For a special occasion, your best friend, sweetheart or spouse deserves the finest dinner you can produce. For many people, that means the simple luxury of steak and potatoes. Instead of going to a crowded restaurant, you can easily pull off this meal at home — and use the money you save by splurging on an expensive, top-quality cut like rib-eye or tenderloin or strip steak.
Of the three choices, I prefer the rib-eye. It makes the most succulent steak, richly marbled and very tasty. (In France, this cut is called côte de boeuf, and considered very special.)
Not to dismiss the milder tenderloin, sliced into filets mignon, but to me those are best pan-fried in butter with a lot of pepper. They are delicious, but not as meaty. Strip loin, or New York strip steak, can be quite lean and thus a bit chewy, but some swear by it. I find it makes a good roast beef, cooked whole.
But we digress. Assuming you’re going for a high-end steak, you’ll want to stop in a real butcher shop if you can. Or, order from a source you trust. It will cost you, but will still be cheaper than dinner out for two. Rather than buying two pieces for two people, get one large steak, about two inches thick. It will produce juicier, more flavorful meat. Cover it with generous dashes of salt and pepper, a little sliced garlic and some roughly chopped rosemary, then leave it for a while to absorb the seasonings. (You’ll remove the garlic before cooking, as it would burn immediately in the hot skillet.)
Start the steak in a scorching hot cast-iron pan on the stovetop, to brown one side well. Flip, then proceed by popping the pan in a hot oven to roast until done in the center and the interior reaches 120 degrees, usually 8 to 10 minutes. Let it rest 10 minutes or so before slicing into wide strips, across the grain. The residual heat will get the steak’s interior to medium-rare.
My favorite simple potato dish right now is made by boiling the tiny ones called pee-wee (even smaller than baby potatoes) in heavily salted water and tossing them with butter, garlic, parsley and lemon zest. They take but 10 minutes to cook and are fragrant and delicious, with extra potato flavor from the skins. You might substitute your own preferred potato, of course: mashed, baked or otherwise.
I’m suggesting this for a Valentine’s Day dinner à deux. (Throughout the year, however, at my house, we just call it “Steak Night,” and consider it an occasional, no-occasion indulgence.) The fact that it’s dead easy to make doesn’t diminish its appeal, and sometimes it is the perfect solution on a night when you’re not inclined to embark on a kitchen project.
Steak and potatoes is great for any last minute celebration and quick to prepare. Just open a great bottle of wine. It’s a simple, no-fuss dinner, yet very special.
And to Drink …
A fine steak calls for an equally fine red wine, ideally with structure and intensity, yet without leaving the impression of fruity sweetness. California cabernet or Bordeaux are excellent choices, especially those wines of the traditional school that have savory depth rather than upfront sweet fruit. But other bottles can be equally good. A great sangiovese wine, like a Chianti Classico or a Brunello di Montalcino, is wonderful with steak. So is a deep, rich syrah, like a Cornas or Hermitage. Honestly, you won’t go wrong with just about any red, but if you are investing in a top-flight steak, why not complete the experience with a wine of comparable style and quality? ERIC ASIMOV
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