Huge dinner spectacular ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

09 March 2007

Huge dinner spectacular

Weekend part 2: dinner.

John made nearly 100% of the dinner. I just sat around and talked and ate tasty niblets. If I asked to help, I got to do something like "open the wine". It was pretty great.

The whole concept of this particular dinner came from John sitting around looking up videos on YouTube. We certainly have good productive Sundays. HA ha! Sunday is not for productivity! Screw that! So he came across a video of Julia Child making chocolate mousse cake and Steak Diane with actual beef stock. Suddenly we also had to make Steak Diane and beef stock, although we felt no compunction or longing toward the chocolate mousse cake.

This just tells you our palate toward cake. I will eat sweet things if they are lying around, but only if there's nothing else to eat. John eats almost no sweets ever. So even if we make a cake for birthday week, we'll each have one piece, and then the rest of the cake will sit around and congeal until we throw it out. In conclusion, no cake at our house.

So we went up the street and bought onions and shallots and garlic and bordeaux and champagne and madeira and steak and stew beef and giant horrifying beef bones and potatoes and peas. We also decided it was time we had two chef's knives, so each of us could develop our own hand on our own knife. So we got one of those as well. It is shiny and light and going to be John's.

The first object was stock. John brought a huge pot of water to a boil and added chopped onion and garlic and carrot and celery. Then came the stew beef (fine) and the big terrifying beef bones (entirely gross but full of sustenance anyway). John spent a long time skimming gack off the top of the pot with a ladle while we split a Guinness and hung out talking about how awesome this was going to be and look at that, the knife is so well balanced I can balance it on my finger!! ! Skimming broth is not as hard as it looks; you just barely submerge the rim of the ladle, so the sudden change in surface tension sucks the top layer of broth and bone gack in. You just have to do it eight hundred times, as more and more gack rises.

Finally, when things looked relatively clear, we left it to simmer and instead had some extremely late afternoon mimosas with ridiculous tangerine juice and actual segments for garnish.

Easy mimosas

cold champagne
orange/approximate orange juice
bits for garnish if they happen to be lying around

Fill a champagne bowl with half champagne and half juice. Garnish with orangey bits. Drink. Fill your glass again. Repeat until bottle of champagne is gone.

I think we let the stock go for about two hours. Then we got hungry and went downstairs. John made us a tiny snack for interim: peas and shallots. It took two seconds and was awesome.

Peas and shallots

frozen peas
a shallot
butter or olive oil

Warm butter or oil in a small frying pan. Slice the shallot finely and tip it into the butter. Saute for a few minutes to soften, then add peas. I think he just left them frozen. Saute on medium until the peas are tender and any melt has evaporated off. Sprinkle with pepper and eat. Yay!

Then we got down to business. John's business included the Steak Diane; my business included sampling the madeira we'd gotten for said Steak Diane. Madeira turns out to be pretty good, as long as you buy a decent one. Ours was a rainwater Madeira, made in Portugal, or maybe the Canary Islands. You can apparently use port instead of madeira in the steak, and it's obvious why: good madeira and good tawny port share the same dark, sweet, raisiny musk tones. They are also the same color.

At this point our neighbor Noelle came over. I have much fuzzier ideas of what went into the actual cooking of dinner afterward. I do know that the dinner produced was excellent, though oddly in line with the meat and 3 veg thing that we pretty much never do. This did not interfere with its excellence, fortunately.

Steak Diane

From what I saw, this was essentially about making the sauce, then poaching the steak in said sauce.

super thin or pounded-thin steak
olive oil and butter
chopped shallot
chopped parsley
1 cup beef stock mixed with a teaspoon each of mustard and cornstarch
lemon half
slug madeira
worcestershire sauce

Pound your steak, if necessary. Ours was just thin already. You want it 1/4 inch thick so it cooks really quickly.

Get out your huge awesome saute pan and warm it up. Slug in some olive oil and a good couple tablespoons of butter. When the butter is melted, add a chopped shallot and a good palmful of chopped parsley. Stir it all up and let the shallot soften.

Now is the time to use your vat of stock. Ok, not the whole vat. Some of the stock. Take your some of the stock and mix it with a spoonful of mustard and one of cornstarch, then whisk to combine with no ugly cornstarchy lumps. Then add it to the pan. Julia does it this way; I think John just chucked everything in the pan and whisked there.

Add the juice of half a lemon, a slug of worcestershire sauce, and a slug of madeira. Whisk everything up (or just stir it, but if you have the whisk out, whatever) and cook for a minute or two, until the cornstarch thickens everything.

Then it's time for steak. Lay each steak gently in the pan, so you don't kill yourself with spattered sauce. Sear for maybe 45 seconds on each side. I would probably have tried to wash a pan in the interval, but John didn't, so everything came out perfectly.

You are now done. Plate, with sauce and sides, and eat swiftly.

Sides: peas (no shallots, just regular) and mashed potatoes.

You guys know how to make these, but I'll give a quick synopsis nonetheless.
Peas: steam or boil until tender; butter if you want.
Potatoes: peel, boil, mash with butter, milk, salt, and pepper.

It was pretty sweet.

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