I have been thinking quite a bit about what I write about and why. And since many would describe this as a recipe site, I guess that means I wonder about what types of recipes I post and why — or don’t post, which is more often the case.
As an example for analysis, I thought I’d choose something I made for dinner recently — something food bloggers used to do quite a bit. Or maybe it’s just what I used to do. When I think back to those days I know I thought no one would believe I made a dish if step photos weren’t included for proof. It seems comical now because often the photos were horrible — and for good reason. I was focused more on my cooking than photography which was pretty awful at the time to begin with. The habit of shooting steps of a recipe did, however, lead me to more practice, and ultimately a love of making still life photos of beautiful ingredients. As I began to value the quality of that work, I knew that grabbing my camera between steps of a recipe I wanted on the table at a particular time wasn’t going to work any longer. And that’s just fine, because I’ve graduated to a new camera recently and want to avoid finding smears of olive oil or hardened icing on the zoom ring or shutter button.
Another reason I neglect to post particular recipes is because there was no recipe to begin with, often the case more than not these days. But I’ve grown accustomed to thinking a recipe is expected — one that can be prepared if someone would like to, and hopefully shared with friends. Yet I think, what makes this combination of ingredients special if I’ve just put them together myself, and have been most likely influenced by years of reading recipes? Such a dilemma and a perfect excuse not to write anything.
Finally, a good meal is just that sometimes. A good meal. It doesn’t involve notes, or directions, or anything like that. A glass of wine is poured, ingredients are selected based on what we love to eat and what flavors I’ve learned work best together after years of trial and error. This was one of those occasions.
I look at what I’ve gathered on the counter in my quiet kitchen as the last bit of sunlight fades outside and watch the clock, timing the arrival of the text that will say my husband is on the way home. I know this night marks the end of dinners prepared after dark and eaten late in the evening, and the beginning of a welcomed time where maybe, just maybe, we can prepare dinner together again for a while.
He’s just finished another busy season — his 27th — and so I wanted to find a quiet way to say congrats. A satisfying meal — just the two of us in the dim light of our family room — he in his chair, and I in my corner of the sofa. We’d talk a bit about what we’d like to watch on television while enjoying our dinner and then settle in for the evening, enjoying our meal and talking about the day.
I know. We sound like old farts. You try having an interesting dinner ready as late as 9:00 pm for months on end, and then we’ll talk.
We’ll be celebrating in grand style in less than a month, so we can wait. Paris! Munich and the Bavarian Alps! In the meantime, try this lovely meal. It reminds me of a Beef Wellington I made years ago — minus the crust. He loved every single bite of it just like this and so did I.
One photo, no steps, but an approximation of a recipe just for you.
- 2- 4 oz. beef filets
- 1 sweet onion, sliced
- ¼ c. Madiera
- 1-2 T cream
- 1 pkg. mixed baby greens (kale & spinach)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3-4 baby Portobello mushrooms, finely chopped
- 5 T olive oil, divided
- 2 oz. crumbled blue cheese
- salt & pepper to taste
- Take the beef from the fridge and salt & pepper both sides liberally. Allow to stand at room temperature while preparing the onions.
- In a large skillet, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the sliced onions and briefly stir over medium low heat to coat. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and allow to cook, stirring occasionally until glossy and a rich caramel color.
- While the onions are cooking, prepare the mushrooms by adding 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to a skillet.
- Add the mushrooms and stir to spread in the pan.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release their liquid.
- Add the garlic and stir in.
- Allow to cook, stirring until the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms begin to brown.
- Season with salt and pepper and add the Madiera, stirring to incorporate.
- Lower heat and cook gently until the liquid evaporates.
- Stir the cream into the mushrooms, allow to warm briefly, then remove from heat.
- To prepare the greens, steam for 3-5 minutes in a basket or strainer over simmering water, tossing from time to time until wilted.
- To prepare the beef, heat a skillet over medium high heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Using tongs, sear the sides of each filet before laying in the skillet to cook.
- Allow the filets to remain on one side to thoroughly brown before turning with the tongs (you'll know they're ready to turn when easily released from the skillet).
- To test for doneness this video from Epicurious is quick and easy to follow.
- To plate the dish, make a bed of the steamed greens on the center of the dish.
- Follow with the onions, then the mushrooms, and place a filet on top.
- Finish with a sprinkle of blue cheese.
- I know. I said I didn’t use a recipe — and I didn’t. But I’ve written down what I did to create this meal. Is it exactly as I made it? No. But before you begin to worry, don’t. This is a “recipe” that using a little of this and a little of that — meaning your own flair — will come out just fine.
- On the beef: use the cut of beef you enjoy most. It’s completely worth it to splurge for filet, or what is often referred to as filet mignon, which is essentially sliced beef tenderloin. It’s the most tender cut of beef there is, so it’s a treat at $13.99/lb. at my market. You’d pay about $40 a plate for this at a restaurant so I think it’s one of the best bargains on the planet.
- I always let a good cut of beef sit out to warm up a bit before cooking. And for this recipe I used quite a bit of freshly cracked pepper to coat both sides. Not quite au poivre, but close! If you’re not a big black pepper fan, then a little sprinkle will do.
- On the greens, I always seem to have them in the fridge, whether all kale, all spinach, a mixture of super greens, it’s no matter. They cook down very quickly if they’re “baby greens” because they’re so tender, and when they’re steamed, it’s just a matter of settling them over that steaming pan of water. One small package of greens — about 8 loosely packed cups will work and if you have left overs, they’re easy to keep in the fridge and add to a pasta dish, on flatbread, omelets, risotto — or just eat them plain. They’re great with a bit of fresh lemon squeezed over and a sprinkle of dried red pepper.
- The mushrooms can be any kind of mushroom you like. And you don’t have to chop them. You can saute them sliced like I usually do, but I wanted to make sure they were small and cooked quickly.
- If you don’t have Madiera (it’s heavenly with mushrooms!) then try some Marsala, or white wine. And if you don’t like using alcohol, then use a bit of veggie broth. The idea is to get some of that nice flavor from the pan after browning the mushrooms. My quantities are approximations in the recipe above. I literally just splash the wine into the pan, it sizzles, I stir, it evaporates. The little bit of cream added isn’t necessary but it’s a nice compliment and I don’t over do it because it’s not about the cream.
- I’ve been cooking steak since I was a kid. My mother used to buy chuck steaks and they’re a far cry from beef tenderloin, but they are tasty. All in all, cooking any steak can be a challenge until you get used to telling how done it is without stabbing it with a fork or slicking into it with a knife. Practice makes perfect and I added the link in the recipe as an easy way to find out what works best for you. My method is a bit different using the skin on the top side of my hand, but the idea is to try a method and then use it routinely.
- My husband loves a good blue cheese and this classic combination of flavors is one of his favorite. His favorite burger is one that combines these flavors (minus the greens). He likes a nice Cobb Style Steak Salad with lots of blue cheese as well. And recently, I used the combination in a flatbread I’ll share soon. If you haven’t tried the combo, give it a shot. It’s truly delicious.
- Think about where this began — a meal to treat a tired guy to some comfort food took less time to prepare than writing this. Reference why I decide what to post — or not.