Monday, 11 May 2009

sirloin steak with wild mushroom sauce



this was undoubtedly the best steak we’ve ever cooked at home and the closest we’ve ever come to restaurant quality cooking. unfortunately, the pictures don’t do it justice at all. i really need to wait until the food has cooled down a little - everything i photograph is covered with the bluish-grey mist of the still-smoking plates.

the steak was so good that i ate it so quickly and immediately regretted not savouring it properly. but then i’ve never been a slow eater. i was relieved to be going out with someone equally greedy, otherwise finishing my plate first would have looked distinctly unladylike.

most of the credit for the success of this meal goes to r – i had very little to do with the meat part of it. this is the usual division of labour: r does the kind of cooking where the margin for error is very thin and where the difference between tasty and ruined is a matter of seconds. i do the frilly bits around the edges: the bits you could live without but which make food that little bit more interesting. 

the other reason for the success were the ingredients. the farmers’ market was a joy that morning: bundles of thin spears of green asparagus, purple butterhead lettuces opening like giant flowers, lipstick chard by the bagful with stalks that look like they’ve been dipped in fuchsia paint, punnets of sweet early strawberries, and piles of crisp, peppery radishes. it’s hard to resist spending money on this stuff and we buy so much that the fridge looks like a greenhouse. we also get a bag of mixed mushrooms from a man who looks like he spends a lot of time in the woods, mushrooms or no mushrooms, and a couple of grass-fed sirloin steaks.

the thing with cooking steak at home, especially a cut like sirloin that has a bit of fat on it, is that you need to get the pan really really hot. r’s trick is to turn the oven up as high as it will go and put the pan in there to heat up for ten minutes or so. he then heats it for another few minutes on the hob. the steaks get heavily seasoned (my blood pressure is so low i am practically dead – i can afford to go to town with the salt) and oiled before they hit the oil and butter. i think it’s this that gives them that savoury crust that contrast so beautifully with the pink, rare inside – my mouth is watering writing about it.

the mushrooms get as gentle a treatment as possible – they’re too nice to be mucked about with. we have some roast asparagus on the side, and a simply dressed green salad.

SIRLOIN STEAK WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE
for two

2 sirloin steaks
around 500g of wild mushrooms. any mushrooms will do, obviously, but try to get the more interesting varieties
a dash of brandy, probably no more than a tablespoon
100ml chicken stock (i used the liquid concentrate dissolved in boiling water)
2tbs creme fraiche (you could also use double cream and add a little squeeze of lemon juice at the end)
1tbs parsley, chopped finely
1tsp butter
olive oil
seasoning

get the pan really really hot. season the steaks and rub with a bit of olive oil. melt the butter together with some more oil until the pan is practically smoking, then add the steaks and cook for 3 minutes or so without disturbing them. turn, and cook for another minute and a half for medium rare.

take the meat out of the pan and leave to rest somewhere warm. don’t skip this bit – it does make a difference, and do warm the plate on which the steaks will rest.

turn the heat down, pour away most of the fat from the pan, then add the stock and a splash of brandy. it might flame, so be careful. scrape the crusty bits from the bottom, if there are any. reduce down a little, then add the mushrooms and sauté gently for 30 seconds or so. add the creme fraiche and the parsley, and cook for another minute or so. you want the sauce to heat up without overcooking the mushrooms. check for seasoning and pour over the steak. 



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