I still cannot believe that the Academy didn’t ask us to cater dinner last night. We would have had to decline due to our jam-packed schedule, but still it would have been nice if they had asked just the same. Our savory steak dinner with crisp vegetables would have impressed even Hollywood’s A list, but it’s affordability must have taken us out of the running for sure. If the Food and Beverage department at the Dolby Theater had served minuscule amounts of this dish in clear plastic cups with tiny gold forks, it would have stolen the show. It could have been a passed hors d’oeuvres that tuxedod wait staff handed to stars as they navigated the red carpet. It might have also acted as an exit strategy for a few folks looking to avoid Ryan Seacrest, but let’s not ruin this friendly meal with politics. You can fit this recipe into just about any event. It’s impressive despite its simplicity, and if meat is not your thing, stick around for the vegetables. They’re not just a supporting role.
As we wrap up our three-part series of dinner alternatives to chicken and pasta, I wanted to end with something a little upscale, but I was committed to keeping it affordable. So, I took a very low-cost angus bottom round steak and dressed it up for an award-winning dinner. It also had to be quick and easy to make. No braising. No overnight marinade. We’re busy. You’re busy. You have award shows and reality TV to keep up with. I wanted a meal that you could whip up on a week night, straight from a post-work trip to the grocery store. The point of this series was to put a few go-to recipes in your repertoire that you can put together easily instead of cooking the same old thing on auto-pilot. This was not the time for overly ambitious cooking. That said, we really believe that the simplest ingredients and methods make the best meals anyway.
I must confess that for years I was too intimidated to make steak. I was even intimidated to order it. It was high priced and served in expensive restaurants and the last thing I wanted to do was either screw it up at home or splurge on it while dining out. For the longest time I wasn’t particularly interested in it. I didn’t really see the appeal. Luckily my dad loved steak. He made it on the grill, under the broiler or even on the stove top. He made the process of cooking steak look like both an art and a science which probably only added to my hesitation.
The first time I attempted this elusive meat at home was after I received two Omaha steaks as a holiday gift from a client. I worked in the Legal department of a bank at the time so holiday gift swag was pretty good. Deterred by inexperience, the frozen blocks of red meat remained untouched in my glove compartment sized freezer for months before I dared to consider them as a dinner option. I decided to start with one and if I ruined it, no one had to know about it. Pasta was my back up plan of course. I made that first steak in the teeny tiny kitchen of my first studio apartment here in the city and since the broiler of my oven didn’t work (naturally), I used my toaster oven. Against all odds, it was a smashing success. Brown and slightly crisp on the outside. Red and juicy on the inside. I wouldn’t be surprised if I began speaking into the kitchen tongs, thanking the Academy and my dad for their support. Fueled by this success I waited for my parents to visit before I attempted the second steak. I was especially ready to impress my dad. The results were mediocre at best, but it didn’t deter me. Everyone knows that sequels are rarely any good. My parents gave me a standing ovation anyway and we still had a really enjoyable meal.
Today my kitchen is not much bigger than it was back then, but my confidence and curiosity have grown exponentially. All it took was that first try. Whether you’re a pro or trying to cook steak for the very first time, this meal is a great option. Sliced against the grain and dressed in olive oil with a squeeze of lime juice and salt and pepper (cayenne if your game) you get all the flavor and satisfaction of a full steak without the price tag or fuss. It’s a good way to switch things up if you’ve only ever cooked whole pieces of higher end cuts. It’s also a good starting point if you’re a beginner. Also, everything goes with steak so the side dish possibilities are endless. We chose an ensemble cast of portobello mushrooms, snow peas and onions. Although we cooked it in batches everything was finished in one skillet. We started with the vegetables and removed them from the skillet just before they began to soften and set them aside. We added the sliced steak to the same pan already seasoned by the vegetable medley and sautéed it for just a few minutes before adding back the vegetables. After a turn or two the whole meal was complete and removed from the heat. The seasonings were simple but flavorful and the cook time was short. We used a cast iron skillet which reduces the cook time because it retains heat so well. Even if you do not use cast iron like we did, this is a fast meal. We’ll walk you through the process here with the complete recipe.
Try it out and then take a bow when the applause start. Just remember to keep your acceptance speech short.