Not your average meat and potatoes

Steak au poivre with twice-baked sweet potatoes

with a spinach salad on the side...not too shabby

with a spinach salad on the side…not too shabby

Steak au poivre

Twice-baked sweet potatoes

UPDATE: This is the first post of a brand new month of Everyday Food.  B and G got together a few months ago and painstakingly chose an issue for December.  I’m not being sarcastic.  Pains were taken.  It was very hard to choose.  We settled on December 2011.  Without even realizing it, that was the month when B and her bear visited me and D!  There’s clearly something special about that month.  It’s hard to believe we’ve already made it through three whole issues.

D made the steaks, so a lot of this is second hand.  There’s one thing we both figured out:  There is too much pepper called for in this recipe!  D loves pepper and even he was picking peppercorns off of his steak. You could use 1/4 of a cup of crushed black pepper and have more than enough.  Also, this is a job for a spice grinder (or a spare coffee grinder that you keep for this purpose) not your kitchen pepper mill.  I started trying to grind all of the pepper with a pepper mill and D stopped me.  I would probably still be grinding that pepper right now.  Can you even imagine how long it would take to grind 3/4 c of pepper?  Anyway, use the spice grinder and only grind 1/4 c.  It will be plenty.

The sauce is heavenly.  I kept finding excuses to eat more of that sauce.  The fact that there was too much pepper on it just encouraged me to eat more sauce!  Wine, cream, mustard, steak drippings… the gang’s all here.  Ah, but there’s a twist.  We didn’t have any white wine on hand.  I told D that we could substitute dry vermouth like B did.  D wanted to experiment and try Lillet instead.  B asked me (and I definitely had to look this up) what Lillet is.  She thought it was maybe a fortified wine.  Welp, the series of tubes tells me it’s a “tonic wine” containing a blend of wines and mostly citrus liqueurs.  Now we know.

I made the sweet potatoes, and I’ve been dreaming about them ever since.  The recipe is amazing just as written.  The goat cheese adds the perfect amount of tang to cut the sweetness of the potato and the richness of the butter.  Add in those sharp chives, and you’ve got a nicely balanced side.  I really like the panko crumb and pecan topping.  All in all, I’ll be making this one again.  I think you could make it all ahead of time right up until the top the refilled potato and bake step.  Just make the topping right before you need it to keep the panko crumbs from getting soggy.

Oh, another note about making the sweet potatoes.  The recipe has you using a food processor to mix together the baked sweet potato (mine were microwaved, by the by), goat cheese, and butter.  That seemed wholly unnecessary to me.  Just leave the goat cheese and butter sitting out while you microwave the sweet potatoes and do other prep.  Between that little amount of softening and the heat of the potatoes, your arm can do the trick.  On the other hand, I have these insane mom-guns ever since I had a baby…  I still think the food processor is overkill, though.

J seemed to like the sweet potato the first time he ate it, but turned his nose up at it the second time.  “Oh no!” said his mother, “I guess I’ll just have to eat it!”  And, thus, G sat and ate a twice-baked sweet potato with a baby spoon.  Don’t judge me until you try these potatoes.

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Un-split shift and the best “fried” shrimp ever

“Split Shift”: recipes that were supposed to be made part in the morning and part in the evening…

  • Steak with peanut sauce and broccoli
  • Crispy shrimp with tartar sauce and red-cabbage slaw
  • Black-bean tostadas with corn relish

Steak with peanut sauce and broccoli

Steak with peanut sauce and broccoli

Steak? Money’s too tight for steak. Steak?

Ok, this one I actually did part the day before and part the evening of.  The trouble with these “split shift” recipes is that they assume you have more time in the morning than in the evening.  I’m not sure for whom this is true.  People who work the late shift or odd hours, I guess. People without children.  People with excellent time-management skills.  None of these things describe me.  I do think they could be split over a couple days.  This recipe, for example, is a good one to split over a couple days.  I marinated the steak and prepped the broccoli on day one, then broiled the steak and steamed the broccoli on day two.  The recipe only takes 30 minutes…total.  So that’s an easy maybe 15-20 minutes one evening then finish it up the next.  Not bad.

How does it taste?  Do you like peanut sauce?  Me too!!!  The one thing I will say is that flank steak can be a little tough.  This was no exception.  A nicer cut of steak would have made this less of a chore to cut and eat.

Ah, but I came up with an awesome thing to do with the leftovers.

cut up steak with broccoli and peanut sauce in small tortillas

This must be blurred because I was too excited to eat it.

I also had small tortillas on hand for the tostadas, so I heated up the steak and broccoli, piled it into tortillas, drizzled it with a little leftover sauce, and had asian steak tacos.  These were so good.  Plus, once you’re eating it with your hands and teeth, the difficulty cutting it with a knife isn’t an issue any more.

Crispy shrimp with tartar sauce and red-cabbage slaw

shrimp, lemon wedges, red cabbage slaw, tartar sauce and a beer

Is your mouth watering? Mine is.

Get ready to hear me gush.  D and I keep an index card of all of our favorite Everyday Food recipes.  It acts as a sort of index, but not every recipe makes it on there.  Only the best.  Let me put it this way: There are 98 issues, and we have maybe 20 recipes on that index card.  This recipe is index card worthy.

What makes it so special is the breading on those shrimp.  I’m the first one to be suspicious of the idea that baked things can taste just like something that’s fried.  I’m not going to go quite that far.  However, this is as close as you can get to crispy fried shrimp without busting out the oil.  I’ll stand by that.  The slaw is also lovely.  It’s just Dijon mustard, oil, and lemon juice with the red onion and cabbage.  That would be good on its own.  You could bring that to a picnic and feel like a hero.  The tartar sauce is nice.  It reminds me of the ersatz tartar sauce we used to make when I was a kid to go with fish sticks, mayonnaise and pickle relish.  This is obviously classier: chopped pickles, fresh parsley, fresh lemon juice…  The shrimp is the real star.  It’s even worth buying panko crumbs for even though you KNOW you’re never going to use that stuff again until it gets stale.

I didn’t make this 1/2 in the morning, 1/2 in the evening or over two days or anything.  It doesn’t take too long to do in one evening.

Black bean tostadas with corn relish

Topped with the corn and avocado

Topped with the corn and avocado

I can sum this one up quite quickly: lots of work for little reward.  I did this one all in one night also.  Taking care of the corn relish, veggie prep, and cheese ahead of time would have saved some effort.  I’ll grant them that.

tortilla, beans, cheese (waiting on vegetables)

tortilla, beans, cheese (waiting on vegetables)

This just isn’t a very special recipe.  It reminds me of the Jim Gaffigan routine about working at a Mexican restaurant in Iowa.  “What’s a tostada?”  “Tortilla, meat, cheese, vegetables?”  “What are tacos?” “Tortilla, meat, cheese, vegetables”  Change that to tortilla, beans, cheese, vegetables, and that’s what we have here.  It’s just nothing to write home about.