Monday, October 06, 2008


Every once in a while, even She Who Must Be Obeyed will get a hankering for some Red Meat.

We were browsing in the Great Big Honkin’ Hunka Protein department at CostCo yesterday. I grabbed a nice big chuck roast, to be hacked up into tasty chunks with which I will make a Hungarian goulash later this week...but SWMBO spotted some nice New York strips and shoved those into the cart.

“How about steak and baked potatoes tonight?”

Man, you gotta love a woman who will suggest a Steak-and-’Tater Dinner.

As soon as we got home, SWMBO turned on the oven, cranking it up to 450°F...nice and hot. I scrubbed a few Russets and rubbed kosher salt on the skins while they were still wet, then set them on a rack over a baking pan. Into the oven they went.

A properly baked potato has a crisp jacket with a thin caramelized layer just underneath, and a fluffy, delicious core that requires naught but a dab of butter to make it perfect. Greasing the jacket with oil does not improve the potato; wrapping it in foil is a grave blunder, resulting in horrible steamed Potato-Flesh. I am always appalled when I see a restaurant wrapping its potatoes in foil. It bespeaks a certain contempt for the clientele.

The microwave has much the same effect. Nuke your ’tater if you must, but recognize that it is a sad, desperate stopgap to be used only when you have no time to devote to a real baked spud.

For the meat, a simple rub composed of black pepper, kosher salt, and paprika.

As the meat sat there, absorbing the rub, I had a brainstorm.

Once upon a time, back in the days when Eastern Airlines was still flying (remember them?), they would, on some of their flights, serve a filet mignon with a little melba-toast crouton underneath. The filets were, almost always, horribly overdone and tasted steamed - what could you expect for food prepared on an airplane? - but that crouton, saturated with the tasty juices of the meat, was Damned Good.

We had a humongous two-pound loaf of challah bread, almost untouched. Slices of that bread would make fine croutons, it seemed to me, and so I proceeded to hack off a few Pullman loaf-sized tranches. A few minutes in the toaster while the steaks sat on the grill, and those monster croutons were a happy golden brown.

After an hour, the potatoes were done. The meat was ready to come in off the grill, and the green beans were nice and hot. Add SWMBO’s salad - butter lettuce with avocado and pine nuts, dressed with a balsamic vinegar and a little extra-virgin olive oil - and Presto! Dinnertime!

I enjoyed my steak with a little garlic butter on top and that nice big toasted challah crouton underneath. It was...immense. Like a giant open-faced Steak Sammitch.

Better than anything I ever tasted on Eastern Airlines, too.

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