Where’s The Beef – Seared Steak with Fig Caramelized Onions

Only dofstoyefsky could dream up a pair like us

-HaHa Tonka
So apparently I have started collecting all of Dogfish Head’s various special brews. Incase I have not yet mentioned it, Columbia fails! Its so sad how excited I get to go to a city that has a Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and/or sells Dogfish Head. Greenville, which is very much smaller than my fair city, not only has my beloved Dogfish Head, but a Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Sometimes life is not fair, unless you live in Columbia, and then its pretty much all the time. Of course I am kidding, absence only makes the heart grow fonder, so when I do get to relish in my oft missed delights I have a tendency to go a little crazy.
While in Greenville for Easter I managed to snag almond meal/four, unadulterated shredded coconut, and two of Dogfish head’s brews. I had to fight the urge to pick up everything they had in stock, instead I grabbed Aprihop, a lovely hoppy apricot brew, and Theobroma, a special brew based on the very first applications of cacao.

Dogfish Head's Theobroma

To be specific, Dogfish describes Theobroma as a “beer is based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras which revealed the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink used by early civilizations to toast special occasions. The discovery of this beverage pushed back the earliest use of cocoa for human consumption more than 500 years to 1200 BC. As per the analysis, Dogfish Heads Theobroma (translated into ‘food of the gods’) is brewed with Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs (from our friends at Askinosie Chocolate), honey, chilies, and annatto (fragrant tree seeds). It’s light in color – not what you expect with your typical chocolate beer. Not that you’d be surpised that we’d do something unexpected with this beer!”

Personally, the chocolate flavor was not everything I had ever hoped for and I was very surprised by the lightness of this draft. With that being said, I found Theobroma to be far more drinkable than I ever thought it would be. I loved the subtle hint of spice that mingled with the ancient honey rich base flavor. As always, I highly recommend picking up this offering, as I do with nearly everything the geniuses at Dogfish come up with. Even if you don’t think this beer is up your alley how can you pass up the drink of the gods ?

On to dinner…

Tonight’s dinner was based around the qualifications for the 2011 National Beef Cook-Off’s Dinner Crunch category. To qualify, all you needed is “focus on easy-to-prepare beef recipes for busy weeknight meals using ingredients commonly on hand at home”.

What do I always have at home? Onions, Jam, Red Wine, Cherry Tomatoes, Spinach and Cous Cous. What can you make with all of those random ingredients…I wasn’t sure either.

Until I decided to cook the onions in the jam, and then it was on. Initially I added about 2 tablespoons to the pan, but as I began to incorporate the mixture I noticed that that amount might not be enough to fully saturate the onions with flavor. Ultimately, 1/4 cup became the perfect amount to glaze and sweeten the onions without overwhelming the dish.

Diced Onions with Figgy Jam

I am a little addicted to apricots, there, I’ve said it.

My original plan called for apricot jam, but there was a lonely jar of barely sweetened fig jam just waiting to find the perfect moment for it’s day in the sun. The fig flavor is not overwhelming, is sweet, but not saccharin-ie, and goes great with savory dishes. My plan for the leftover jam is most likely to make a fig, prosciutto and goat cheese pizza. Yum!

While the onions simmered and caramelized in the jam I began to prepare the “special ingredient”. You can’t enter a beef contest without making the steak the star. In order to really show case the meat preparation was simple, just a little salt and pepper on each side.

Mmmmm, Beef!

While I focused on the star of the meal this is what was happening to the onions….

Fig Caramelized Onions

Perfection!

Once the onions were perfectly browned with figgy goodness I added one of my favorite old vine Zinfandels, Gnarly Head Zin, to deglaze the pan. Once the wine is in I added gobs of cherry tomatoes to stew and become wrinkly in the onion base. I have a deep love for slightly stewed tomatoes whose skin resembles a raisin and which provides a delightful pop of acidic flavor to any dish.

Tomatoes Stewing in Red Wine

Once the tomatoes were slightly loosened from their skin and the wine began to thicken I made room for the steak in the pan to sear in the simmering sauce.

