This time of year, food blogs are full of recipes for the grill. And who can blame them? Grilling food on a summer’s evening is one of the season’s true pleasures. Plus, meat and vegetables are delicious when grilled and clean-up is a snap. Like many of our friends and neighbors, we usually fire up our big Weber gas grill the minute the mercury rises above 60. Some people, like my friend Chef Druck, take outdoor cooking to another level; see her post about the pig roast she hosted over Memorial Day weekend.
This summer, however, our grilling plans have fallen victim to a busted grill ignition. I gather that one can light our grill manually, but as my husband put it, we’re not very good with matches. Neither one of us were into scouting as kids. So, I’m still cooking inside. Of course, we still want to eat summertime food; we just aren’t cooking it the classic summertime way. This weekend, I picked up some delicious local and seasonal foods from my beloved Oak Park Farmers’ Market and put together a summer menu that was cooked indoors but eaten outdoors. So if you have a broken grill, or no grill at all, you can still enjoy the flavors of early summer.
The No-Grill June Menu:
Pan-seared rib-eye steaks with Port wine reduction sauce
Roasted fingerling potatoes
Steamed asparagus with lemon butter
Roasted fingerling potatoes: one stand at the farmers’ market had heirloom potatoes for sale this week. I suspect that these potatoes are left over from last year, but I didn’t ask. Nevertheless, I found them to be firm to the touch and ready for eating. I picked Russian Banana potatoes, which are oblong in shape and have a waxy yellow flesh. To roast these beauties, wash them well and drain them. Once the taters are dry, cut them into halves or quarters, depending on the size. Toss them with olive oil and lots of salt and pepper in a baking dish that is large enough to accommodate the pieces in a single layer. Roast for approximately one hour, tossing occasionally, until crispy outside and tender inside.
Pan-seared ribeye steaks with port wine reduction sauce:
For years I was wary of cooking steak inside. I was afraid of overcooking it, or undercooking it, or setting off my smoke alarm. I could roast a beef tenderloin, which is a pricey piece of meat for everyday, or broil a flank steak, but that was about it. But recently, I have learned the technique of pan-searing thinner cuts of meat on the stove and then deglazing the pan to create a delicious sauce. The results taste as good as what you would get in a French bistro, and it’s a pretty easy technique to master. This method is adapted from Mark Bittman’s must-have tome, How to Cook Everything. First, make sure that your rib-eyes (or tenderloin if you’re feeling flush) are not too thick. I like them to be 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch, not more. (I actually got my butcher to slice one thick ribeye in half lengthwise, which also saved me a few bucks.) Sprinkle the meat liberally with coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper. Heat a large skillet over a medium flame for a few minutes and preheat the oven to 200. Add several TB of butter to the hot skillet and when the foam subsides, which simply means that the water in it is evaporating, turn the heat up to medium-high and place the steaks in the skillet, without overcrowding them. (You may want to turn on your stove fan at this point. It gets smoky.) Sear the steaks without moving them for 3 minutes and then turn them and sear for another three minutes. Remove the steaks to an oven-safe platter and place the platter in the warm oven. (The steaks will continue to cook.) Add a little more fat to the skillet if necessary and then add a few TB of chopped scallion, shallots or onion. Stir the aromatics for a minute until softened. Then add 3/4 cup of Port or red wine to the skillet, scraping the bottom to loosen any brown bits. (This is what is meant by deglazing.) If you like, you can add a pinch of dried tarragon to your sauce. Let the sauce boil for a few minutes until thickened and syrupy. Remove the platter with the steaks from the oven and pour any accumulated juices from the platter into the skillet. To serve, simply pour the sauce over the steaks on the platter. Your family will love it. And you will be so impressed with yourself. Who needs a grill?
Steamed asparagus with lemon butter: This is THE time of year for asparagus. I bought seven pounds of them at the farmers’ market on Saturday. Most of those seven pounds became five pints of pickled asparagus (yum!), but I saved a few bunches for eating. Asparagus is a vegetable you should be able to get your kids to eat, if only for stinky pee effect. (I had a friend Nick, who was from Stockton, CA, home of the California asparagus festival. Nick said you do NOT want to walk into the port-a-potties at the asparagus festival.) There are so many ways to cook asparagus. You can grill them, assuming your grill works, or roast them in a hot oven. Or cook them for a few minutes in salted, boiling water. Asparagus prepared this way can be served room temperature with a vinaigrette or hot with lemon butter, which is how Zuzu requested them on this occasion. If you don’t have a seven year old calling the shots, however, I think that, with this menu, cooking the asparagus in advance and serving them cold or room temp with a nice vinaigrette would make your life easier since you will be preparing the steak right before eating.
Finish your meal with a fun, early summertime dessert, like strawberry-rhubarb cobbler, or just serve popsicles on the deck! No need to worry about the grill being hot.