Wednesday, March 31, 2010

weekday dinner for....whoever shows up

Who says weeknights have to be boring?
The menu for the night:

Steak with a sweet red wine shallot sauce
Arugula salad
Balsamic roasted cauliflower
Abundant red wine
Good company

This was a meal planed at the last minute. At 5pm on a weekday I sent out an email to a few friends saying essentially "hey, who wants to come over for an hour and a half?" Not having time to wait for responses, I headed out to the grocery store.
Shopping when you don't know how many people you will be feeding can be stressful, but I was intent on enjoying the evening, and not allowing myself to be overwhelmed. Spontaneity is not so normal for me, I am a planner, hence putting together a last minute dinner quite an adventure for me. And the night did seem adventurous, from the time I forgot about the cauliflower in the oven, to the time I lost the Parmesan cheese (it was kind of one of those days...), till the moment while cleaning up that I managed to slice my finger open (I was wiping down the counter, and somehow my finger collided with the sharp blade of a knife, don't ask me how...this led to fits of laughter while bleeding EVERYWHERE) things certainly weren't predictable.

Cooking in my kitchen is always an adventure, it is not for the weak of heart. The combination of gas burners that cannot be set to anything lower than a raging blaze, an overhead fan which does not turn off (which causes more problems than one would think), so little light from the overhead that we actually had to bring a reading lamp in to have enough light for any pictures taken of the food to turn out, and such delicate (and dangerous) electrical wiring that we cannot plug in more than one appliance at once for fear of tripping the main breaker really keeps things interesting. But, I suppose this is part of the experience. Ah, to be a 20 something sharing an apartment with 4 others in a rundown building in a bustling urban area. Pure bliss.

However, one advantage of this lifestyle is that there is always someone around to join you in the chaos. Break out a bottle of wine, set the table with candlesticks and flowers, and before long it feels like a dinner party.

Now, on to the food:

Steak with sweet red wine shallot sauce:
 (makes enough shallot sauce for 8-10 ounces of meat, approximately 2-3 full servings according to the deck of cards analogy) 
2 tbsp olive oil or butter
3 medium shallots
1 cup red wine
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic
Fresh ground pepper

+, of course, STEAK

heat 1 tbsp of oil in a small saute pan
Chop the shallots and add the oil when it is hot, but not smoking
cook until translucent than add the wine, vinegar and brown sugar, add one clove of garlic as well, chopped finely
let sit over low heat for at least 10 minutes, allowing the wine to reduce

rub the steak with fresh ground pepper
heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a second saute pan
add pressed or finely chopped garlic to the oil
add steak to the pan, and cook 5 minutes per side, or until it reaches your liking

Serve with the shallot sauce poured over it, and compliment with lots of vegetables. (Don't forget that nutritionists recommend that meat only take up no more than 1/3 of your plate.) I made a simple arugula salad (sprinkled with Parmesan and dressed with Trader Joe's Champagne Pear Vinaigrette) and Balsamic Roasted Cauliflower.

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