Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Man's Birthday Dinner- Steak Au Poivre, Cauliflower Puree and Feta Stuffed Peppers

A few weeks ago, we were invited to join some of our good friends' on their family's cattle roundup in Wyoming. I had so much fun and did my best to fulfill the role of the wide-eyed New Yorker, who marveled at every part of this very awesome and very foreign lifestyle. I snapped a ton of pictures, helped the little boys climb on tractors and ate!
Emmett and Ellis rolling around

Boys "posing" in front of the cows
One of the best parts of the day was when my friend Sarah handed me two grocery bags and walked me back to the meat freezer, teeming with frozen, beautiful cuts of all-natural beef. Because I hadn't had any fun and had toiled so much while playing with the little boys and hanging out in the kitchen with Sarah and her sister, I definitely deserved two giant bags full of steaks.

This amazing beef came in handy as Sam's birthday approached the following weekend. We were putting all of our birthday budget into a big ole' Spitzer backyard BBQ, so I didn't have a lot to spend on birthday dinner for my boy. I decided to use one of the delicious sirloin steaks that Sarah had given me. I made steak au poivre with a vermouth pan sauce, cauliflower-parmesan puree and charred, feta stuffed mini peppers. It was dang good!

Steak Au Poivre with Vermouth Pan Sauce
*Serves 2
1 large [16-20 oz-ish] sirloin steak [feel free to use whatever cut you like] or 2 smaller cuts
2 T black peppercorns
2 t kosher salt
1 T olive oil
1 T butter

Pan Sauce
All of the amazing bits of steak and pepper stuck to the bottom of the frying pan
3/4 cup beef or chicken broth
1/4 cup sweet vermouth [dry vermouth or red wine would be delicious as well]
Whatever juices may pool after the steak rests for 5 minutes

About 15 minutes before cooking, remove your steak from the refrigerator to bring it to room temperature. While the steak is losing its chill, smash the peppercorns by placing them inside a gallon size ziploc bag, spreading them out and smashing them with the underside of a sauce pan. Smash your peppercorns until all of them seemed to have cracked open. Remove them from the bag and mix the salt into the cracked peppercorns. 
 Place your steak on a cutting board or other flat surface and press half of the peppercorn and salt mixture into one side of the steak, and half into the other. 

Melt the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. When the butter has melted, add the steak to the pan. Cook for approximately five minutes a side for medium.

Once the steak is done, place on a plate, cover with a loose aluminum foil tent and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

While the steak is resting, make a quick pan sauce. Your pan should look something like this before you start:
Reduce the heat to medium. Add the vermouth to this seemingly burnt looking pan and stir with a wooden spoon, being careful to scrape up all of the delicious bits off of the bottom of the pan. Add the broth to the vermouth and scraped bits and let simmer until halved in volume, about 5 minutes. Right before serving, pour any steak juice that accumulated while the steak was resting and 1 T of heavy cream or half and half into the pan sauce. 

Our sauce was still pretty liquidy, so we served it in dipping cups on our plates. It was delicious!

Cauliflower and Parmesan Puree
1 large frying pan or stockpot with a lid
1 head of cauliflower 
1 t kosher salt
2 t butter
1 T sour cream
1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
1 T half and half or whole milk
1/4 tsp each salt, pepper and garlic powder

Remove the leaves and the core of the cauliflower and slice the head into large florets. Pour about an inch of water into the bottom of your pan and add the teaspoon of salt and the cauliflower florets to the water.  Cover and steam for approximately 10 minutes or until the florets are fork tender.
To get the silkiness of mashed potatoes, drain the cauliflower and add it and all remaining ingredients into a food processor. Process until smooth and silky, approximately one minute. 
Charred, Feta- Stuffed Mini Peppers
1 lb. of mini bell peppers, approximately 12 
3 oz. softened cream cheese
6 oz. crumbled feta
1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper
1 T lemon juice
*We had friends make this dish with Alouette, herbed cheese. It was awesome. Feel free to experiment with any of your favorite soft cheeses or cheese spreads.

Remove the stem of each pepper by slicing the top off of each pepper. Scoop out any seeds that remain in the pepper with your finger. 

Mix the cream cheese, feta, salt, pepper and lemon juice together in a medium bowl until the mixture is homogenous. 

Using a small spoon [I used one of my son's baby spoons], stuff about a teaspoon of the cheese mixture into each pepper.
Preheat a large skillet until it is searing hot. Place the stuffed peppers in the pan and cook until both sides of the pepper have charred spots on them. You can also broil or grill your peppers to achieve the charred spots.
 These were so yummy, sweet and tangy. They were the perfect compliment to the creaminess of the cauliflower and the heartiness of the steak.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Peanut Butter Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Ground chicken was on sale the other week and I was looking for a way to sass it up beyond burgers or tacos or in a sauce. I had an assortment of veggies on hand and thought that I would try my hand at making lettuce wraps. The main dish was light, really tasty and SO quick to make! And, lo and behold, the toddler version of the meal was enough to make my son forego his nightly request for "just 'nacks" instead of dinner. Wonder of wonders!

Peanut Butter Chicken Lettuce Wraps
*Yields approximately 4 servings of two lettuce wraps
1 lb. of ground chicken
2 tbsp oil
1/2 a large onion, diced
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 heaping tbsp peanut butter
2 tsp sesame oil
1/3 cup chopped cilantro

8 large lettuce leaves [I used red lettuce and held up very well]
1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
3/4 of an English cucumber, julienned
Optional toppings: bean sprouts, additional cilantro, sliced jalapenos or crushed peanuts

*We served with a side of brown rice. This was a nice way to make the meal very toddler friendly. We added the chicken mixture and chopped veggies to the rice and stirred it up!

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and black pepper and cook until the onion is translucent, roughly five minutes. At that time, add the grated ginger and garlic and stir to combine. *Sidenote, I keep a large piece of fresh ginger wrapped up in my freezer. Whenever I need fresh ginger, I grate a bit of the frozen ginger on a microplane [small side of a grater would be fine as well]. There is no need to peel the frozen ginger, just grate off what you need and put the rest back in the freezer. Before I froze my ginger, I always felt like the ginger root would go bad before I could use it up. 

Add the ground chicken to the onion mixture and cook for approximately five minutes or until the chicken is cooked through, all the while breaking the chicken up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. 

Once the chicken has cooked, add the soy sauce, peanut butter and sesame oil to the pan and stir to combine. Once these condiments are combined with the chicken mixture, turn off the heat and toss in the cilantro.

For serving, place a couple tablespoons into each lettuce cup, top with the sliced cucumbers and peppers, wrap and enjoy!