I feel that I should warn you that I think I may have contracted some kind of wasting disease between last night and this morning.
In the event of my premature death, I would like to publicly state that in lieu of a regular wake, I would like all of you to charter a party bus to The French Laundry, where Thomas Keller will incorporate my ashes into a 34-course tasting – one course for every year of my life. Also there will be a wine pairing for each course, and then a drunken arm wrestling tournament. Don’t let Brian win just because he’s a grieving widower.
Still, I couldn’t crap out on a Smackdown in the first week of my return. I dragged my leaden carcass to Citarella and picked up the fixins for Bobby Flay’s Philadelphia-style strip steak from the new Bar Americain cookbook: a spice crusted strip steak served with caramelized onions and a creamy cheese sauce.
Citarella is packed to the gills with little old ladies in the mid-afternoon; little old ladies who take their sweet time in their cheese section. You’d think they’d want to move faster, knowing they have so little time left before shuffling off this mortal coil to the grand Fromagerie in the sky, but no. I don’t mean to be rude to the elderly, but seriously, I just need some damn provolone before my legs buckle under me. All that cheese is just gonna block ‘em up anyway.
As I’ve said before, Bobby Flay is a grade-A toolbox, but his food is damn good. Plus, I was so sapped of energy after taking the 12-minute subway ride to the store – AND BACK, people - and mowing down indecisive senior citizens that I don’t think I could have managed much other than steak, cheese and onions.
I got the onions a-caramelizin’, and gathered the rest of my mis en place while they browned. A quick and easy spice rub required smoked paprika (otherwise known as the King of the Spice Cabinet), ancho chile, coriander, oregano, mustard, cumin (the Ombudsman of the Spice Cabinet), and salt and pepper. For the cheese sauce, Brian grated up some aged provolone along with a stunning 24-month parm.
It’s a good thing I bought a bigger hunk of parm than I needed, because possibly we drizzled jagged slices of it with wildflower honey and scarfed it down, and possibly it was DELICIOUS and sharp and salty and nutty and sweet and completely worth being rude to someone’s grandmother.
The steaks came out of the fridge to come up to temperature a bit. I oiled them down and, once they were fully relaxed, hit them with salt and the spice rub on one side. Not that they needed much in the way of de-stressing, because they were some prime pieces of meat.
Seriously, they were actually prime. As Citarella well knows, bluehairs demand the highest quality marbling in their beef.
Since I knew the steaks would only take a few minutes, I decided to
fuck up make the cheese sauce before starting them, so everything would be at the ready.
It’s pretty classic, you know the drill – butter, flour, whisk whisk whisk. Warm milk, whisk whisk whisk. Grated cheese, whisk whisk whisk. Taste and season. Whisk some more, just for good measure.
Somewhere amidst all the whisking, my sauce turned out totally grainy. Edible – tasty, even – but grainy. I’ve been having the same problem lately when I make mac n’ cheese. The internet tells me that I’m adding the cheese into a too-hot bechamel. I typically believe everything I read on the internet, so I’ll be less hasty the next time out.
Once the onions were done, I put my trusty cast-iron skillet on high heat to prepare for the meat. When the oil started barely smoking, I added the steaks spice-side down. Then, because I knew they would take a few minutes to get a good sear and because I was fading fast, I sat down on the couch for a few rousing rounds of Wurdle. $1.99 well spent.
While I discovered that Wurdle does not accept “poontang” as a legitimate word, the steaks were smoking out the entire apartment. They were also releasing a great deal of fat, as I learned when I went to flip them and spattered hot fat all over my midsection. I think t-shirts from Old Navy actually conduct the grease more effectively to the skin, if the blistering splotch on my torso is any indication.
Luckily, all’s well that ends well for the rusty, out of practice food blogger. The steaks came out a perfect medium rare despite my best efforts to calcify them. The sauce, while still grainy, was wonderfully sharp, and I never met a caramelized onion I didn’t like.
Of course, while dealing with the components of dinner and tending to my wounds, I completely forgot to prepare any kind of vegetal matter. But still, not too shabby for a first outing.
And now, I take to my fainting couch and await the good doctor who will bleed out all my peccant humours.
PS: Hey have you entered the TNS fourth anniversary giveaway yet? You should!
PPS: I actually love old people. They tell great stories, and they always have mints.