Eating out can be tons of fun. But there are also a bunch of drawbacks, as well.
Waiting. Not only do you have to wait for a table, you have to wait for a server to take your order. Then the interval before even the apps, or bread, or salad show up.
Thirsty? Even if your server is on the ball, it may take 10 minutes to get a refill on your tea. If you want dessert, you gotta sit until the order is taken, then more time is spent cooling your heels while it’s plated. After you’re finished eating, you then get the pleasure of sitting there until the bill shows up. If you’re paying with a credit card, or you need change, there is more time spent ... waiting.
Sometimes there’s nothing on the menu that really gets you excited. Or, there’s something terrific, but, they just ran out. Or there’s too many wonderful items, and you can’t make up your mind.
It’s the chef’s way or the highway. You like spicy, but the dishes are a little bland. They don’t use enough garlic, or use way too much. Their bread is stale. The veggies are overcooked. They use (horrors!) margarine. The sauces are too rich, or too thin, or it just doesn’t taste right. They serve Pepsi, instead of Coke.
At the end of all of this, you’re out a bunch of money. And most places frown on diners showing up in their jammies.
Yesterday, I decided to make Petey a fancy steakhouse dinner. On the menu: a beautiful steak, baked potatoes, and creamed spinach.
But first, a culinary confession.
I used to have an arrogant, ignorant misbelief.
I thought that all beef was the same. That the only difference between a steak dinner at Angus Barn and Waffle House was the price. That luxury steakhouses were selling sizzle, packaged as steak.
On the scale of wrong, 1 being black socks with sandals and 10 being New Coke, this boorish bovine misapprehension was a 63.
Zero percent body fat might be terrific in eye candy, but horrible in meat candy. Fat is flavor, and a cow that is overworked and fed just enough to sustain life might be cheaper to produce and less expensive at the grocer’s, but the difference will tell on the plate. It will be stringy, chewy, and tough.
A cow that’s led a life of leisure, taking selfies, shopping and watching reality TV will become well marbled (many streaks of fat running through the meat), tender and juicy. Wagu beef is so well marbled, it looks pale pink, like pork (it’s also about $80 per pound).
Then, once that cow has become steaks, there are additional steps to take, to make that steak into a work of art.
It’s called dry aging. The water is dried from the meat, which concentrates flavor and if cooked well, results in a juicy tender steak that is worth $80 or one $100 bucks a plate.
So, last night, I splurged.
I visited a local grocery store that actually dry ages their own. They start with prime beef, not Wagu, but better than something you can occasionally find in the freezer at the dollar store. It was $33 for two gorgeous, thick fillets.
I know, kind of steep, but the results …
Honest, the sounds that were coming from Petey and me as we were eating verged on the vulgar. Each bite reinforced my judgment in the purchase.
If you are meat eaters, save up your pennies and every once in a while, go for it.
One whole bag of greens might seem like a lot, but I promise, you will end up with only two servings. It cooks down like crazy.
Just because you’re dining in, that doesn’t mean it has to be plain or boring. The actual hands-on cooking time was only about 30 minutes, and we had a terrific, tasty supper.
Thanks for your time.
Contact me with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2 8-ounce dry-aged filets, around 1.5 inches thick
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Freshly cracked pepper
• Cast iron skillet
• Instant read probe thermometer (you don’t want to ruin expensive meat by overcooking — if you like your steak anything beyond medium-rare, just buy the cheap stuff).
Preheat oven to 375°. While the oven is heating, heat your skillet on burner set to 7-8. Your pan wants to be literally smoking.
Pour oil on the steak and massage it all over. Liberally season with salt.
Place in pan and cook for about 3-4 minutes or until a nice brown crust is formed. Flip steak and place pan with meat into oven.
Cook for about 8-10 minutes and check internal temp. When it reaches temp (128° for rare, 133° for medium-rare), remove from oven and plate. Let rest for 5 minutes before tucking in.
Next: creamed spinach. Last night was the first time I tried it, freestyle (without a recipe), and it turned out pretty legit.
1 bag washed baby spinach (find it in the salad area of the produce section)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
Splash of white wine
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan
1/4 cup heavy cream
5-6 gratings of fresh nutmeg
Pinch of sugar (this reduces bitterness)
Salt and pepper to taste
Warm oil in a saute pan, and add garlic. Cook until the garlic just starts to color. Discard the garlic; you’re just flavoring the oil. Dump all the spinach into the pan and when it has started to wilt add the wine, and cook it until the liquid’s almost gone. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook on medium heat until there is about a cup of spinach left.
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