Monday, February 24, 2014

A Great Steak Dinner

There is a restaurant in Tampa, Florida, called Bern’s Steak House, which used to be famous for  having the greatest wine cellar in Florida.  That might very well have been true as this was the late 60’s, and America had not yet gotten into its wine-crazy days.  Anyway, the first time I was taken there (since it was also famous for its dry aged steaks), I saw that they had steak with pasta for a side dish.  I had never heard of that, but I can only tell you that it is a wonderful combination.  

The wine cellar at Bern's Stakehouse

Even though decades have passed,  I still love a good steak accompanied by a yummy pasta salad. Here in Palm Beach spring has already arrived (yesterday was in the 80’s), and that brings thoughts (to me at least) of summer barbeques.  If you are not lucky enough to be in South Florida, you can still practice with this meal, one of my very favourites.


Now, there are certain things you MUST have to make this dish:
1. A gas broiler or salamander—if not, wait for those barbeques
2. A  really good, very sharp knife—it needs to be heavy at the spine and razor sharp in order to chop tomatoes
3. A really good pepper grinder such as a Peugeot

STEAK for two
Ingredients:  a very good strip steak, large and at least 1 ½” thick—I like the grass-fed
Steaks from Whole Foods.  This steak should weight at least a pound
A red chili-pepper infused olive oil such as Pepperolio from Colavita
A good steak seasoning such as Whole Foods own or McCormick Montreal Steak
Fresh new black peppercorns (I keep mine in the freezer)
2 really good medium sized tomatoes—ours come from the Everglades area now, and are quitegood—tomatoes must be good for this dish or omit them
A nice sized handful of fresh basil--I grow my own herbs 
A smallish half-handful of fresh Italian parsley
Olive oil
Freshly chopped good aged Reggiano Parmigiana

At least an hour before broiler pour the tiniest bit of the Pepperolio on the steak and rub it around so that the entire steak is covered, including the fat.  Then sprinkle liberally with the Steak Seasoning—depending on the size of your steak) and give it at least 10 twists of the pepper grinder.  Let it sit on its broiling pan—if you want to cover it lightly, please do, but don’t let the covering touch it or it might remove some of the seasoning.

20 minutes before serving, bring a pot of water to a high boil.  Salt it and add ½ bag of a good pasta—any shape, and bring back to a boil giving it a stirring if it seems stuck together.  Cook according to suggested time on pasta bag.

While water is boiling, chop finely the herbs with your good knife.  Slide to one side of cutting board.  Coarsly chop the two tomatoes by slicing them first and then chopping.  Do not remove the skins which should be tender if the tomatoes are good.  Slide to the side of the board.  Coarsly chop the Reggiano.  Slide to the side of the board.

Turn broiler on high and with rack quite close to the flame.  When it is at full flame, put steak under the fire and broil quickly, getting to a charry crust in places on the surface of the steak, and turning it once only.  Should cook in about 10-11 minutes for charry outside, then pink, then red in the very middle.  Take out of flame and put on cutting board to rest.

Drain pasta quickly.  While draining, coat the bottom of the pasta pot with a thin layer of good olive oil.  Turn heat to low and add back the pasta and any little bit of water that remains.  Add quickly the chopped tomato, herb, cheese mixture, stir in.

Slice the steak thinly and serve along with the pasta.  This is a great meal which can be made very, very quickly.  In fact, it must.  That’s why the practicing is good.

I don’t serve anything with this for just Ridgely and me, but if you had people over, and had double the recipes or more, you could have a good crusty bread to mop up the steak juice.  Yummy.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Miracle Products #1

Every now and then, I run across something so good that I yearn to use it –right then.  And this is one of them:

Last summer I was working on my plans for the Hillsboro Club (such a sweet place ((people-wise)) and yet so hip and old-fashioned at the same time) and I was trying to solve the problems of a place that gets tremendous use in certain areas.

In my scheme for the Ocean Dining Room, which opens to the outside decks and the sea, itself, I wanted to keep the look of a wooden floor and yet have something that would be impervious to sandy feet.  I also wanted to keep the old-fashioned look of the club and have furniture that was both practical and comfortable and, of course, great looking.  The picture at the top is the feeling I wanted.  But most wood-looking products are just awful!

So I called my friend, Bill Proctor, who is the manager for Paris Ceramics here in Palm Beach and told him about what I wanted—a stone that looked like wood.  He, as always, said he would look into it.  (I moved away from Paris Ceramics a few years ago, because I didn’t really like their “attitude” about decorators, but after getting to know Bill, whom I absolutely adore and who is the most decorator-friendly person I have almost ever met,  I am back in their camp.)  I first started working with Paris Ceramics back in the 80’s when, under the management of London-based Steve Charles, they brought over from France a whole house of 18th century limestone for me, but I have to tell you that if I spend many a day, including Saturdays, working on a floor or any product, and then the company sells it to my client wholesale behind my back, that company is muerto to me.  By the way, that was not done under Steve Charles.)  At any rate, Bill Proctor makes everything easy and fun—his enthusiasm is infectious and keeps the client happy and happy to be involved.

Time passed, and meanwhile, I was working on another project where I needed a floor like this.  Bill Proctor showed me a ceramic tile from Spain which I would defy you to know is not wood. 

And to top it off, Paris Ceramics has the wooden floor to go with it, which, on this second project, I hopefully will use for the stair treads on the staircase rising out of the tile floor, and then also, as the wooden floor on the second story.

I am so excited about this, I had to show it to all of my readers.  And FYI, I thought you might want to see the chairs I am going to use with it—the ones in the first picture above.  They are from Janus et Cie and they are called the Arbor Dining Arm Chairs.  The beauty of them is that they are practical (they are made on an electrostatically coated aluminum frames, and the wicker is actually Janusfibre, which is a resin outdoor fibre.  I will be using them in the colour you see below which is called seashell.

I am such a Luddite that I usually hate the new products, but when something is as good or better than the original, I have to go with it.  As in both of these cases.