Pan-Fried Steaks with Roasted Vegetable Tian
Even in his absence, Elijah is a magical presence, representing hope, redemption, and future blessings. We pour him a cup of wine, and we reserve him a seat. -Wikipedia
A few weeks ago, I realized that the lease on the apartment I had shared with Bay for the past 8 months was rapidly coming to an end. After spending many highly unpleasant days arguing with an online estate agent (thanks for nothing, Leonard), I finally found a very charming little place in St. Germain. So, I packed up my few belongings and hopped across the Seine to experiment with life on the Left Bank.
Despite the lack of elevator and the very bitchy proprietor of the art gallery downstairs, my ass and I are adjusting nicely to our new digs. I’ve almost gotten used to my new kitchen’s oven, and I bought a blender, so this month’s domestic experiments are moving along nicely.
In order to honor the memories made in my former apartment (it was, after all, where DomesticateMe was started), it seemed necessary to host one last dinner before moving out. I invited five wonderful friends for a feast of pan-fried steaks, roasted vegetable tian, and double-cheese arancini. It was so delicious that I barely even noticed the two no-shows and the vegetarian!
I suppose I should elaborate on the last two points. A lovely couple that I invited to dinner unfortunately never made it that evening. To be fair, I had been out with the aforementioned duo until the very early hours of that morning, and I don’t think any of us were up to another night of “entertaining.” However, because I take pride in overcoming obstacles, I was determined not to allow my domesticity to be deterred by my slight* handicap.** The guests in question, who shall remain anonymous, had to babysit (gross) that evening, but I was told that they would be arriving a little after nine.*** At ten, my three present revelers suggested that perhaps no one else was coming. Since I have been slightly tardy to a dinner or two in my life, I wasn’t about to jump to conclusions. Around ten-thirty, I began to accept that they were probably not going to make it. As I enjoy European dining hours, I was happy to wait longer, but I was slightly concerned that my guests were getting antsy for their feeding.
Circa 11pm, I proudly announced to my 3 assembled guests/hostages that dinner was served. “I hope no one is a vegetarian because there’s going to be some extra steaks,” I joked. (Humor diffuses “situations.”) That’s when the second bomb was dropped. Apparently, Emilie is a vegetarian. If there is one thing I would like to remind all of you, it is that a host(ess) should never let his or her guests see them sweat, or show their distaste for lifestyle choices such as vegetarianism.*** Thank god for the no-shows, which left us with enough extra vegetables and arancini to sink a small ship. Feeding the vegetarian was practically child’s play.
The four of us had a lovely dinner with lots of extra wine and elbow-room. In fact, having no-shows reminded me of a lovely tradition that I had heard about from my many Jewish friends: setting a place for Elijah. I decided to Google this tradition in order to refresh my memory, and it is described as, “the Passover tradition of leaving the door open for a special guest, Elijah, who may or may not arrive. Even in his absence, Elijah is a magical presence, representing hope, redemption, and future blessings. We pour him a cup of wine, and we reserve him a seat.” Well, I am now a big proponent of this tradition. Elijah sounds awesome, especially if you get to drink his cup(s) of wine when he doesn’t show!*****
|Where all good meals should end.|
5 Reasons not to panic when a guest(s) does not show up:
1. Less competition for the best outfit.
2. More wine for fewer people. Do the math.
3. You have one “get out of jail free” card with the absent guest(s).
Just imagine future scenarios…
No-show: I’ve been waiting for you for an hour! I thought we were going to the movies!
You: Oops. Sorry. Remember when you didn’t show up for my party? BOOM.
4. Attendees will feel obligated to overcompensate for the missing guests with compliments on how wonderful you and your food are. Cha-ching!
|Seated 4 much more comfortably than 6…|
***’sup Millie and Beru!
****I’m just giving vegetarians a hard time. I am even friends with a couple of them, and they’re practically normal! To any vegetarians reading this blog, thank you for your support.
*****I feel like I have to send the no-shows some serious love because they did actually try to attend. In fact, they made it all the way to my building and through both coded doors! Unfortunately, I may or may not have forgotten to tell them my apartment number, and I may or may not have been too lazy to ever get a French cell phone so that I could be reached in such emergencies…
Pan-Fried Steak: (Serves 6)
Preparing your meat:
-Start with the marinade. In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil with the peeled and crushed garlic, thyme, and rosemary until it begins to boil. Lower the heat until the oil is just simmering, and allow the flavors to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Remove your infused oil from the heat and allow it to cool.
