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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What we had for dinner, 2/16/10 (Fat Tuesday!)

Well, we ate, drank and were comparatively merry last night. My in-laws had given us some gorgeous, (but huge) rib-eye steaks so I marinated them in 50% - 50% mix of soy sauce and Worcestershire and then 20 minutes before cooking I removed them from the marinade and salt and peppered them generously. I let them sit on a cookie sheet while I prepared the rest of my dinner.

Last night's experiment was in the mashed potatoes. I have made mashed potatoes dozens of times. Sometimes I use cream, sometimes milk, sometimes chicken broth or sometimes a combination of these. My real issue with mashed potatoes is getting the perfect blend of fluffy/creamy in the texture and properly seasoning the spuds. Last night I used my handy-dandy Vidalia chopping wizard, a contraption I have taken photos of elsewhere on the blog. I changed the blades to the large setting and then chopped the potatoes into uniform cubes. I added the cubes to my stock pot with generously salted water and started them out on medium heat. I wanted the potatoes to eventually come to a boil, but not boil too hard or too long as it makes the potatoes just fall to mush. To these perfectly cubed tubers I added three scraped and chopped parsnips. A parsnip is a root vegetable that sort of looks like a white carrot. I really like them simply roasted with olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt, but no one else in my family has come around to my way of thinking (yet). I had my oldest daughter scrape and chop the parsnips, so she knew she was eating them later. She even tried an experimental bite of raw parsnip. These were boiled together till fork tender and then mashed with a hand masher. Last night I added a tablespoon of butter and some whole milk to the vegetables as I mashed them. I always add a little a time until they come together as I don't like them to be too soupy.

I have tried mashing with an electric hand mixer and it is simply too easy for me to over-mash them. The resulting potatoes are thick as wall paper paste and are unpleasant to eat. I also once tried a potato ricer, but while they were wonderfully creamy, the resultant texture was insufficiently fluffy. So the hand masher is the way to go for me.

The steaks were cooked on the stove top, two in a cast iron skillet and two in a stainless steel pan with a copper core. The sear and color I got in the iron skillet were wonderful. I had heated both pans over very high heat to seal in the juices on the steaks. The stainless steel pan nearly burned the outsides, while the iron skillet simply browned the meat beautifully. After the meat was seared all over I reduced the temperature down to medium on each burner until the steaks were done. I use a probe thermometer to tell me when the steaks are at the appropriate temperature. I make the children's steaks almost well done while hubby and I like ours medium. Meat continues to cook as you let it rest, so I usually take the meat off the heat after it has come to with 5 degrees of my desired doneness. Due to varying steak thicknesses and fat/meat ratios I don't have an exact time for how long it takes to cook steaks. Grilling or broiling the steaks also take different times; overall a good probe thermometer is the way to go.

I reheated some leftover lima beans for our green vegetable and after the steaks were done and resting on a plate I quickly sauteed some mushrooms and onion slices in the pan juices. Deeee-lish!

Our family ate till we were full on two steaks, the other two steaks will be turned into fajitas later this week with more sliced onions, mushrooms, zucchini and slivered carrot. Or you could also turn leftover steak into a a nice stir fry with cabbage, sliced water chestnut, snow pea pods and carrots.

PS I always give up chocolate for Lent, so last night before bed I had a couple of handfuls of M&Ms! Decadent, I know. But today I read where a friend's Mom had always written a letter a day to a different person who would not be expecting a letter. 40 letters in 40 days! I am also incorporating that into my Lenten observance this year.

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