Monday, February 25, 2008

Recipe: Romance (via Rib of Beef)

Recipe: A Romantic Dinner for Two

A Highly-Belated Valentine's Day Post

Tiffany has far outpaced me with her posting lately, but today I hope to make up for it. So, here we go.

I made this for my lovely co-blogger (and so much more) on February 14th. She loved it. But Valentine's day was more than a week ago, so this post about a "Valentine's day dinner for two" is really more of a "romantic weeknight dinner for two that you can do any time you want because Valentine's day is kind of a madeup Hallmark holiday anyway". So here's a recipe to knock YOUR lover's pretty silk stockings right off!

The Audience:

The Menu:
Roast rib of beef au jus, with Tuscan kale and mixed mash. The idea here is simple elegance, hold the William-Sonoma bullshit. I think a beautiful piece of meat served with elegant comfort-food sides is the way to go and the rib is the perfect size for a modestly carnivorous couple. Also, a good cook can turn a rib of beef into a heady amuse-bouche for other pleasures of the flesh... That recipe follows. Instructions for the kale and mixed mash can be found here and here. And to give credit where it's due, the trick with the mortar and pestle is from Jamie Oliver's new book and much of the spirit is from Anthony Bourdain's slightly-older volume.

Main stuff:

One rib of beef. (Also called a "Cote de Boeuf" in France and sometimes "Cowboy Steak" in America.) This two-pound monster is going to be the star of your little seduction, so treat it right. Find solid butcher that sells serious organic beef. This is a person you love, so stay away from the shrink wrap. I'll get seriously into meat in a separate, and probably very long post later, but this time just trust me. If you happen to be in San Francisco (I suspect that most of my readers right now are people I know personally, so you probably are) this place , or this place should do. Oh, and be prepared for sticker shock. At $15 (or more) per pound, these things are more "gourmet" than "guerilla", but this is someone you love, so eat lentils for a week or something. (We'll make up for the splurge by treating it simply and by saving on the rest of the menu.)

A knock-out bottle of red wine. Much like the beef, this is going to be a star, so don't hold back. I would take Anthony Bourdain's advice here and serve something staggeringly expensive in cheap glasses, followed up with a chaser of casual impertinence.


One horseradish root. If you can't find one (I must sheepishly admit that I couldn't) the nosebleed-strength Kosher Beaver stuff will do.
Zest of one lemon.
A couple of sprigs of thyme.
A clove or two of garlic, minced.
Salt and pepper
Olive oil.


Pull your beef out of the fridge a good half hour before it's going to hit the pan; that bad boy is chilled deep. And stay away from the meat mallet, you cretin; this is one night you shouldn't need to beat your meat. Also, pat it nice and dry and season liberally with salt and pepper, too, or you won't get the nice carmelized crust you're looking for. Bash up your lemon zest, garlic, olive oil and a few sprigs of thyme in a mortar with a pestle and rub down both sides of the steak, using the sprigs of thyme like a little mop. Like I said, let it sit for a half hour, while you preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

When the time is right, heat up your very best oven-proof non-stick pan (you do have one, right?) to medium-high and lay the beef in. There should be enough oil on the meat, so don't add any to the pan. Now leave it there for a full five minutes. Seriously, do not poke, push, prod, wiggle or jiggle anything or you'll ruin that infamous crust. In fact, put down your tongs (did I mention that you should be handling this with tongs rather than a fork), step away from the stove, open the wine to breathe and whisper a few sweet nothings in your lover's ear. After five minutes, then you can lift and peek. When the bottom of the steak AND the bottom of the pan are deep brown, flip the steak and leave it at least another five minutes. Put down your tongs and get some grated horseradish and cornichons in pretty little bowls. When both sides are browned, flip it back to the original side and pop in the center of the oven until done. I did mine 15 minutes for a nice medium-rare. The meat inside should be the deep pink of a blushing maiden (if it the garish red of cheap lipstick, give it another five minutes.)

Remove your star from the pan and allow to rest for ten minutes. Again, no poking, no prodding. Take this time to set the table (a single rose and a few candles make a lovely centerpiece). Put a little music on. Not Al Green, please. SO cliché. Madeleine Peyroux is much more elegant. After ten minutes (and only after ten minutes!) sharpen up up your biggest, baddest blade, and carve the rib into nice thick slices. Remove the flowers and candles from the table, and place the cutting board directly in the center. Accompany with the grated horseradish, cornichons, as well as the juices from the roasting pan AND cutting board.

And that's as far as I can take you!