Ciao baby

After a great book reading event at Third Place Books in Bothell on Monday night, we headed north to Bellingham to do an interview on KVOS-TV. After we arrive, the host says, “Oh, you’ll want to set up your stuff, right?” Huh? I thought I was doing an interview. She thought I was gong to do an on-air demo. No problem, Mike and I say. I’ve got a knife and apron in the car, and we rush over to Fred Meyer to get a cutting board and vegetables. About 20 minutes later, I’m in the studio, chopping an onion with the host. These things happen.

On Thursday night, the good folks at Village Books and Ciao Thyme invited me to do a cooking demo. Ciao Thyme is a cooking school/catering/private dining space set in a strikingly beautiful lofty space, its kitchen decked out with gorgeous copper pans and pots. The table are made of wide rough cut slabs hewn from old growth trees. About 30 people took part, and Lisa came to assist, as I told stories, read from the book and did a demo of two recipes from the book, the tenderloin steaks crusted with mushrooms paired with a red wine reduction sauce, and braised endives. The Ciao Thyme crew cooked the food for the group to taste, including a cauliflower risotto. They were wonderful, the night was lovely and I didn’t burn anything.

Boeuf en croûte champignons avec sauce vin rouge
Mushroom-crusted steaks with red-wine sauce

This classic red wine sauce can accompany any kind of red meat. Trim extra fat or sinew off the meat to use as the basis of the sauce or, if the meat is too lean, use a few pieces of stew meat. I use a mix of seasoned breadcrumbs and panko, Japanese bread crumbs. A friend of mine skips the whole press-the-mushrooms-into-the-steak part of the recipe and simply adds them to the sauce. This is goo, too, but cut down or omit the breadcrumbs or panko altogether. Serve with an earthy red wine such as a Cabernet Sauvignon. Serves four.

Red wine sauce
1 cup (250 ml) dry red wine
2 to 3 ounces stew meat or beef trimmings
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup chopped onions
¼ cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped carrots
Parsley stems
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup (250 ml) brown beef stock
1 tablespoon butter
Salt, pepper

Mushroom-crusted steaks
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons butter + ½ tablespoon
¼ cup breadcrumbs or panko
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Coarse salt, ground pepper
4 beef tenderloin fillets (6 to 8 ounces each)
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the sauce: Reduce the wine by half in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. As it reduces, in a separate saucepan, sear the beef trimming in oil over high heat. Degrease by pouring out any leftover fat. Add the onions, celery and carrots and stir until softened. Add the parsley stems. Top with the flour and stir to coat. Add the reduced red wine and the beef stock. Bring to a boil, skim any foam offer the top, and then reduce heat. Let simmer for a half hour while you finish the recipe.

As it simmers, saute the mushrooms in two tablespoons of butter over medium heat until browned. Strain, then chop finely together with bread crumbs, parsley, a teaspoon of salt and several grinds of black pepper (or blend in a food processor). Preheat oven to 400° F / 200° C. Season the meat with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the oil over high heat in a skillet. Sear each side about three minutes. Remove from the pan to a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment. Press the mushroom mixture on top of each steak. Turn on the broiler. Broil until the mushroom coating browns and the meat firms to medium rare, about six minutes.

To finish the sauce, strain it through a mesh sieve or a colander lined with cheesecloth. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Return it to the saucepan and stir in the remaining butter to finish.


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Filed under appearances and gigs, book tour tales, Cooking Classes, cool food events, recipes

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