Thursday, March 18, 2010

Skirt Steak with Rosemary, Artichoke-Potato Hash, Black Olive Aioli, Cupcakes

I've been traumatized by mayonnaise. Suzanne, why did you tell me to make an aioli by hand? I'll never do such a foolish thing ever again.
This is me mixing. And mixing. And mixing.

I had been nervous about this undertaking to begin with, because I knew that if you try to make mayonnaise and add the oil more than a drop at a time, it will break and all that mixing will have been for naught.

So I made a little setup that would enable me to mix with one hand and drip with the other.

'What's that for?' Nick asked.
It's an egg.
In a nest.
No, really, the egg is for the mayo, and the towels are for my no-bowl-spinning setup.

So I dripped, I mixed, I dripped, I broke. Aaaaagh! My arm felt like it was going to fall off, and it was all for nothing. Better yet, Nick, who hates mayonnaise felt bad for my arms and helped me out. He felt sullied, and it was for no good reason.

We tried to fix the broken mayonnaise by adding more egg yolks, and it didn't work. Okay, we said, let's take a break from this and get started on those artichokes, because they're really confusing.

What do you mean there are no baby artichokes in the fridge? You're kidding, right? Oh, cool--the checkout person at the grocery store was so mightily confused by the fact that I brought my own bag that the artichokes ended up staying in the plastic bag that I asked not to use.

Okay, mayonnaise, I'm going to the store, and I'll deal with you later, buddy.

Okay, Nick, I'm back from the store with the expensive baby artichokes. What did you say? They're moldy? That totally rocks.

Sigh. While Nick dealt with the non-moldy artichokes of the bunch, I consulted Julia because I seemed to remember her having a lot to say about the making of mayonnaise.

She sure did, and it sure saved my butt.

She even made me feel better, in a way: "Mayonnaise done by hand or with an electric beater requires familiarity with egg yolks." Well, I'm apparently not familiar with the egg yolk, but she makes it sound like it's not the end of the world, although she does say that, "You should be able to make it by hand as part of your general mastery of the egg yolk." I'll just have to master you another day, you little golden orb.

She then goes on to tell us mere mortals how to make mayonnaise in a food processor. By the time I had a thick, creamy mayonnaise, my head hurt from the noise of the machine and my arm still felt like it was going to fall off due to all the slow pouring, but it was about a billion times easier than that hand-mixing junk, and I had produced a perfect mayonnaise.

The baby food processor was broken out and used to make a puree of garlic and olives, which was stirred into the now-perfect mayonnaise. Suzanne Goin tells you to make the olive garlic puree with a mortal and pestle, but I was not about to be tricked by her hand-made methods twice in one night.

You may be wondering why I went to so much trouble for a sauce that only I would be eating, as Nick hates it. That's a good question, really, and the answer is that it has been on my culinary to-do list, and Suzanne Goin makes it sound delicious: " Though mayonnaise might sound strange as an accompaniment for steak, the aioli melts into a creamy sauce, leaving behind a trail of olives." Great.

Why was it on my to-do list? Because everyone says that homemade mayonnaise is easy (pshhhhhh) and it's a million times better than Hellmann's. Therefore, I felt that, like a souffle, it's something that everyone who likes to cook should attempt at least once or twice.

So I mentioned that the mayo was a sauce for some steak. That steak was skirt steak, marinated with chiles de arbol, pepper, fresh rosemary, and fresh thyme.

Yukon Gold potatoes were tossed with salt, olive oil, garlic cloves and thyme, and were roasted in a covered pan until tender. When they were cool enough to handle, they were broken into pieces, and the roasted garlic cloves were slipped out of their skins.

In the meantime, the baby artichokes that Nick had so valiantly broken down were pan-seared. I mentioned that the artichokes confused us, which may seem silly to some people. However, we on the East Coast do not eat as many artichokes as West Coasters, and the two of us had never cooked with them before. When you've never dealt with these spiny little buggers, they're rather confusing--what do you cut off/out, what do you leave?

When the artichokes were golden, they were set aside and the potato chunks were seared. The roasted garlic was added, along with some shallots, the artichokes, some more thyme, salt, pepper, and parsley.

This 'hash' was plated with the steak that had been grilled and sliced against the grain, and the mayo was dotted on top of mine.

The mayonnaise was supposed to be thinned out so that it could be drizzled, but I felt that if I thinned out the mayo, I wouldn't be able to use it for anything else, and it would go to waste.

Because the mayonnaise was left a normal, non-aioli-like consistency, I was able to eat it on a roast chicken sandwich the next day, and it was delicious.

Again, the sauce added a perfect something to the dish in a somewhat unexpected way. That's part of why I wanted so badly to make this mayonnaise--I thought Suzanne Goin had something up her sleeve. The potatoes were delicious, and the steak was yummy.

