September 29th, 2009

Steak Fries or Pommes Frites?


So we went to a lovely restaurant to celebrate my mom’s birthday this weekend (Hi, Mom!). I, of course, ordered a steak — ribeye with a garlic mushroom sauce to be exact.

And this time, instead of my safe bet, the baked potato, I went for the steak fries. Pommes frites, as the French call them.

Or are they just French fries?


I must admit, I felt a bit uncouth ordering them. I mean, this is what I eat when I’m forced to spend an afternoon at McDonald’s. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE those fries, but this was a nice, fancy meal. Should I have ordered fries?

They were well presented on a plate with a black folded napkin and sprinkled with parsley on top. And the flavor was out of this world.

But I just felt kind of cheesy. Is it just me?

Now, I’ve eaten at some lovely restaurants in France and they have these same scrumptious potatoes there. Hence, the name French fries. Yeah, I knew that. But have we fast-foodized them so much so that I feel goofy ordering them in the kind of restaurant where they got their start? Even if I ordered them with a ribeye?

See that photo above? It came from a Pommes Frites fan page on Facebook. Yes, there’s a Facebook page dedicated to these babies.

It has over 58,000 fans. Do they seem embarassed?

Um, no. What do you think??

58,000 fans (and counting) can’t be wrong . . . right?

Photo courtesy of

September 25th, 2009

Dreamy Meatloaf


I was craving meatloaf.

I know, it sounds weird, maybe kind of twisted. And it’s SOOOO suburbia.

But I wanted meatloaf.

It’s been really cool outside here and meatloaf is the perfect warm-you-up dinner.

And my husband couldn’t agree more. Heck, he benefits when I have beef cravings.


I think I had been dreaming about it — which is why I made this picture look kind of dreamy around the edges. Like the meatloaf is floating on a cloud.

Who wouldn’t want to see meatloaf floating on a cloud?

All right, I saw some hands. If you raised your hand, you’re dismissed. The rest of us will discuss how I make my meatloaf.

I use ground beef with onions already in it. It’s scrumptious. Then, add a cup of Italian breadcrumbs, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Mix in an egg to to help it form the loaf.

Lay bacon strips over the top of the loaf and bake at 350 degrees F for just under an hour.

Oh, the smell is heavenly. The onions, the bacon, the oregano. You can smell it all. FOR AN HOUR.

It’s almost torture.

But then, just when you think you can’t stand it any longer — it’s ready to eat.

It was a dreamy evening scarfing down dreamy meatloaf with my dreamy husband. It was almost like an episode of Mad Men, only without all the yucky stuff on Mad Men.

Hooray for meatloaf!

September 24th, 2009

Steak Stories: Julie and Julia? Meet Dena and . . .


. . . well, Dena.

It doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but it’s reality.

I saw the movie Julie and Julia and I found myself really, really hungry the whole way through it. The cooking and the recipes and the talking about food nearly put me over the edge.

My tub o’ popcorn just wasn’t doing it.

So I decided I’m going to be more adventurous and work my way through a rockin’ cookbook I have — Julie and Julia-style.


That’s the cookbook. Inside are gems like Steak Teriyaki, “Poor Man” Steak, Fuzzy Navel Steak, Sunday Night Steak, plus pork, seafood and chicken recipes, too. And sides. Lots of sides.

I HAVE to experiment with these, if not just for the names.

Now, I’m a real person with kids, a husband and a job and stuff.  So . . . I don’t see myself working my way through the cookbook every night for a year like Julie did.

God bless her. I don’t have the stamina.

BUT, I’ll be cooking a bunch of these and I’ll share my photos and thoughts with you. Hint: the “Fuzzy Navel” one involves orange juice.


Have YOU ever done what Julie in the movie did? How did you survive it? And are you better for it?

Let me know — and happy cooking!

September 22nd, 2009

Coffee and Pepper Steak


Okay, we’ve seen the use of coffee in flavoring a steak before. But here’s a different twist on that, PLUS a recipe for barbecue steak fries!

Holy BBQ, Batman! Enjoy . . .


