Sunday, March 14, 2010

Blog O. Food and the Blustery Day!

Wow, what a weekend. New England and the mid-Atlantic got pummeled by a Nor'easter Friday and Saturday that effectively shut down huge swaths of road and rail. Great sections of the tri-state area were without power and National Guardsmen were issuing hip waders to local residents. I was ready with flashlights, candles and a half-cord of firewood, but my little slice of the Hamptons maintained electricity through the night. Damage to the grounds, however, was impressive. Upon awaking Sunday, I was greeted by big gaps in fences around the house and along the street, felled branches as thick as my arm, and litter everywhere. I spent a good part of the morning hefting waterlogged lumber into stacks and dragging tree limbs into a pile by the side of the house. A far cry from my usual house plant watering chores, but it had to be done, and ought to earn me extra credit with my benevolent landlord!
This was gonna be a weekend of exploring South Fork wineries and pairing my discoveries at Channing Daughters and Wölffer Estates with local produce and conscientiously raised Long Island chickens. But excursions were now limited to town. Instead, I splurged on a forty-five dollar Man Treat: two and a half pounds of hormone & antibiotic free, grass-fed, tucked-in-at-night-and-sung-to-sleep porterhouse steak. Three words: Worth. Every. Penny.
You buy a cut of meat this expensive, and the theme for the evening is already pre-determined: Don't F*ck It Up! So what did I do? I quartered some Yukon potatoes, a red onion, and one really big carrot, tossed them with some salt & pepper in a little olive oil and set them to roasting for an hour in a 375° oven. I also brushed the porterhouse with some olive oil and let it come up to room temperature. After an hour of roasting the vegetables, I maxed out the oven temp and set up a broiling rack about 6 inches from the heat source. Once the rack was red hot, the porterhouse went on, about 4 inches from the coils. I broiled it for seven minutes on each side and got beautiful sear marks on the outside, and a perfect medium-rare interior. I tented the porterhouse with aluminum foil and let it rest. And here's where things got interesting. 
In this house, Man Treats are topped with mushrooms... in cream, damn it. I had already shelled out close to fifty bucks on a steak, did you think I was gonna settle for common button fungi? Guess again. Shitake mushrooms, shallots, garlic, a little beef stock, some crème fraîche that Alice Waters taught me how to make, and to prove just what kind of man I really am, a couple fingers of Armagnac.
Start by browning sliced mushrooms in one tablespoon each of olive oil and butter, about 5 minutes or until all their liquid has evaporated . Add coarsely chopped shallots and minced garlic and sweat for 2 minutes, or until translucent. Pull the sauté pan from the heat and add a ¼-cup of brandy. Return to the heat and reduce the liquid for a minute or two. Add a ¼-cup of beef stock and cook to thicken, another two minutes or so. Stir in 3 tablespoons of crème fraîche*, season to taste with salt & pepper, and remove from heat.
De-bone the porterhouse and slice on a bias against the grain. Fan out on a serving platter and top with creamy shitake mushrooms and roasted vegetables on the side. Try to ignore the howling wind outside (but don't sit too near any plate glass just in case), and tuck in.
You'll think I'm a fool, but I really could taste the difference in the beef. It was heavenly. Nutty, flavorful even after chewing, and oh so tender. I also managed to get two more meals out of the steak the next day, so it really wasn't much of an extravagance after all; it just felt that way. So here's to crummy weather and convenient excuses for guilty pleasures.
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food
Crème fraîche - a recipe by Alice Waters
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp cultured buttermilk
Pour cream into a clean glass jar. Add buttermilk and stir well. Cover the jar loosely and let the cream sit at room temperature for 24 hours or so, or until cream thickens. When thickened, cover jar tightly and store in the refrigerator. Crème fraîche will keep up to 10 days chilled.


Charlene said...

Where do you get beef like that?

We have hamburger from a place here in the Bluegrass named Laura's Lean Beef, but it's not chemical free.

I'm not usually a beef eater [raised on an angus cattle farm so that's the meat we ate all the time] but that meal looks wonderful. I have made roasted vegetables, which I LOVE, and the mushroom sauce sounds delich. I like that Creme fraiche recipe too.


Blog O. Food said...

Thanks for checking in, Charlene. In New York’s Hudson Valley farmers are converting more and more pasture land over to organic, biodynamic and natural farming techniques. Restaurants and farmer's markets are boasting a new Slow Food ethic. Of course, all this is fueled by a better informed, more demanding populous. Without that, I’d be confronted with fewer choices as to what goes on my plate.