Steak and Potatoes anyone? Are there any other ingredients in the kitchen more perfectly made for each other? The combination of steak and potatoes is as classic as it gets. The potatoes can be as simple as French fries, or served in a creamy gratin, it doesn’t matter to me as long as they are on the plate and I have a salt shaker handy! I thought today I would share one of my favorite recipes from one of my favorite chefs and cookbook authors. With fresh, high-quality ingredients, the simplest preparations are often the best. This meal can be put together in under an hour and is sure to please even the grumpiest of teenagers.
Today’s recipe is from Alfred Portale of Gotham Bar and Grill in New York City. Originally a jewelry designer, he became interested in cooking when he read Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Considered one of the founders of the New American cuisine movement, he graduated first in his class from the CIA in 1981, spent a few years honing his craft in France, and in 1984 took over as executive chef at Gotham. Under his tutelage it became one of New York City’s showstoppers, focusing on high quality ingredients and creating spectacular plates. Gotham was named, “Most Outstanding Restaurant” in the nation by the James Beard Foundation and Portale himself has been awarded Best Chef in New York City. In “Alfred Portale’s Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook,” an IACP/Julia Child award winner, he shows you how to use various components from one recipe with components of other recipes to create exciting new meals. It is one of the few cookbooks I’ve seen that actively does this and it is enlightening. As you read through the book, dozens of new combinations come to your mind at Chef Portale’s suggestion. It is a great insight into the way a professional chef thinks about food.
Gotham Bar and Grill is a New York City institution and has been serving diners for over 25 years. One of the most prestigious restaurants in the City, Gotham is constantly reinventing its menu, decor, and wine list while maintaining customer favorites. Product seasonality as well as a desire to keep things fresh and unexpected are keys to the success of Chef Portale’s innovative restaurant. Try the same thing at your own home. Instead of making the same meals over and over, change your menus for every season, adding new and fresh ingredients. This will help keep your kitchen repertoire just as fresh as Gotham’s.
A born teacher and mentor, some of today’s best chefs have worked under Chef Portale. They include Wylie Dufresne, Tom Colicchio, Christopher Lee, and Tom Valenti, each who have gone on to have spectacular restaurants of their own. Chef Portale was one of the featured chefs on Julia Child’s series, “Cooking with Master Chefs” and has been a guest judge on “Top Chef.” A native of Buffalo, NY, he is actively involved in several charities focused on providing food for the needy including Share Our Strength and Meals-on-Wheels. A highly skilled chef who has won the respect and admiration of his peers and customers alike, Chef Portale is one of this nation’s true treasures.
I highly recommend all of Chef Portale’s books and know you will enjoy having them in your library!
While this recipe calls for sirloin steaks, you can obviously serve any cut that you prefer. If you are serving a large party, I like to use whole cuts such as London broil, chateaubriand, or tenderloin. Cook them in one piece, let them rest for about 10 minutes and then slice against the grain. You can feed more people with a single piece of meat than individual steaks, usually for less money.
If you are in a time crunch as I usually am when I’m making dinner, you can also slice the potatoes and layer them with the other ingredients. Using a food processor with the slicing blade makes very quick work of your potato duties. And it also works beautifully for quickly slicing or chopping onions – without the tears!
If you want, you can make the compound butter well in advance and store it in the freezer. I like to make several variations at a time, wrap them very well in plastic and label them. If you keep them in the freezer you can pull them out whenever you need some, slice off the portion you want and return the rest of the log to the freezer. Some flavors intensify over time, like onions, so season lightly if you are making these far in advance.
I hope you enjoy your steak and potato dinner. Make sure you leave some for me, I’m on my way over, LOL!
Kitchen Skill: Working with a Charcoal Fire
Many people have converted to gas grills for the convenience, but there is nothing like a charcoal or wood fire to give meats an incomparable flavor. Because of the variability of heat with charcoal, you need to build the fire on one side of the grill, creating a dual heat environment for better control.
Fill your charcoal chimney with coals and light the paper. When the coals have started to get ash on them, dump them out onto one side of the grill. Rake them into a pile. Set the grate over the fire, heat and then scrub with a brush or crumpled piece of aluminum foil to clean off any residue from prior foods. When the coals are covered with ash, cook the steaks as directed. If your meats are extra thick, sear both sides and then move them to the cooler side of the grill. Place the cover on the grill with the holes over the meat. This creates an “oven” which allows the meat to finish cooking in a gentler heat. Having the holes over the meat draws the smoke over the meat, imparting more flavor.
Sirloin Steak with Potato and Bacon “Cake’ and Red Wine Butter
From “Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook” by Alfred Portale
Yield: 4 servings
Red Wine Butter
1 cup dry red wine
2 tbsp finely chopped shallots
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper * to taste
Potato and Bacon “Cake”
5 large (2-1/4 lb) baking potatoes, such as russets, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 oz smoked slab bacon (unsliced) cut into 1/4-inch dice
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
2 tbsp minced fresh chives
1 tsp minced garlic
Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper * to taste
4 (14 oz) dry-aged sirloin steaks
2 tbsp coarsely cracked white peppercorns
Make the Red Wine Butter: In a small saucepan, bring the red wine, shallots, and garlic to a boil over high heat. Cook until the wine is almost completely evaporated, about 15 minutes. Cool thoroughly.
In a small bowl, use a rubber spatula to mash the cooled shallot mixture with the butter and parsley until well combined. Season with the salt and pepper. Transfer to plastic wrap and roll the butter into a cylinder about 4 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours. Slice the chilled butter into 8 rounds.
Make Ahead: The red wine butter can be prepared as much as 1 week in advance and stored, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator.
Make the Potato-Bacon “Cake”: Preheat the oven to 450°F. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and cook halfway, about 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, add the oil to an ovenproof 8-inch nonstick saute pan. Cook the bacon over medium heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Discard the fat.
In a bowl, combine the potatoes, bacon, 4 tbsp of the butter, the shallots, chives, and the garlic. Season carefully with salt and pepper. Transfer the potato mixture to the saute pan and spread it out evenly, pressing down on the potatoes to compress the cake. Dot the remaining 4 tbsp of butter around the outside perimeter of the cake so the butter will melt down the sides as it heats.
Cook over medium heat until sizzling around the edges, about 10 minutes. Transfer to the oven and bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes. Hold a serving platter over the skillet and invert both of them together to unmold the potatoes onto the platter.
Make Ahead: The potato cake should be made just before serving, but you can make it up to 1 hour ahead and keep warm in a 180°F. oven.
Prepare the Steaks: Build a charcoal fire in a grill and let the coals burn until covered with white ash (or use a stove-top grill pan). Season the steaks with the salt and then press the peppercorns into the surface. Grill, turning once, until medium rare, about 4 minutes per side.
Garnish each steak with 2 pats of red wine butter and serve with a wedge of the potato-bacon cake. Your choice of a cooked seasonal green vegetable is a nice way to complete the plate.
Variations: The potato-bacon cake works well as a side dish with a great many meats and poultry. My favorite pairings are roast chicken, rack of lamb, and veal chops.
The red wine butter works very well with fish, especially grilled salmon, swordfish, or tuna. The butter provides a rich counterpoint to the fish itself. Compound butters are a great way to elevate a simple meat or fish course, and also work well with cooked vegetables.
* Black pepper or a blend of different peppercorns will work as well.
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