Coffee and Pepper Steak


1 cup chopped green onions

3/4 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup molasses

1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee, preferably espresso roast

1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

One 1 1/2 pound sirloin steak (or flank steak)

Salt to taste


In medium bowl, stir together onions, vinegar, oil, molasses, coffee powder, pepper and mustard until completely blended.

With a sharp knife, make parallel 1/2 inch-deep slashes, about 2 inches apart, on both sides of steak. Transfer the steak to a zippered plastic bag and add the marinade, making sure steak is completely coated. Refrigerate for six hours or overnight.

Spray your grill with non-stick coating and heat to medium-high. Season both sides of the steak with salt. Grill the steak directly over the heat four to six minutes per side for medium-rare, or longer to suit your personal taste.

Set steak on a cutting board, cover with foil and let stand for about five minutes for juices to settle, before slicing diagonally. Transfer to serving plate and serve with a crisp salad and corn on the cob or your favorite vegetable. This recipe serves about 4.

If you’d like to barbecue a nice accompaniment for your steak, try these easy steak fries on the grill.

Barbecued Steak Fries


Cut four medium russet potatoes in half lengthwise and then cut each half into four thick wedges. Bring about 2 cups of water to boiling in a medium sauce pan and add potatoes.

Lower heat to medium and cook potatoes, covered, for about eight to 10 minutes or until they are almost tender. Drain and cool.

Place cooled potatoes in a large bowl. Mix 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon each of your favorite herbs and spices. For example, you could use salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, dried rosemary or whatever else you like. Drizzle the mixture over the potato wedges, tossing gently and being careful not to break them.

Place the potato wedges on the upper rack of the barbecue while your steak is cooking, and grill the potatoes for six to 10 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

September 18th, 2009

Strip Steak That’s Kickin’


Want to try something spicy this weekend?

TV host Sara Gore gives us her take on a tasty, tasty chimichurri sauce for a tender strip steak.

Uh, yum. Double yum.


Give it a whirl!

Grilled New York Strip Steak with Kickin’ Chimichurri

Sara Gore



• 4 New York strip steaks, patted dry

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1 teaspoon pepper

• 1/2 teaspoon cayenne

• 1/2 teaspoon cumin

• Olive oil for pan

Kickin’ chimichurri sauce

• 2 shallots

• 2 cloves garlic

• 2 jalapenos

• 3 tablespoons lime juice

• 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

• 2 cups parsley

• 1 cup cilantro

• 1 cup mint

• 3/4 cup olive oil

• Salt and pepper

Guaca “maiz”

• 4 ears of corn (parboiled, drained, ice bathed, and removed from cob)

• 2 avocados, medium dice

• 1 jalapeno, minced

• 1 clove garlic, mashed into paste with pinch of salt

• 1 tomato, medium dice

• 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

• 1/3 cup red onion, small dice

• 1 teaspoon salt, adjust to taste

• Juice of 1/2 lime


Mix together spices in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over strip steaks. Heat oil in a heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add steaks and cook 4-5 minutes per side or until desired doneness (120 degrees for rare and 125 degrees for medium rare, using an instant-read thermometer). Transfer to a cutting board and tent with foil.
food processor, slowly adding oil in at the end. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Kickin’ Chimichurri Sauce
Pulse first three ingredients until well combined. Wipe down sides. Add remaining ingredients in.

Guaca “Maiz“ — A Corn and Guacamole Salsa
Gently fold all ingredients together in a bowl, keeping the avocado intact. Season to taste.

Plating options: Slice the steaks across the grain and fan out on plate. Spoon chimichurri over the steaks. Use a metal round or tuna can with both sides removed with can opener, and fill with guaca “maiz.” Remove metal round. Top with a piece of cilantro. Enjoy!

Recipe and photo courtesy of

September 17th, 2009

Like Steak? Like Football?


How about steak AS a football?


This is the window of a local steakery (that’s what I call the butcher shop) that I drive by all the time.

The art periodically changes and it always cracks me up.

