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~ Mel's Pan-Seared Crimini-Crusted Sirloin Steaks ~

IMG_2092Fact:  I will not stand outside and grill if the temperature is below 40 degrees.  Fact:  It is below forty degrees.  Fact:  I am cooking steaks indoors today and the line forms to the left of the stove.

Great steak dinners & our original hunters and gatherers:

IMG_1661I'm guessing mushrooms have been paired with steak, since, um, fire was invented?  I imagine a big hairy guy, standing in a cave, yanking a hunk of red meat off a sharp spear and throwing it on an open fire to cook.  Meanwhile, an equally-hairy but less imposing woman picks a few mushrooms (growing up through the cracks of her cave-kitchen floor) and tosses them on top along with some wild onion grass for good measure. Voila: The first mushroom and herb topped steak recipe, straight from The Cave Network Kitchen.

 So easy even a caveman can do it!

IMG_1941For the steaks:

4, 1 1/2" thick top-loin strip steaks, at room temperature, about 16-ounces each

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

8  tablespoons salted butter, divided

2  tablespoons olive oil

IMG_1945 IMG_1948 IMG_1951 IMG_1969~Step 1.    Liberally season the tops of the steaks with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  In a 12" nonstick skillet, melt 4 tablespoons butter into 2 tablespoon olive oil.  Place two steaks in the skillet, seasoned sides down and season the tops of the second sides.

IMG_2051~ Step 2.  Increase heat to medium-high and sear, 6 minutes on first side and 4 minutes on  second side, turning only once, or until the steaks reach an internal temperature of 110-112 degrees when an instant-read meat thermometer is placed into each one of their centers.

~ Step 3.  Transfer steaks to a 17 1/2" x 12 3/4" baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper and set aside.  Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter into the pan drippings from the first two steaks and repeat this process with the remaining two steaks.  Set all four steaks aside.

IMG_1984For the mushroom crust:

all of the pan juices from pan-searing the steaks

12  ounces crimini mushroom caps, sliced into 1/4"-thick strips (about 4 cups)

4 ounces diced yellow or sweet onion (about 1 cup)

2  tablespoons minced garlic

1/4  cup dry sherry

3/4  cup heavy or whipping cream

6  4"-5" fresh thyme sprigs

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

IMG_2002 IMG_1987~ Step 1. Heat pan juices from steaks over medium. IMG_1993Add the mushrooms and saute for about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer mushrooms to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, leaving any liquid remain in the skillet.  Walk away.

IMG_2003 IMG_2006 IMG_2013 IMG_2017 IMG_2024~Step 3.  Return the still hot skillet of drippings to the heated stovetop. Add onions and garlic.  Cook until onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add sherry, and using a spatula, deglaze pan by scraping browned bits from bottom of skillet.  Continue to cook for about 30-60 seconds.  

~ Step 4.  Add the cream and the thyme sprigs and adjust heat to simmer gently, until nicely thickened, about 4-5 minutes.

IMG_2032 IMG_2037 IMG_2045~ Step 5.  Add all of the cream mixture, including the thyme sprigs to the food processor containing the mushrooms.  Process the mushrooms and cream mixture to a pasty mix of small mushroom bits using a series of 15-20 rapid on-off pulses, stopping to scrape down the sides of the work bowl with a rubber spatula about half way through the process.  You will have 1 1/2-1 3/4 cups of mushroom topping.

IMG_2059 IMG_2056~ Step 6. Spoon and distribute the topping evenly over the steaks, stopping short of the edges around the perimeter (meaning you don't want it drooping down over the sides of the steaks) and mounding it slightly towards the center.

~ Step 7.  Place pan of topped steaks on center rack of 400 degree oven for exactly 6 minutes. Remove from oven, plate and serve immediately.  If you have followed this recipe as written using 1 1/2"-thick steaks, you will have four medium-rare steaks topped with a golden, slightly-creamy sherry-laced mushroom crust:

IMG_2074Oh my perfectly-cooked fair-weather-girl indoor steak!

IMG_2119Mel's Pan-Seared Crimini-Crusted Sirloin Steaks:  Recipe yields 4 large servings. 

Special Equipment List:  12" nonstick skillet; instant-read meat thermometer; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper; cutting board; chef's knife; garlic press; large spoon; nonstick spatula; food processor; rubber spatula

IMG_2111 IMG_2081Cook's Note: Along the same lines as today's recipe, only using filet mignon and wrapped in puff pastry, my recipe for ~ My Love Affair with: Individual Beef Wellingtons ~, along  with my step-by-step instructions and photos, can be found in Categories 3, 11, 21 & 26.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)


~ The Hasselback Potato: A Majestic Baked Potato ~

IMG_1830The next time baked potatoes are on your mind or menu, and you have a bit of extra time, make a batch of sexy, stylish Swedish Hasselback potatoes.  Want to feel like a rock star?  Go the extra mile and make them using using small, fingerling potatoes -- people adore fancy-schmancy, darling-to-look-at, petite food.  Place two or three on a plate next to a perfectly-cooked steak or pass a tray of them around at a cocktail party -- majestic -- to say the least.