Seared Steak Caramelized Onions and Tomatoes

As I chose a thinner cut of meat I only cooked it for about 1 1/2 minute on each side side my steak slices would be rare. Once the steak was done cooking I removed the meat from the pan and placed on the cutting board and covered with a pot lid to let it rest. While the steak rested I added an additional dash of red wine to help wilt a large heap of spinach to add some green to the meal.

Wilting Spinach

Once the spinach was wilted the sauce was removed from the heat while the steak was cut in thin strips. I topped a bed of rosemary couscous with the onion sauce and placed the steak strips over top. Once everything was plated I added a handful of goat cheese crumbles to finish it off.

All Done

When everything came together I was smitten. I am a HUGE sweet and savory fan and the combination of the sweet jam and onions with the tart tomatoes and cheese really fit the bill. All in all, the steak was treated like royalty resting upon a lovely bed of dramatic and deeply flavorful vegetables.

Who knew my pantry held such a bounty? How about you? What creative meals have you come up with the bits and pieces you can find in your kitchen?

Seared Steak with Fig Caramelized Onions

1 chopped large yellow onion

1/4 fig jam

1 cup grape tomatoes

1 cup bold red wine

Steak

2 cups baby spinach

Goat Cheese

Combine the onion and jam in a pan on med-high and cook until caramelized.

Add red wine and tomatoes and stew on medium heat until the tomatoes begin to wrinkle and the sauce begins to thicken.

Salt and pepper the steak. Make a space in the center of the pan and place the steak in the center. Sear on high heat for 1 minute and 30 seconds.

Remove the steak from the pan and cover to rest while spinach in incorporated.

Add a dash more of wine and spinach to the pan. Wilt the spinach till it is fully incorporated.

Slice the steak in to strips.

Place the sauce on top of your starch of choice. Place steak strips on top and sprinkle cheese to finish.

Enjoy!

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Sunday Dinner – The Italian Farmer’s Market Edition

“That’s the scary part. I didn’t know if I should smile, crack up, scream or run.”

– The Wizard of Oz

Sunday made my 7th straight day at work. After yet another long day that left my feet wailing in pain all I wanted was a nice nap on the hammock and to make a lovely, sumptuous Sunday dinner.

This Also Helped

Luckily, Nanner must have been reading my mind, because she returned home from her errands with bags full of fresh produce from a roadside farmer’s market.

Farmer's Market Loot

I had squash, zucchini, onion, corn, and tomatoes to work with. In my sleepy state basic was best. Esquire helped me chop the squash and zucchini to stir-fry with the onion.

Esq.'s Exquisite Chopping

The fruits and veggies were super fresh, as one would expect from the farmer’s market.

Fresh Onion

The onion was most notably so. Part of what I love about fresh, organic ingredients is that they aren’t classically beautiful. The above onion would probably not be the first to go at the grocery store, but it is perfectly lovely, fresh and flavorful. When I cut into it its inner beauty came shining through, literally, I mean have you seen a prettier onion?

Pretty Onion

Next up was the corn.

1st Corn of the Season

Maybe it is just because I haven’t had fresh corn in a good long while, or maybe because it was just so stinkin’ good, but this corn was awesome! No butter, no salt. Just a quick dip in boiling water and the corn was so amazing. LOVE! Love, love love love.

The window cill full of wonderfully ripe tomatoes began to taunt me from across the room I was preparing the rest of dinner.

Killer Tomatoes

With a giant mountain of basil growing in the back yard  I couldn’t help but make a Caprese salad. The bright flavors of tomato, and basil balanced with the mild creaminess of mozzarella, couldn’t be easier and couldn’t be tastier.

Caprese Salad

Last, but not least, the protein. I think I have been in the mood for beef a lot recently, because yet again, beef is what’s for dinner! This time I decided to marinate the steaks in a decidedly Italian fashion with rosemary, balsamic, garlic, and just a dash of worcestershire.

