Monday, February 14, 2011

Guilty Pleasures Made Fresh

Tonight I made one of my favorite comfort foods, Salisbury Steak.  I love the simplicity of the dish along with the peppery gravy and mushrooms.  Add some mashed potatoes on the side and I'm in heaven.  Growing up, I don't ever remember my mom (or dad who took over a great deal of the cooking not too long after I moved out to go to school) making it. It was strictly a cafeteria fare food when I was younger and then when I was older, I had some in a restaurant that was fantastic.  Perfect balance of salt and pepper, garlic mashed potatoes on the side, fresh mushrooms (not canned which I think has contributed to many people not ever eating mushrooms again, they scarred me for many years.) and a savory gravy with a wine and stock base.  

I was reading through the December issue of Cooking Light magazine the other day, flagging the recipes I wanted to cut out so I could try them and ran across their recipe for Salisbury Steak with Mushroom Gravy in their Dinner Tonight series.  

I had all of the ingredients so it was, um, dinner tonight.  

 I didn't have the ground sirloin, but I did have some sirloin steaks in my freezer.  I got out my trusty food grinder that my grandmother gave me over 20 years ago.  It's a hand crank grinder like the one she had for most of her adult life, and like the one my mother had when I was growing up.  We used ours mostly for grinding up leftover roast beef and vegetables to make hash.  I used to beg my mother to let me crank the handle.  It was so cool to watch the chunks of food go in and come out in a hash that made the best leftovers ever.   

The recipe calls for grated onion, but as I got home late this evening and was really hungry, I used some finely chopped onion I already had in the refrigerator. 

Lots of fresh ground pepper and some salt (lately I've been using ground sea salt), a hot skillet with a bit of olive oil, I had four patties browning for my dinner.  

Speaking of skillets, I'm a newer convert to stainless steel cookware.   The more I use it, the more I love it, especially with meat.  If you decide to go the stainless cookware route, buy a high quality brand.  Mine have an aluminum core which adds some heft, but provides evenly distributed heat.  Mine are from Pampered Chef.  They are worth every penny I paid and then some.  If you decide to go the Pampered Chef route, consider hosting a party so you can get them for half price.  (Disclaimer: I used to be a Pampered Chef consultant, but am no longer.  If you need a consultant, I can refer to a couple of good ones.)

Once the patties were cooked on each side (it goes fast!), they were removed to a plate to be kept warm while the mushrooms are cooked and the gravy is put together.  This leads me to a new discovery - I can't believe it took me until now to figure this out.  I love to cook with wine, but I hate opening a bottle of wine just for a recipe.  I don't drink often, mainly because I live by myself and won't typically drink if I don't have company, or if I do have a glass of wine, I still don't get through the bottle before it turns, and  I hate dumping out half bottles of wine.  

Who knew there was a great solution at hand!  (Probably most of you, but I that boat missed until Sunday.)  I dropped by the World Market in my neighborhood to look for some candles to go in a pair of candlesticks that are an unusual size.  It turns out the store is closing so everything, including the wine was on sale.  Figuring that the selection would be pretty picked over, I still did due diligence and took a look and found these single serving wine bottles like you get on a airplane.  It never occurred to me to look for the smaller bottles for cooking purposes!  So - I had just enough to use for my recipe and have about two-thirds of a glass of wine, which was perfect for me, especially on a weeknight.

Back to stainless steel cookware:  One of the objections I have heard to using stainless versus non-stick is how everything sticks to the pan and it's a pain to scrub.  Let me introduce you to my friend, fond. Fond is the brown bits that stick to the pan when cooking.  To remove them, you keep the heat on under the pan and add a liquid, in this case, wine.  The liquid loosens up the browned bits and adds oodles of flavor to the sauce. 
Once the mushrooms were sauteed and the wine added, the fond came right off the bottom of my pan and became part of the sauce.  Some beef stock and flour and a few more minutes of simmering, I had an incredibly yummy meal that fit right in with one of my favorite meals.  

I would definitely make this recipe again, although I think that next time I will buy the sirloin already ground.  It wasn't hard or overly time consuming to grind it myself, but the meat was a bit tough which I suspect was partly due to how much fat I trimmed off the meat before grinding.  If you decide to make it, I would add just a bit of salt to the gravy, but definitely taste before you as saltiness is a very subjective decision.  

I would have loved to have some garlic mashed potatoes with this dish, but since I'm currently following a low-carb lifestyle, I opted out.  I have made mashed cauliflower in the past as a substitute, which I like very much, but due to my late arrival home and the fact that I was very hungry, I opted to munch on some chopped veggies while I was working on the prep instead. 

This along with Macaroni and Cheese are probably my two favorite meals.  I'm glad I made it and I now have a jumping off place to start figuring out my own version.   What are your guilty food pleasures?