Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Caesar salad & steaks with compound butter

It was Jeremy's birthday yesterday so we celebrated with extra-special dinner plans. He is fond of caesar salad (really, we are all fond of caesar salad, so that worked out well) and it seemed like it would be fun to grill something so we decided to go retro with a strip steak and salad combo for dinner.

Melanie & birthday boy picked out 3 pounds of beautiful NY strip steaks. Seriously, they were perfect. I covered them liberally with salt, pepper and a good drizzling of olive oil and we let them rest at room temperature until the grill was ready.

Caesar salad isn't difficult but it relies heavily on timing well with the rest of the meal because it must be served immediately. So I prepped as many ingredients as I could but did not assemble the salad until the steaks were done grilling. First we made garlic croutons. Melted 3 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauteed 4 cloves of minced garlic until soft but not browned. Sliced 6 pieces of good italian sandwich bread into 1" chunks. This created a little drama with Brian who was sad to see all the bread get used up until he remembered (deus ex machina!) that he had plenty of bagels in the fridge. It was like a little one act play. You can probably use any kind of bread that suits you--this is just what we happened to have lying around. Tossed the bread with the butter-olive oil-garlic mixture in a roasting pan, added salt, pepper, 1/2 tablespoon of red pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon of oregano. Popped it in the oven at 350 degrees and said to Melanie "Ha ha, now I'm going to forget about it!" Of course I forgot about it and remembered in a panic about 10 minutes later; fortunately they were not burnt but I think they easily could have been. Set them to crisp up on paper towels. Meanwhile, Melanie and I washed a large head of romaine lettuce and chopped it into 2" pieces. You don't want huge, unwieldy bits of lettuce while you are trying to enjoy a caesar salad. We also cut a garlic clove in half and rubbed it all over the inside of a wooden salad bowl to get it ready to have the salad tossed in there.

Here's the part where you should be ready to go with eating dinner as soon as you're done putting this together. For the dressing, I brought a small pot of water to a rapid boil and put in 2 eggs. Let them sit in there for 60-80 seconds (keep a good eye on the clock!), then scooped them out and cracked them into the salad bowl. Made sure to scrape out any egg white that had lightly cooked and clung to the shell and got that into the bowl as well. Beat the eggs very well with a fork until they were well mixed up, then slowly added 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Continued to beat with the fork and slowly incorporated 6 tablespoons olive oil. When than was all mixed up, added a dash of worcestershire sauce and then about 2 tablespoons of well-minced/mashed up anchovy filets. Added salt and lots of black pepper, mixed well again, then added the romaine lettuce and tossed up from the bottom. This takes a little while. Toss toss toss. You want to make sure the dressing gets evenly mixed up with all the lettuce. Then taste a piece to make sure it doesn't need more salt and pepper, then top with the garlic croutons and a ton of fresh shaved parmesan cheese. Serve tout de suite.

Meanwhile, the steaks were getting finished up on the grill. The only trick is to flip them a lot and keep a close eye. Try to use a really hot grill at first so you can get cool looking cross-hatch marks on them. When the steaks were done, we served them with pats of delicious butter on top. Mashed up 3 tablespons of butter with 1 tablespoon of capers, 1 tablespoon minced parsley and 1 minced garlic clove with my mortar and pestle. Just kept mooshing it until it was all well combined, then scraped it out and put in in a plate in the fridge to chill until it was time to eat. Put a dab on top of each hot steak--a perfect accompaniment to garlicky Caesar salad.

Melanie's mom had made Jeremy a chocolate pound cake for his birthday. We had it after dinner with vanilla ice cream and strawberries and it was indescribably delicious.

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