As far as skirt steak, though, I think I prefer our normal preparation--for carne asada, we rub skirt steak with salt and a huge amount of garlic and grill it. We then eat it on tortillas with roasted poblanos and various other fixings. Skirt steak prepared that way is tender and juicy, and it lets the flavor of the steak shine through. This way was nice, but not really worth the extra effort.

I'll leave you with some pictures of St. Patrick's Day cupcake carnage.

The icing is from Cook's Country, which is published by the people who make Cook's Illustrated.
It's so simple that it's become our go-to 'Oops I forgot that I told people that I would make them cupcakes' recipe.

Start by creaming 3 sticks of room temperature butter until they're light and fluffy. Turn the mixer down to low and gradually add 3 cups of powdered sugar. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until light and fluffy.

Turn the mixer down to medium-low and add a couple tablespoons of milk, a couple teaspoons of vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. When incorporated, again increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the icing is light and fluffy. Add coloring if desired.

Don't do like I did and let the icing get too soft before piping it onto the cupcakes. That's how I ended up with those rivulets down the side.

Pretend you're not eating pure butter and sugar, and enjoy!

Skirt Steak with Rosemary, Artichoke-Potato Hash, and Black Olive Aioli

  • 2 pounds skirt steak
  • 3 chiles de arbol, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves, plus 4 thyme sprigs
  • 1 1/4 pound Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 1/4 cup to 1 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 12 baby artichokes
  • 2/3 cup sliced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch arugula, cleaned
  • Black olive aioli (recipe below)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trim the skirt steak of excess fat and sinew, if any. Season the skirt steak with the sliced chiles, cracked black pepper, rosemary, and thyme leaves. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Toss the potatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, the garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, and 1 teaspoon salt. Place in a roasting pan and roast about 45 minutes, until tender when pierced. (Depending on the size, age, and variety of the potatoes, cooking time will vary.)

While the potatoes are roasting, prepare the artichokes. Cut off the top third of the artichokes, and remove the tough outer leaves, down to the pale yellow-green leaves. Using a paring knife, trim the bottom of the stem and the stalks. Cut each artichoke in half and remove the fuzzy choke if there is one. (If you clean the artichokes ahead of time, immerse them in a bowl of cold  water with the juice of one lemon added, to prevent them from turning brown. Be sure to drain and dry them well before cooking.)

Heat a large saute pan over high heat for a minute. Pour 1/4 cup olive oil into the pan, and wait until it shimmers. Add the artichokes, and season with 1 teaspoon thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Turn the heat to medium, and saute about 10 minutes, tossing often, until the artichokes are golden brown.

When the potatoes have cooled, crumble them into chunky pieces. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skins and set aside.

Wipe out the artichoke pan and return it to the stove over high heat for about a minute. (To get the potatoes nice and brown and crisp, do not overcrowd them. You might need to use 2 pans.) Swirl in the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and wait a minute.

Add the crumbled potatoes, and season with the remaining 2 teaspoons thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Cook until the potatoes are crispy on one side. (Don't try to move them or turn them if they are stuck to the pan; they will eventually release themselves, just be patient.) After about 8 minutes, when they're browned nicely on the first side, turn the potatoes in the oil, letting them color on all sides.

When the potatoes are golden brown, turn the heat down to medium and add the shallots, artichokes, and roasted garlic. Toss well, and sauté the hash together 6 to 8 minutes, until the artichokes are hot and the shallots are translucent. Toss in the chopped parsley just before serving.

An hour before serving, remove the steak from the fridge. Light the grill 30 to 40 minutes (for charcoal) and 10 to 15 minutes (for gas) before serving.

When the coals are broken down, red and glowing (or when the gas grill is hot), season the steak generously with salt, and brush it lightly with olive oil. Place the meat on the hottest part of the grill, to get a sear on the outside. Cook about 2 minutes, turn the meat a quarter turn, and cook another minute. Turn the meat over, and move it to a cooler spot on the grill. Cook another minute or two for medium-rare. Rest the steak on a wire rack set over a baking sheet for a few minutes.

Arrange the artichoke-potato hash on a large warm platter, and scatter the arugula leaves over the top. Slice the steak against the grain, and lay the slices over the potatoes and artichokes. Spoon some of the black olive aioli over the meat, and pass the rest at the table.

Black Olive Aioli
(Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

  • One large egg and two yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • A tablespoon lemon juice or wine vinegar
  • 2 cups of canola or olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pitted black oil-cured olives
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Process the egg and the yolk for 1 minute. With the machine running, add the mustard, salt, and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar.

With the machine still running, start adding the oil in a stream of droplets, continuing until you have used half the oil and the sauce is very thick--do not stop processing until the sauce has thickened. Thin out with lemon juice or vinegar, then continue with the oil.

Stir in the olives and taste for more seasoning. Add more salt and lemon juice and vinegar, if necessary. Add pepper to taste.

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