Soakin' It All Up

While everything else was being prepared I let the meat sit, and right before we were ready to sit down they were thrown on to a pan for two minutes on each side. Devine!

My eyes are starting to shut, otherwise I would elaborate,but I will just say this was a dang good Sunday night supper!

Dinner

For My Personal Enjoyment – Asian Marinated Steak

Make your piece with history
A blessing from a curse
State your peace
Blow it wide open did you find you an oyster pearl

-Hootie and the Blowfish

I feel like apologizing for not blogging with in the past few days but then I remember adopting a new dog, taking a tumble out of a tree that bruised my ego and pinkie toe, and the intense desire to let a general feeling of ennui wash over me and I know no excuse is needed.

Climbing trees is officially for the dogs. Remember how much fun it was to scale behemoth magnolias and the like? Fact: When you are over the age of 18 you have no business in trees! While my tumble was a mere three feet the fact that my opposable thumbs were defeated by a cockapoo is a wee bit embarrassing. Lesson learned, no harm (except for a tender  pinkie toe) no foul.

On to more exciting things…PUPPIES! Nanner and I went to Bark in the Park, an annual festival that welcomes dogs, vendors, and rescue organizations to Columbia’s city center park, and  reunited with a long lost family member. We recently lost our beloved, cantankerous Lhasa Apso, Moxie, and had been feeling a bit of a puppy void. Immediately upon walking into the festival with the remaining members of our puppy pack in tow it seemed as if the seas parted and in the back of a tent 50 yards away I espied the most precious doe eyed dog. Needless to say, after obsessing about him all day, we presented our best low pressure case to the potential puppy papa. After one full day it is hard to imagine life with out Baxter.

I pretty much had to pull myself away from fawning over him all night, and occupied myself by making a lovely dinner for one as Esq. was still on his way back from the final round of the Masters, it’s a hard life he leads.

I ran to the store and picked up some great filets that were on sale, a few handfuls of fresh Brussels sprouts, and goat cheese. I wasn’t exactly sure what my final intentions were, but with those ingredients I was guaranteed a happy tummy.

First thing when I got home, after a moment of Baxter adoration, was to pull together a marinade and throw in the steaks. I personally love a spicy/sweet flavor and a healthy dash of Asian never hurt anyone. The base ingredients of my marinade were Soy Sauce, Brown Sugar, and Sriracha.

Sweet + Salty + Spicy = Go To Marinade

Once I combined the three I started to hunt around the cabinets for additional ideas and ultimately threw in some mustard and lemon juice.

The Marinade

I combined everything in a ziplock bag, added the steaks and it was fridge time to sit for 20 minutes flip and repeat while I prepped the rest of dinner.

Chillin' Out

Next it was time to trim the stems of the Brussels and chop in half. Instead of frying them in the pan I was feeling lazy so I topped with olive oil and salt and into the oven they went.

There is no doubt, I like a good sprout!

I copied my rosemary feta orzo from a recent post, but instead added goat cheese for a creamer texture. To die for!

My Favorite Food

Once the Brussels Sprouts were in the oven and the orzo was cooking I pulled out the steaks and threw them on to a pan with 1 tablespoon of sizzling butter.

Not Quite Sizzling

I cooked the steaks for about 2 minutes on each side so I had a nice sear on the outside and a bright juicy red inside.

MMmmmmmmMMMMmmmm

While I got my plate ready with a lovely bed of balsamic dressed spinach, I let the steak rest. Letting meat rest, sit for five minutes under tin foil or similar covering, is crucial to locking in the juice that will keep your meat nice and moist.

All and all a terrific dinner that took minimal time/effort and had stupendous results.

I Die!

I saved all of the hard work for later when I made some killer carrot cake cupcakes with pineapple cream cheese glaze. You will just have to wait until tomorrow for the recipe and a review of my new Cupcake Pen!

Enjoy!

