Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Red Passion, Green Envy

Dear Jess,

Let me first say: this recipe has been on my list of 'to make' since the Flank Steak. This is the other dish that involved red meat. Six months later here it is, and I must say: it was well worth the wait.

Last Christmas my brother Bill got me The New Brooklyn Cookbook by Melissa Vaughan and Brendan Vaughan. It consists of 'recipes and stories from 31 restaurants that put Brooklyn on the culinary map. It is amazing! Normally I read cookbooks like novels anyways, but this one... Oh my. It's heaven to read. There are amazing pictures of all the restaurants as well as an article about the history and personality of each restaurant and it's owner(s). Following that, each restaurant provided 2-3 of their recipes (all with pictures.)

Now, as much as I love this book, I have not (until now) ventured to make anything from it. Why? Because these are no ordinary recipes. They are gourmet. They are fancy. They are high maintenance. Now, I love these types of recipes... but this summer has not given me enough time to attempt such a thing. Until now. The wedding is in the past tense and I am finding time to do things the long way. Welcome to my newest adventure:

Grilled Hanger Steak with Horseradish Whipped Potatoes, Creamed Spinach, and Sauce Bordelaise
Serves 6, The New Brooklyn Cookbook, Page 116-118

For the sauce bordelaise
2 tbsp canola oil
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice (about 1/4 cup)
4 celery stalks, cut into 1/4 inch dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 Spanish onion, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice (about 2 cups)
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups dry red wine
4 cups homemade or prepared veal stock, such as D'Artagnan Veal Demi-Glace (we used beef broth... it's all we could find)
1 fresh thyme sprig
1 bay leaf
6 whole black peppercorns
Coarse salt

For the whipped potatoes
1 1/2 pounds russet or Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp creme fraiche
2 tbsp prepared horseradish
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the creamed spinach
2 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1 shallot, peeled and finely diced
1 pound spinach, coarse stems discarded, leaves washed and drained
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
Kosher salt
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Six 10 to 12oz hanger steaks, trimmed of fat, sinew, and center connective tissue (we learned that you can only get these at a slaughter house. So we used Rib Eye Steaks instead)

1. To make the sauce bordelaise, heat the canola oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, onion, ad garlic and saute until the vegetables are caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add the wine and reduce until almost all the liquid is evaporated, about 20 minutes. (We needed 30 minutes) Add the stock, thyme, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the sauce is lightly syrupy and coats the back of a spoon, about 1 hour. (It never got syrupy for me. I think we needed at least 2 hours for this to happen. Next time I will make this in the afternoon to be sure.) Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean pan, season to taste with salt, and set aside.

2. To make the potatoes, place them in a large pot and cover with cold salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, 12 to 15 minutes.
3. Combine the butter, cream and milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low, cover, and keep warm.
4. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then immediately pass them through a potato ricer into a large bowl. Slowly add the warm milk mixture to the potatoes and stir to combine. Fold in the creme fraiche and horseradish and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

5. Meanwhile, make the spinach. Melt 1 tbsp of the butter in a large saute an over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute until translucent, about 2 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the spinach, and saute, stirring, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Set the spinach in a colander to drain for 10 minutes.
6. Combine the milk and heavy cream in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Cover and keep warm.
7. Melt the remaining 1 tbsp butter in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the flour and cook over medium heat whisking constantly, about 4 minutes. Slowly add the warm milk mixture, whisking constantly, until it thickens, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt, cayenne, and nutmeg. Turn the heat to low and add the thoroughly drained spinach to the pot. Stir to combine well and cook until just heated through.

8. Prepare the grill for cooking or heat a ridged grill pan over medium-high heat until hot. Grill the hanger steaks on both sides, about 10 minutes total for medium-rare. Allow the steaks to rest for 5 minutes. Slice the meat against the grain into 1/2 inch thick slices.

9. Reheat the sauce bordelaise over low heat in a small, covered saucepan.

10. To serve, divide the potatoes among 4 plates. Top with creamed spinach and sliced steak. Drizzle with the sauce bordelaise.

I know. It looks like a lot. A LOT. However, the most important thing I learned from this one (which seems to be consistent throughout my life) is to take your time. Do one thing at a time. There was one moment when I got too many things going at once (to try to save time) and I burned my arm, burned the shallots and couldn't whisk what needed to be whisked constantly.

That being said, the end product was delicious. Even though our sauce didn't turn out (which I am told is an art to actually do... I will one day perfect it) the flavours and aromas were sublime. The potatoes in particular were a nice touch with the horseradish. To then be topped with some tasty (and a tiny bit spicy) spinach and a hunk of red meat... well... I will let you draw your own conclusions.

I look forward to trying more 'tricky' things from this book. It gives great opportunity for learning.

I love you,


  1. Sal and Jess, your pictures are excellent! An art itself. And you don't even doctor them up by painting your foods with shiny stuff....You would do any magazine proud. Again, you gals inspire me. I swear I can capture the aromas of your presentations. A pleasure for sure.

  2. I agree with "Mom/Sandy" haha; love that. Sally and Jess, your blogs are a pleasure to read and they make me hungry EVERY time! Sal, this dish looks amazing - I can't believe you and Jason powered through it - who am I kidding, Yes I can. I echo your mom when I say the pic definately looks like it belongs in a magazine. Love! Looking forward to the next one :) -Robin

  3. Thank you so much ladies! Jason gets all the credit for this picture and the majority of the others. On behalf of Jess and myself, I can say we are thrilled that you get as excited as we do about the food we make.

  4. Sal, I just arrived in Whitby (Monday, 12:11am) and sat down to read this latest entry. It is epic. You and Jess sure can put a tasty blog together.