I’ve shown you this one before. But this steak as a football one is a classic. Someone there is totally having fun with his job.

I’d like to meet the guy who came up with this one. Perhaps over a steak dinner???

September 16th, 2009

Mustard Beef Tenderloin


Mmmm. It’s getting a slight bit cooler outside and that makes me crave rich, red meat.

Come on, I know I’m not the only one.


This amazing recipe for Mustard Beef Tenderloin looks like just the ticket.  See what YOU think!

Mustard Beef Tenderloin

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes


  • 4 beef tenderloin filets
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon pineapple juice
  • 1 tablespoon dried tarragon
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


Mix together mustard, vinegar, olive oil, pineapple juice, tarragon and pepper. Simmer in a saucepan until evenly heated. Keep warm. Preheat grill. Lightly pound filets with kitchen mallet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on grill and cook about 4 minutes on each side or until desired doneness. Remove from grill. Place about 2 tablespoons of mustard mixture on a plate and place filet onto the sauce.

Recipe courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

September 11th, 2009

The Steakburger to Beat All Steakburgers


This week, I think I may have made the most perfect steakburger I’ve ever attempted.


I pan fried them in olive oil and just at the last moment placed a glistening slice of cheese on the top so it could meld itself to the burger, fitting perfectly.

Out in the backyard, my 5-year-old son ate an orange Popsicle while I took photos of this masterpiece.

“Whatcha doin’, Mommy?”

“Taking pictures of this beautiful burger.”

(What? Doesn’t every mom take pictures of their dinner before they serve it to their family?)

“It looks like sunshine on a mountain,” he said. “And there’s the grass. And a red swimming pool.”

Classic. Now THAT is why you have kids, people. They show you new ways of looking at things you’ve seen a thousand times before.

It made me teary-eyed that he had put so much thought into this. This steakburger had created a real MOMENT between us.

Then, my precious son pummeled his empty Popsicle stick at a rabbit that had the misfortune of hopping through our yard at that exact moment.

That bunny was just trying to live his life, man. Sheesh.

But the moment was good for the 30 seconds it lasted.

We went inside to eat our sunshine-on-the-mountain burgers and the innocent stick that had been turned into a lethal weapon went promptly into the garbage.

But that’s life in the ‘burbs for ya. Go tough or go home, Thumper.

September 10th, 2009

Delectable Ribs



These pork ribs are welcome on my table any day.

They’re St. Louis-style ribs which means they’re pork and they aren’t slathered with BBQ sauce – yet. We took care of that ourselves after we cooked them.

They came to us (we had them delivered) cryo-vac sealed and packed in dry ice. I put them in the refrigerator to thaw overnight and then cooked them the next day. I took them out of the packaging, wrapped them up in foil and placed them in the oven on about 335 degrees F for a little over an hour.

They were already marinated in a mix of spices and the smell of those ribs in the oven was almost too much! My husband and I kept peeking our heads in there to get a bigger whiff.

These puppies were divine. Tender, flavorful and so, so easy.

This was as easy as making a frozen pizza. But I got much bigger props than I do for my $1.89 pepperoni special.

I got these ribs from my fave — KC Steaks. The quality is always unbeatable and they do all the hard work for me.

Seriously, that’s the kind of partner I need in my life.

September 9th, 2009

To Steak or Not To Steak?



That, my friends, is but a sampling of the amazing steaks we grilled over the Labor Day weekend.

Strips, filets and ribeyes graced my grill — and only one lonely steak was left after our group scarfed the whole lot.

That steak is coveted by my husband and he eyes me suspiciously every time I go near the fridge.

“Just getting milk for YOUR CHILDREN,” I have to say.

I won’t eat his precious steak. I promise.


In my alone time (which is rare) I debate whether it’s worth it to eat that steak myself and blame it on some apparition . . . or a zombie . . . or a steak burglar.

But in the end, it’s much easier for me to get another steak than to get another husband.

The one I have is one of a kind. And I’d like to keep him, thank you.

September 4th, 2009

How to Ruin a Burger – Why, Oh Why?