Birthday Zone Dinner

And when your legs give out just lie right down
And I will kiss you till your breath is found

– Sufjan Stevens

My family is a BIG believer in the birthday zone. When your birthday rolls around not only do you get to celebrate the day of, but maybe the weekend before, of course the weekend after, and quite possibly for the rest of the month. Esq. is quickly getting indoctrinated into this tradition. We started celebrating last weekend in Greenville with his family, the two of us celebrated on Monday (his actual birthday), and finally wrapped up tonight with a home cooked meal with my parents.

Dinner!

 

 

Nothing says Happy Birthday like steak, risotto and fresh brussel sprouts. Actually, Esq.’s precise dinner request was steak, risotto and something green, I got to pick the brussels!

Fresh is best!

 

 

I feel like I have been missing out for most of my life. I only just recently discovered the joys of fresh brussel sprouts, who knew they were so stinkin’ good (kinda literally). Not only are they good, but they are easy. Before I started on the way labor intensive risotto, I cut the stems off and halved two bags of the sprouts. When I had two cups of liquid left to add in the risotto, the lovely Esq. threw the halved and washed sprouts in a large pan with olive oil, salt and pepper and put them in a 400 degree oven until the risotto was done. Perfection! The sprouts were soft with a cabbage like crunch. The best part, I think, are the leaves that fall off and bake until they are nearly black. My love for the charred leaves is half texture and half flavor, pungent and unique.

Green and Black Have Never Looked so Appetizing!

I put Esq. to work on the steak marinade and veggie dicing (just because you are in the birthday bubble doesn’t mean you can escape kitchen duties, plus he has killer knife skills). While he was busy I got to brush, slice, and cook the mushrooms for the risotto. Cooking the mushrooms in the risotto cast iron pan imparts a richer and earthier flavor to the rice, of course tons of garlic, onion, mushrooms, chicken broth, white wine, and cheese doesn’t hurt!

Never Stop Stiring, Not Even for a Picture!

 

 

A risotto word to the wise is to always add another cup of liquid to the recipe. You pretty much can’t go wrong with adding more, especially if your last cup is a bright, crisp white wine. Cooking wine should always be something you would drink willingly, but there is no need to spend your hard earned money on a bottle that cost more than $10.00. I listened to a great Freakonomics podcast about how knowing the price of wine determines its enjoyment level. Now I have a really hard time justifying the extra expenditure. With the wine I added the mushrooms back into the risotto and stirred until all liquid was absorbed, once it reached the desired consistency I removed from heat and added cheese, my personal favorite part. In this scenario I added Romano and Parmesan.

Plate Full of Yummy!

Once the risotto was pulled, we quickly threw the steaks into a pan and cooked briefly on each side. Esq. really did a wonderful job on the marinade. The steaks were oh so flavorful and juicy.

Birthday Meat

I truly hope he had a wonderful birthday zone, I am sorry to see it come to a close, as I love a good celebration and an excuse to cook yummy food, but I am sure I can come up with another excuse!

Tomorrow I will share my adventure in breakfast cupcakes. On a related note, I will not be serving peanut butter banana cupcakes next week. 🙂

 

Mushroom Risotto

1 cup arborio rice

1 yellow onion chopped

3 garlic cloves diced

1 package baby bella mushrooms

1 package button mushrooms

4 tbs butter

2 tbs olive oil

Salt

Pepper

3 cups chicken broth

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup grated romano cheese

1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

In large cast iron skillet cook 2 tbs of butter, salt, pepper and mushrooms until just tender. Take mushrooms out of the pan and place on the side. Drain any excess liquid, but do not wipe down the pan.

Add remaining butter, olive oil, garlic, and onion to pan over med/high heat for a few minutes or until just translucent.

Add arborio rice, continuously stir until pan becomes very dry and rice just starts to stick. Add one cup of broth, continuously stir until all liquid is absorbed, repeat twice.

It will begin taking longer and longer for the liquid to absorb each time. The final cup should be of wine, at the same add in cooked mushrooms.

Once all liquid is absorbed, remove from heat and add cheese. Stir till incorporated. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately.