Steak Sandwiches

_MG_6105Usually when I order a sandwich, I tend to go for something covered in cheese and with a salty-sweet component, or the classic ham & butter combo. But after having steak for dinner one night, we were faced with the dilemma of what to do with leftovers the next day: and what better way to use up leftover steak – admittedly, not a terrible problem to have – than make steak sandwiches? _MG_6106 We also happened to have leftover brussels sprouts slaw which I thought would provide a nice crunchy contrast to the juicy steak. But the real star of the sandwich is the garlickly, tangy aioli – a perfect foil to the crunchy bread and succulent meat. Serve with chips and pickles for an easy dinner or picnic lunch (is it feeling like spring anywhere else? Everyone in NYC is delirious with happiness that it's finally more than 40 degrees)._MG_6112

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Steak Sandwiches (serves 2-3)

1 steak (cut of your choice), cooked medium-rare and cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/2 baguette, cut into 2 pieces and sliced in half lenghtwise

Slaw (I used this one with brussels sprouts, but you could also use something like this)

For aoili:

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons whole grain dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

If your steak isn't already cooked, heat a cast-iron pan over high heat until searing hot, about 5 minutes. Preheat broiler. Add 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil and heat until smoking, then add steak (well-seasoned with salt) to pan. Cook until there is a nice crust on one side, about 5 minutes. Don't touch it before that. Flip steak, then add 2 tablespoons butter on cooked side. Place steak under broiler, and cook until medium-rare, 5 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes in pan, then thinly slice.

Meanwhile, toast bread. Slather aioli on both sides of bread, then place slices of steak on sandwich and top with a generous helping of slaw. Serve immediately.

 

Braised Short Ribs and Polenta

_MG_4109I've been feeling in a bit of a food rut lately. Much as I love sesame noodles, Thai takeout, and Christmas cookies, I was getting kind of bored. Cooking has always been enjoyable for me, but recently I was feeling uninspired and sluggish, reluctant to post anything here because I didn't have anything good to post. Last weekend, however, I decided things needed to change. Freed from  the flurry of holiday parties and December business, January seemed like a good opportunity to start fresh and get back into cooking -- real cooking, not just throwing on some pasta when I get home from work like I'm tempted to do most nights. _MG_4084While it's still cold, I want to make more hearty soups, more winter salads, more creative and inexpensive meals. I want to make pickles and take more time to read and play games, and watch less TV (even though this is the supposed Golden Age of television -- and it's easy to believe with Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Mad Men -- I could go on). I want to enjoy my beautiful new-ish neighborhood more, and make the most of these winter daylight hours. _MG_4089Inadvertently, this has become a bit of a resolution post, and I was never a big one for resolutions. Any resolutions to exercise more or eat healthier usually don't seem to last very long, but these I think I can do. And so, I'll begin this year with a simple (but very impressive) recipe for the perfect winter comfort food: braised short ribs that melt in your mouth, and the creamiest polenta with just the right amount of salt. We enjoyed with a cabernet sauvignon, some candles, and a kale salad (have to try to be somewhat healthy at least), and A. told me it was his favorite one yet._MG_4100 _MG_4104

Braised Short Ribs (Adapted from the Bon Appétit Cookbook, serves 2-4)

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon ground black pepper 2 to 3 pounds meaty short ribs 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped 1 medium carrot, peeled, chopped

6 oz button mushrooms, thinly sliced 3 large garlic cloves, minced 1 1/2 ounces prosciutto , finely chopped 1 cup dry red wine 2 cups chicken broth 1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon (1/4 stick) butter, room temperature 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs from crustless day-old French bread 1/8 cup (about) whole-grain Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix 1 teaspoon thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper in small bowl. Rub herb mixture all over short ribs. Heat oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add ribs to pot and cook until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer ribs to bowl.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, carrot, mushrooms,  garlic, and prosciutto to pot; sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add wine and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pot. Add broth, bay leaf, and remaining 1 teaspoon thyme to pot. Return ribs to pot, meat side down; bring to boil. Cover pot tightly; transfer to oven and bake until ribs are very tender, about 1 hour 45 minutes. Remove from oven. (Short ribs can be braised 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm slightly over medium heat before continuing.)

Preheat oven to 450°F. Transfer ribs to large roasting pan, bone side down. Remove 1/4 cup mushrooms from pot and finely chop. Place in medium bowl. Add butter and mix with fork to blend. Mix in breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Spread 1 teaspoon mustard over top of each rib. Spread breadcrumb mixture over top of each rib, pressing to adhere. Bake until topping is crisp and golden, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, spoon off any fat from top of sauce in pot and discard. Boil sauce until slightly thickened and reduced to generous 2 cups, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon polenta into bowls. Top with short ribs. Spoon sauce over and serve.

Creamiest Polenta (Adapted from Tyler's Ultimate)

2 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup milk

3/4 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature

Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring milk and chicken stock to simmer over medium heat in a saucepan. Add polenta and slowly whisk in. Reduce heat to low, and continue to cook until fully absorbed, 15-20 minutes, whisking often to prevent lumps. Remove pan from heat and stir in butter, cheese, and salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

Though I studied abroad in Bologna almost three years ago, sometimes it still feels like it's only been a few months. My favorite part of the whole experience was the cooking lessons we were lucky enough to take with Rita, an amazing woman who runs two restaurants in Sardinia and her own cooking school in Bologna. Every meal we made with her consisted of several courses, lots of wine, and wonderful conversation. I still remember learning how to debone a fish (she made it look effortless; it was in fact very difficult), create handmade pasta, and deep-fry artichokes. However, the recipe that sticks in my mind (particularly on cold January nights) is her tagliatelle all bolognese. In Italy, every grandmother has her own bolognese recipe, and each of them will insist that it's the best. This one is my favorite because it was the first I ever had. Rita told us that you know that a bolognese is done when no one flavor overpowers the others, and I think that this one creates a perfect harmony of creamy tomato, salty pancetta, and hearty beef. Also, if you ever see a recipe that instructs you to use spaghetti or fettucine, don't listen to them . True Bolognese know that the only way to serve their namesake sauce is with tagliatelle.

Rita's Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

1 lb tagliatelle (good quality dried noodles or handmade fresh pasta is best)

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 lb ground beef

2 oz pancetta or prosciutto, roughly chopped

1/4 white onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 rib celery, finely chopped

1 clove garlic

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup red wine

10 oz tomato sauce

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/3 cup beef or vegetable broth

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook the vegetables until soft, five to seven minutes. Crush the garlic with the side of your knife, leaving the skin on. Add the garlic and bay leaf to the pan and cook for one minute. Add the pancetta or prosciutto and cook until soft, two to three minutes. Increase the heat to medium and add the ground beef and brown, about five minutes. Pour in the wine and cook until it reduces slightly, then remove the garlic clove and the bay leaf and discard. Add the tomato sauce and paste, broth, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, covered, for an hour and a half or until all of the flavors have melded together.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the directions. Toss with ragù and serve with freshly grated parmigianno reggiano.