If I can cook it, you can cook it And I'll travel the world to bring it back home to you.

Balsamic & Soy Glazed Steaks, Chicken and Beef Sliders, Shitake Mushroom Ragu, Caprese Salad and Strawberry Cupcakes–All in honor of our Birthday Girl!

Andrew and the Birthday Girl
Last week was the 12th birthday of our godchild, Olivia.  Now since Andrew and I saw her within her first hours here on earth, it’s sometimes unbelievable that all those 12 years have passed with the speed of summer lightening.  And that for all twelve of those birthdays we have celebrated with our own Birthday Party with her other two ‘Uncles’, Shawn and Terry.   This year was no exception except that this year we spent a whole weekend celebrating because Olivia and her parents stayed with us.  If the title of this post terrifies you for its size, this issue of Chewing the Fat is really an amalgamation of several delicious meals we had last weekend.  The food was wonderful and Olivia got to bake alongside her Uncle Andrew to produce delicious Martha Stewart-inspired Strawberry Cupcakes.  
Let’s start with the meat of the celebration:  We started out Friday night with a family favorite.  I have no clue why we haven’t published this before; Our Balsamic Soy Glazed Steaks are a regular feature of our summer menus.  What this glaze does for steak is wonderful:  You get a caramelized coating  which is beautifully charred. In fact, the first time Uncles Shawn and Terry tried this on their own, they were pretty well convinced that what lay beneath the char would be inedible.  Au contraire mes frères, what you get is steak house steak—a great crusty piece of meat with a slight sweetness to it and underneath wonderfully medium rare beef cooked to perfection.  This is a particularly good on less expensive cuts like London Broil.  Last weekend we used New York Strip Steaks and they were excellent.
Our second meat encounter of the weekend centered on our Pool Party on Saturday afternoon.   For that event, we made lots and lots of sliders.  Our chicken version has appeared here before.  They have a Vietnamese pedigree thanks to a woman named Jennifer Joyce who introduced them to us as meatballs in her cookbook  “Small Bites” (DK Publishing 2005).  We made them into sliders this go round.  We teamed the chicken with a beef version, a recipe we adapted from one created by Elle A Cooking @ Home, a Los Angeles cooking school (323.863.5532 or visit their website at www.elleacooking.com.)  These were delicious with or without cheese, with or without bacon.  
 
With our steaks, we gilded the lily with a Shitake Mushroon ragu that is sinfully creamy and features the fantastic mushrooms of our favorite mushroom man, David Falkowski.  David sell at all 8 Farmer’s Markets out here. We’re fortunate enough to live close to his own farm stand which is on Butter Lane in Bridgehampton.  But you can make this dish with any exotic mushrooms you can find—blue oysters, hen of woods, baby bellas—don’t let the lack of shitakes turn you away from this delicious side dish.  
Because there is no better time for tomatoes and no better place to find them than right here, we included a Caprese salad that is so pretty and so ridiculously easy to make, we can’t stop ourselves for adding to every menu we can. 
  
Finally, dessert.  Andrew and Olivia made gorgeous cupcakes both in Chocolate and Strawberry Flavors.  Now we all love chocolate but the stand out were the Strawberry from Martha’s ode to the Cupcake, “Cupcakes” (Clarkson Potter 2009) Both the cakes and the icing are strawberry through and through.  Unfortunately, we are in a celebratory mood and missed taking pictures of the process.  And my follow up pictures don’t do these cupcakes justice.  But trust me, they are well worth making and thank you Martha.  Here are the recipes:
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Recipe for Vietnamese Chicken Sliders:
 
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of visible fat and cut into
 
1 1/2-inch pieces
 
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
 
3 small shallots, finely chopped
 
3 garlic cloves, minced
 
1 stalk of fresh lemongrass, tender white inner bulb only, minced
 
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus 1/3 cup leaves for serving
 
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint, plus 1/3 cup leaves for serving
 
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
 
1/2  teaspoon kosher salt
 
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
 
1/2 cup granulated brown sugar
 
1 head Boston or red leaf lettuce, leaves separated
 
1 small seedless cucumber—peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
 
1 small red onion, halved and sliced
 
Asian chili sauce, for serving
 
Preheat the oven to 400°. Position a rack in the top third of the oven. In a food processor, pulse the chicken until coarsely ground; transfer to a bowl. Add the fish sauce, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, chopped cilantro and mint, cornstarch, salt and pepper and mix with your hands.
 
Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the sugar on a plate. Using slightly moistened hands, roll the chicken mixture into 1 1/2-patties. Roll the patties in the sugar until they are evenly coated. Transfer the patties to the prepared baking sheet and bake them for 15 minutes, until they are lightly browned and cooked through.
 


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