Ed Levine knows good food.  And this Labor Day weekend I plan to cook some burgers for friends and family.

I don’t want to mess this up . . . so he’s going to help. Why on earth would you chance ruining a perfectly great burger???


Here are his warnings against making the 6 most common ways to ruin a burger.

1. Not Sticking to Salt Plus Beef: Use Kosher salt (and pepper!) on both sides of the beef patty before slapping it onto the grill. Salt is a glorious thing for red meat-it draws out the natural juices and helps with the charring. Try to avoid turkey, bison or other alternative meat options, which have a much higher risk of moisture and flavor deficiency. Don’t get crazy here, just stick with beef. Motz even says, “if it’s not beef, it’s not a burger.” Here is Bobby Flay’s recipe for the perfect beef burger.

2. Bad Beef-to-Bun Balance: There’s no hard-and-fast ratio for beef-to-bun balance. It’s like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said in ?Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964) “I know it when I see it.” In the case of beef-to-bun balance, taste it. Beef-to-bun balance all depends on your patty size. If you’re cooking up a thin patty, don’t use a jumbo bun-you don’t want a mouthful of bread and hardly any meat, do you? When in doubt, make your patties bigger or stack a double burger. It’s bettern to err on the side of more meat.

3. Condiment Overload: Building a burger with “everything” is a huge mistake. Avoid the garbage pail approach. In most cases, going beyond onion and ketchup (arguably the most popular condiment) masks the beef taste and creates an absurd flavor profile. Seriously, a pastrami burger? Pastrami is not a condiment. However, we will make one exception for Fatty Melts-when grilled cheeses become condiments.

4. Wasting Precious Burger Juices: If you’re cooking the burgers over a flame, pressing down on them will send the precious meat juices straight into the coals. Those juices are valuable-they belong in your mouth. While it’s very tempting to apply pressure with a spatula, don’t. Unless you want a dry hockey puck. Sometimes they do it on TV, but just close your eyes.

5. Overcooking: This should be a crime recognized by the federal government. For the popular medium-rare, grill the meat exactly three minutes on one side (keeping the grill lid closed) and two minutes on the other. If you’re going to add cheese, let it melt on top for another minute (and keep that cover closed!).  We like our burgers medium rare, so much we’ve even sent them back at restaurants when they go beyond medium.

6. Machine-Formed Patties: If you really want to ruin your burger, try a machine-formed frozen patty! No, don’t. While making every ingredient from scratch is not necessary (see: Heston Blumenthal’s Blumenburger) try to form your own patties from ground chuck (80 percent lean is good) purchased at your nearest market or better yet, butcher.

Photo and excerpt courtesy of

September 3rd, 2009

Chef Sandy’s Steak Primer



School is back  in session so what better time to brush up on a lesson that is near and dear to my heart?  Yes, class, it’s time for a lesson on steak.

Chef Sandy goes through the ins and outs of cuts for us here. And if you pay attention you might just get an extra recess.

I often get the question, “What kind of steak should I buy?”

Well, that kind of depends on a few factors…

            -What do you want to spend?

            -What sort of texture do you want?

            -What is the doneness level that you prefer?

            -What kind of fat percentage do you want?

            -What cooking method are you planning to use?

Here is a brief overview:

Many of the cuts of beef that are used for steaks are cut from the loin portion of the beef.

Most of us are well aware that filet or beef tenderloin (and Chateaubriand) are all part of the same very expensive cut of beef.  There is very little waste, very little work for the cook (little trimming is necessary) and it is appropriate for anything and anyone who likes steak, even at the fanciest meal.  The texture of tenderloin is very tender, and some say that the flavor is not assertively beefy enough, but that is really a matter of choice. 

Many times this cut of meat will be served with a sauce or an equally luxurious topping like a bleu cheese topping or it will be wrapped in bacon, all of which will enhance the flavor. This is the priciest cut of steak, but again, there is no waste, and not too much shrinkage, so what you buy (and pay for) is what you get to eat.

But what is the difference between a T-bone and a Porterhouse?  How about a KC Strip and NY Strip?