DSC_2524The Hasselbecken Tavern was established in the 1700's as a small red hut located in a hazel thicket in Stockholm, which is how it got its name.  The Hasselbacken Hotel and Restaurant opened in 1853 in a grand, new building.  It was a destination for the rich upperclass and quickly developed a reputation for grandiose gatherings and celebrations. Hasselbacken Potatoes were 1invented by their chef in the 1940's and were an instant success.  Still prepared the same way, here's how they appear on their menu today:

Hasselbackspotatis serverad med oxfilé, baconlindad haricots vertes, gremoulatabakad tomat, konjaks velouté samt senapskräm  

Hasselbacken potatoes served with beef tenderloin, bacon wrapped green beans, baked tomato gremolata, cognac velouté and mustard cream 

IMG_1858A bit about fingerling potatoes: These small, elongated, finger-shaped potatoes come from a family of heritage potatoes that naturally grow smaller than conventional potatoes.  They are fully mature when harvested and should not be confused with new potatoes, which are potatoes harvested before they mature.  The three most popular varieties are: the Yellow Russian Banana (pictured here), the Peruvian Purple, and, the Swedish Peanut fingerling.

IMG_1781~ Step 1.  To make 24 fingerling potatoes, which serves 6-8:

Cut each potato into 1/4" slices, stopping short of cutting through to the bottom with each slice.

Note:  My "trick" is to place the potato in the trough of the carving board I use to slice roasts.  Doing this stops the knife, making it impossible to slice to the bottom.

IMG_1789~ Step 2.  In a small bowl, melt

8 tablespoons salted butter

and stir in:

1/2  teaspoon sea salt & 1 teaspoon white pepper

IMG_1799~ Step 3. Spray 6-8 individual-sized au gratin dishes with

no-stick cooking spray

IMG_1813~ Step 4.  Two at a time, submerge potatoes in the seasoned butter mixture, allowing them to sit for 10-15 seconds prior to transferring them to prepared dishes.

IMG_1833~ Step 5. When I am adding an herb, I like to shake a few dried rosemary leaves over the top, and, IMG_1849I take a moment to poke a few leaves down into a few or all of the slices in each each potato.

Using a pastry brush, lightly paint a bit more of the melted butter mixture over the tops and liberally sprinkle coarse sea salt over all.

IMG_1852~ Step 6. Transfer au gratins to a baking pan lined with parchment paper.

~ Step 7.  Bake on center rack of preheated 375 degree oven 45-50 minutes, or until potatoes are bubbly and golden brown.  They will be crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Serve ASAP -- I like to reheat and drizzle/dribble the remaining butter mixture over the tops.

IMG_1923Hasselback Potatoes:  A Majestic Baked Potato:  Recipe yields 6-8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; spoon; pastry brush; baking pan; parchment paper

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c740a1d4970bCook's Note:  To get my tips for baking a conventional potato, read my post ~ Dear Perfectly Baked Potato:  Your Crispy Skin and Fluffy Center, Make My Steaks Taste Even Better!!! ~ by clicking into Categories, 4, 10, 15 or 20.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)


~Bok Choy w/Ginger, Garlic, Mushrooms & Noodles~

IMG_1748Eat your vegetables.  No problem.  I've always loved vegetables.  Granted, I typically like some form of protein with or in my veggies, but, every once in a while, an all-veg meal is AOK with me. This is one of them, and, it's one of the quickest, easiest meals you will ever make.  Cabbage, a cruciferous vegetable, is one I grew up eating, but, until I was thirty-something, it came to my table via round green or red heads.  Thanks to publications like Bon Appetit,  Food & Wine, and Gourmet magazine, I began experimenting with recipes for Chinese bok choy (an elongated green and white "non-heading" cabbage), in the 1980's, mostly in quick stir-fries.

A bit about cruciferous (krew-SIH-fer-uhs) vegetables:  A group of high-fiber vegetables containing antioxidants that research claims may provide protection against certain cancers.  Also rich in numerous vitamins and minerals, they include:  broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, collard and mustard greens, kale, rutabagas and turnips.

