|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 Balsamic Soy Marinade for Steak
Makes enough marinade for 1- 2 ½ lb boneless sirloin steak. Double or even triple depending on how much steak you have.
2 large shallots or several small, in small dice
2 garlic cloves, chopped
¼ cup Dark Brown Sugar
¼ cup Soy Sauce
1/3 cup Balsamic Vinegar
Chop shallots and garlic and set aside.
Dissolve brown sugar in soy/balsamic mixture.
Add chopped shallots and garlic. Put beef in Zip-Loc bag.
Add marinade and seal bag. Refrigerate a minimum of 2 hours
Or overnight, turning bag over occasionally. Grill steak. Serve.
Recipe for Sirloin Beef Sliders adapted from Elle A Cooking @ Home
¼ cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley
1 garlic clove, peeled and degermed
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1/2 ounce)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 pound ground sirloin
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, add the parsley, garlic and Parmigiano Reggiano. Pulse until finely chopped.
Add the mixture to the ground sirloin. Add the tomato paste and salt and pepper. Blend all ingredients together gently. Form into 12 small patties about 12 inch thick. Grill on pre-heated grill pan to desired degree of doneness. Serve on mini hamburger buns.
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.
Recipe for Mushroom Ragu.
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup chopped shallots (about 4 shallots)
2 garlic cloves, minced
16 ounces of Shitake mushrooms, trimmed of their stems
or any combination of wild mushrooms
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup dry white wine
¾ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cup grated Fontina cheese
1/3 cup freshly grated Reggiano Parmigiano
Heat the oil in the largest skillet you have over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until the shallots are translucent and the garlic is just starting to brown, 3 to 4 minutes.
Increase the heat to medium-high and add the mushrooms, a little at a time, adding more as they cook down and start to shrink. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and keep stirring until the mushrooms begin to brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
Then deglaze the skillet with the white wine, and cook until the liquid has reduced to a few glossy tablespoons, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the cream, rosemary, and lemon zest. Remove the skillet from the heat, mix in both cheeses, and taste again for salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or refrigerate the mushroom ragù for a few days and reheat it over a gentle flame with a touch of broth or cream.
Recipe for Caprese Salad:
We love making this with a nice big boule of Buratta cheese in the center of the platter. You can, of course, use conventional fresh mozzarella cheese cut into ¼ inch slices. But if you can find Buratta, do use it for a creamy rich intensity.
3 vine-ripe tomatoes, 1/4-inch thick slices
1 pound fresh buratta cheese.
20 to 30 leaves (about 1 bunch) fresh basil
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Coarse salt and pepper
Artfully arrange the tomato slices around the outside of a large platter.
Make a ‘chiffonade’ of basil by taking five or six leaves and placing them on top of each other. Then roll the basil leaves and cut them into 1/8 inch strips. Sprinkle those over the tomatoes. Intersperse some basil buds around the tomatoes. Put the Buratta in the center of the platter. Salt and pepper the tomatoes and drizzle them with the olive oil. Serve.
Recipe for Strawberry Cupcakes from Martha Stewart
For the Cupcakes:
2 ¾ cups all purpose flour
½ cup cake flour, not self rising
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened.
2 ¼ cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg white
1 cup whole milk
1 ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cups finely chopped strawberries
For the Strawberry Buttercream:
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, pureed
To make the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Reduce speed to low. Mix any remaining wet ingredients in a bowl if needed. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with wet ingredients and ending with dry. Scrape sides of bowl. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.
Bake cupcakes until testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cook in tins on wire racks. Cupcakes will keep, covered, for up to 3 days.
To make the Buttercream:
Place whites and sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Remove from heat and attach bowl to a mixer. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and whisk until stiff glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, and add butter, one piece at a time, whisking well after each addition.
Switch to paddle attachment. With mixer on low, add strawberry puree, and beat until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.