-Pour the infused oil over the steaks, cover them with plastic, and refrigerate until you are ready to cook them. You can do this the day before if you are incredibly motivated. However, since very few of us are “planners,” allow the steaks to marinate while you prepare the rest of the meal.
NOTE: This “marinade” is awesome. Infused olive oil is something every domestic god/goddess should keep on hand. Pour it into an empty and cleaned wine bottle and cork it. It tastes great on EVERYTHING. Use it in salad dressings, on bread and pasta, for cooking vegetables. Simple. Delicious. IMPRESSIVE.
-Heat some of the infused oil in a large saucepan with the garlic cloves, and a sprig of thyme.
-Season both sides of each steak with salt and pepper to taste.
-When the oil is bubbling place the steaks in the pan. Cook approximately five minutes on each side for medium rare.
Unfortunately, cooking time is not always uniform. If you are nervous about serving your guests undercooked meat and you are not skilled enough to ascertain its state simply by pressing it with your finger (not everyone has such talent), make a small cut into one of the steaks and check that shit out. Serve yourself that steak. Duh.
*Consider the size and quality of your guest list when buying your meat…
Roasted Vegetable Tian: (Serves 6)
*This is incredibly simple, delicious, and deceptively impressive. Naturally, this makes it the perfect dish for entertaining.
-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Preparing your vegetables:
-Thinly slice onion and sauté with olive oil and salt until they become tender and translucent. Set aside. (Feel free to add some minced garlic if you’re into that.)
-Wash the zucchini and eggplant and slice into discs approximately ¼ inch thick.
-Peel and seed the tomatoes (see “My Roommate Locked Me in the Apartment” for how to “eplucher” a tomato). Cut into petals. (This means cut the tomato into four pieces. Just to clarify.)
-Spread the onions in a thin layer in the bottom of a cooking dish. On top of the onions arrange the vegetables in alternating rows. Season each row with salt, pepper, and a little parmesan.
-Drizzle olive oil generously over the top of the vegetables and place dish in the oven at 200 degrees for at least an hour and a half. Add a little extra parmesan over top 10 minutes before serving if you’re in the mood.
NOTE: This also tastes amazing re-heated the next day. So again, if you are feeling motivated, prepare, cook, and refrigerate the tian the day before. Re-heat for 20-30 minutes before serving.
Double Cheese Arancini: (Serves 6)
Preparing your Arancini:
-Finely chop the onion and cook gently in olive oil until tender and translucent (approx 15 minutes).
-Add the rice to the cooked onions and stir. Make sure that the rice is well coated in olive oil (add a little extra oil if necessary).
-Pour the wine over the rice and allow it to cook.
-Once the wine has evaporated, cover the rice with chicken stock. Allow the rice to cook gently at a simmer. When the chicken stock has been absorbed into the rice, cover the rice with chicken stock again. When the chicken stock has been absorbed a second time. Taste the risotto. If it is not yet tender, continue slowly adding chicken stock until it becomes tender and creamy. Crunchy risotto is just embarrassing.
-When your risotto is tender, remove from the heat and mix in the butter and parmesan cheese. Season with salt.
NOTE: What you have here is a pretty awesome parmesan risotto. This is a super easy recipe that you can serve on it’s own, or as a side dish with pretty much any meat or fish. I suggest crumbling some bacon on top or adding sautéed mushrooms if you’re going this route.
-Spread a 1-inch thick layer of risotto into a baking dish (if it isn’t non-stick, I suggest greasing it first). Add a layer of mozzarella cut into ¼ inch cubes. Cover the mozzarella with another 1-inch layer of risotto and pack it tightly. Wrap the dish in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm. (It will take about an hour to firm up, but again, this can be done the day before your partay if you wish.)
-When the risotto is firm, cut into pieces of whatever shape and size you wish. You can use molds or just use your hands and make squares or balls if you wish (no judgment…).
-Prepare 3 bowls, 1 each for flour, beaten eggs, and breadcrumbs. Take each arancini and roll first in flour (tap off any excess), then in egg, and finally in the breadcrumbs.
-Heat olive oil in a pan. When hot, add the arancini and cook until golden brown on both sides.
-Remove from plan and place on paper towel. These can be reheated in the oven before serving if you somehow have not timed everything correctly. That never happens to me.
NOTE: These are a serious crowd pleaser. There is not a person in the world that does not like nuggets of fried risotto with extra cheese. If they tell you otherwise, they are lying. Or lactose-intolerant.*
*Which they should have the courtesy to warn you about beforehand.
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