IMG_1652A bit about bok choy:  When it comes to vegetables, the Chinese have always been a step ahead of us Westerners.  They've been eating 3-5 servings a day for centuries without coaxing or advice from medical professionals.  Bok choy, a once hard-for-me-to-find ingredient is now available everywhere. Lightly-seasoned with garlic and a bit of soy sauce, I love its naturally sweet, slightly peppery taste when cooked.  If it's a large head of bok choy you've got, give the leaves a good rinse in cold water and drain them thoroughly (a salad spinner works great), then, trim the woody stem ends off and diagonally slice the stalks and leaves.  If it's small heads of baby bok choy you bought, slice them in half lengthwise, rinse, and drain. Cook either of them as directed.

IMG_0930A bit about Chinese Egg noodles:  The Chinese have an almost overwhelming variety of noodles to choose from.  Fresh Chinese egg noodles (the four most common being thin and wide wonton noodles, and, Hong-Kong-style chow mein noodles and low mein noodles), found in all Asian markets (and larger grocery stores) are made with wheat flour and eggs and are yellow in color (which is often attributed to the addition of yellow dye).  Fresh egg noodles are also cooked to the point of only needing to be briefly reheated in a pot of simmering water or broth, and/or, tossed into a stir-fry at the end of the cooking process.  If kept sealed, they keep in the refrigerator about a week, and, once opened, for best results, should be used within 24 hours.

Here are the top three complaints I routinely receive about stir-fry recipes:

IMG_17411)  They're not as quick as they're talked-up to be.  2) Yea, they cook in less than 5 minutes, but it takes an hour do the chopping.  3) All that work and it's only enough food to feed 1 or 2 people.  My E-Z stir-fry feeds 4-6:

IMG_1654For the vegetables & noodles

1  large head bok choy, cut into 1" chiffonade (strips), rinsed and run trough a salad spinner, about 10 cups

2  dozen smallish shiitake or crimini mushroom caps, or a combination of both

1/2  cup thinly-sliced green IMG_1665onions, white and light green parts only

1/4  cup thinly-sliced garlic cloves (1 ounce/about 3 large cloves)

1/4  cup thinly-sliced ginger (1 ounce/about a 2 1/2" piece)

3  tablespoons vegetable oil

1  pound fresh Chinese egg noodles

IMG_1667For the sauce:

3/4  cup chicken or veggie broth

3/4  teaspoon sugar

1/4  cup Oyster-flavored sauce

2  teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons chicken stock

Note:  This all-purpose sauce is great for many stir-fried veggies.

IMG_1674~ Step 1.  Prep all vegetables as listed and set aside.  In a small container, combine the chicken broth, sugar and Oyster sauce.  Set aside.  In a second container, combine cornstarch and water.

~ Step 2.  Place the oil in a 12" wok or stir-fry-type pan.

IMG_1680 IMG_1687 IMG_1690 IMG_1701~Step 3.  Over medium-high heat.  Give the pan a couple of tilts to swirl the oil around to coat the bottom and lower sides of the pan.  Add the garlic, ginger and green onions and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 45-60 seconds.  Add the mushroom caps and cook, stirring constantly,  for 3 minutes.  Add the sauce, stir thoroughly and return to a simmer.

IMG_1709 IMG_1714 IMG_1721 IMG_1726~Step 4.  Add and stir in the bok choy, cover and cook over medium heat (lower the heat from medium-high) for 3 minutes.  Uncover and stir in the cornstarch/water mixture.   Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the simmering sauce thickens slightly, 1-2 minutes.  Turn heat off.

IMG_1731~ Step 5.  Go ahead, taste the sauce, it's delicious.  Poke a small hole or two in the package of Chinese egg noodles with the tip of a knife and cook them on high or express setting of microwave for 1 minute.  Portion the hot noodles into four-six bowls.  Using a large slotted spoon portion the bok choy mixture over noodles, then drizzle the sauce in the pan equally over and amongst all servings.

Get out the chopsticks & serve THIS delish veggie & noodle dish:

IMG_1747No fresh egg noodles in your town?  Cook 4-5, 3-ounces packages of pantry-staple ramen noodles (sans the seasoning packets) in water for 3 minutes.  Drain well and toss them hot, right into the bok choy mixture!

IMG_1764Bok Choy w/Garlic, Ginger, Mushrooms & Noodles:  Recipe yields 4-6 hearty servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife;  12" wok or stir-fry-type pan w/lid, preferably nonstick; large slotted spoon

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fa9cb0f2970bCook's Note:  For another one of my chopsticks (or fork) Asian-noodle-meals, also made with fresh Chinese egg noodles and full of vegetables and chicken too, my recipe ~ Chinese Chicken Chow Mein a la Melanie ~, can be found in Categories 3, 13 or 26.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)