold Julienne Fries. If you have not had these, you should give them a whirl (I did not get paid to say this nor did I get samples– I just like ’em!) They’re organic and seasoned with sea salt, super easy and crisp outside with a soft potato-y inside– just the way a fry should be. And you can jazz them up the way Kristen over at Dine and Dish did for Alexia’s recent Reinvent a Classic Fry Challenge.
The fries take about 15-20 minutes in the oven, so pop them in before your steak hits the pan.
A Little Greenery
- 1 head of broccoli
- 1Tbsp of olive oil
- 3/4 tsp of sea salt
If you’re into veg– like I am– try tossing a cut up head of broccoli in a Tbsp of olive oil and 3/4 tsp of sea salt, then spread it out on a cookie sheet and throw it in the oven. Cook for about 8 minutes, until the edges of the broccoli get slightly browned and crisp. This is one of my favorite ways to eat broccoli.
Sauteed Mushrooms and Onions
- 1 small red onion, cut in half and thin-sliced
- 1 carton of crimini or button mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, smashed and minced
- 1Tbsp of oil (olive oil and left over steak pan oil/butter)
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 1 tbsp butter
- Season with sea salt and pepper to taste
Once your steaks are out of their skillet, resting, add olive oil to your pan (enough to bring the level up to 1 tbsp total) and bring it back up to temp, adding 1 minced clove of garlic, thinly sliced red onions and your thin-sliced crimini or button mushrooms. Saute until the onion begins to caramelize and the mushrooms brown around the edges. Then deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup of your red wine, moving the mushrooms and onions around in the pan to remove all the beef drippings from the bottom. Reduce heat to a simmer, to let some of the alcohol cook off. Then finish with 1 tbsp of butter, salt and fresh ground pepper once removed from the heat. You can serve the mushroom mixture atop your sliced steak or on the side with your broccoli for a savory addition.
Gorgonzola NO– Oregonzola Sauce
- 1tbsp butter
- 1Tbsp flour
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup milk or soymilk
- A palm-sized chunk of Gorgonzola (or my fav, Rogue Creamery’s Oregonzola cheese)
Once your mushrooms and onions are finishing and your fries and broccoli are nearly done baking, you can move on to making a quick roux. Melt your butter, a sprinkling of flour (about a 1 tbsp, or if you’re going gluten-free try arrowroot powder — but use half as much) and milk or soy milk, whisked to keep it from clumping or thickening too quickly.
Just as it’s beginning to thicken, add the crumbled Oregonzola cheese and continue to stir until smooth and creamy. Add a sprinkling of sea salt and/or garlic powder to round out the flavor. Taking care to not overheat the cheese or overcook the sauce. Serve the sauce immediately, either on the side for dipping your fries or drizzled on top, along with a sprinkle of chopped parsley, for a rich treat.
Happy Eating and Happy Valentine’s Day!
Want more to choose from? Check out all three Four Course Valentine’s Menus put together by the Virtual Potluck crew:
Valentine’s Day Recipes, Week #3: Four Courses with Virtual Potluck and Taste (groovyfoody.wordpress.com)