A Porterhouse is a steak with a T-bone in the middle, and a large portion of both tenderloin and strip loin.  A T-bone is the same steak, but the tenderloin portion is usually smaller than a silver dollar, or even non-existent.  The bone-in nature of this steak usually yields great flavor, and oftentimes at the grocery store the T-bones actually have a large filet portion (and should therefore be labeled as the more expensive Porterhouse — shh, we won’t tell). 

The difference between a KC Strip and a NY Strip is basically a marketing difference.  Depends on where you are from.  Either could come with a bone, but often not, and both are a generally oblong shaped steak, with not much visible marbling, but fat around the outside (non-bone side) of the meat.  Depending on where you shop, and what part of the country you are from, these steaks are often in the high-middle of the price range for quick cooking steaks.

A ribeye or Delmonico steak is well marbled with fat, and because of its high fat content, can be cooked more well done and still remain juicy.  This kind of steak will flame up on the grill, so it should definitely be watched carefully.  One trick I have used is to first grill the steak on the grate to get grill marks (and flavor) and then put heavy duty foil on the grill and put the steaks on top to finish cooking them without incinerating them.

Sirloin steaks on the other hand, may need marinating to become juicy.  They should not usually be cooked to more than medium doneness and oftentimes are sliced thinly against the grain for presentation to help ensure a tender dining experience.  Flank steak and skirt steak (fajitas) are also cuts of meat which should be marinated, cooked quickly to a med-rare or medium doneness and sliced across the grain for tenderness.

Round steaks are usually too tough to use a direct cooking method, and are better suited to another preparation method like braising — think Swiss steak.  Brown, then cook the steak until tender in flavor liquid (gravy) for a few hours.  Many different cultures have variations on this theme, and a thin round steak can also be used as a wrapper for flavorful ingredients, with the whole bundle braised in flavorful liquid for a delicious meal.  Italians call it Braciole (may also be made with flank steak) Germans have Rouladen.  Long story short, braise it for great taste and tenderness.

If you are making Chicken Fried Steak, the traditional choice is a tenderized round steak.  This is a piece of meat which has been put through a process which mechanically pounds the steak and breaks up the tissues with thousands of little blades.  This is the only way to use this steak in a quick cooking manner, otherwise you would end up with shoeleather.  I have seen Chicken Fried Ribeye and Chicken Fried Filet on some fancier menus here in Texas, and since these are more tender pieces of meat, no mechanical tenderizing is necessary. Tasty, and about as decadent as you can get…

If you have any questions about a piece of meat you are considering buying, just ask.  At many grocery stores or even Web site, sometimes they have flip guides to cuts of meat and preferred cooking method, and sometimes even stickers on the actual meat packages which say “Great for the Grill” or “Best for Braising” or some similar catchy tips.  Or better yet, try some new choices next time you go to your favorite steak restaurant, and make a note to yourself about what you like and the preparation methods you enjoy.

Then you can try them out at home!

Photo courtesy of

September 2nd, 2009

Steaks This Labor Day?


So, any and every holiday is an excuse for me to cook steaks.

There, I said it.

Labor Day is no different. In fact, it’s the quintessential holiday for steak grillin’.

There, I said “quintessential.”

Labor Day’s the unofficial close of summer (boo!) and we ALWAYS get outside and swim and eat and soak it in. It’s fun because it signals the start of football season and a break from hot, hot weather.

But, it’s sad because, well, we LOVE summer around our house.

We’re going to relax with some steaks, some ribs and some burgers. Some friends are coming over and we’re going to talk about where the time went and how we could possibly be this old and how it came to be that the top of our kids’ heads now reach our shoulders and how our alma mater’s football team better win this year.

You know, the same stuff we always talk about — but never tire of.

How about you????

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About Me

Hi! My name is Dena P., and I love steak. In fact, I’ve been on a quest for the perfect steak for a few years now.

I love experimenting with food and I like to get my family, friends and neighbors involved. They add a lot to my cooking experience by helping me perfect techniques and sharing recipes.

Read More About Me »

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