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Dear reader, before you read the rest of this post and think, “Well look at that fancy snob living the high life!”  Let me give you a rundown of the last couple of weeks:

My son had minor surgery on a  dermoid cyst today (he punched the lovely wife right in the face when he came out of anesthesia).  Although not really scary, surgery is surgery.

Saturday was my wonderful wife’s birthday.  I got angry for a stupid reason, putting a damper on the festivities.  I am an occasional idiot.

Friday, a rather large tree fell on our house during a severe storm* here on the prairie.  Tonight after dinner, we were doing the dishes when we heard a rumble and then the house shook as the tree shifted on the roof.  We may not have a back porch in the morning…we’ll see.

*By the way, I think the National Weather Service needs to have a new designation between Severe Thunderstorm Warning and Tornado Warning.  Our house was under a Severe Thunderstorm Warning.  I’ve seen lots of Severe Thunderstorm Warnings that are no big deal.  I think there should be a designation above that but below Tornado Warning.  May I suggest MEGASTORM WARNING,  GINORMOUS WIND WARNING, or CALAMITOUS CUMULONIMBUS WARNING.  These would let people know, “Hey this is a MORE severe thunderstorm.  I should seek safety.”

Thursday night, I had an alarming allergic reaction to some new brown rice crackers I was eating.  Sarah was out of town, the kids were asleep, and I really hoped the benadryl would work.  It did.

Last week my car’s air conditioning stopped working.

Really, last week’s cooking class was one of the few highlights of the week.  So on Sunday, I determined I was going to make steak.  Sometimes you just need a treat.

Anyway, on Friday night I was at my parents house.  About 15 minutes before I got the phone call saying, “A large tree fell on your house, please go check it out.”  My mom asked if I would like any steaks.  Yes.  Yes I would like your unused ribeyes.

So as I was hastily making my way out the door with the kids to see if our house was livable, my dad and I packed up the steaks in a cooler for me to take home.

Yesterday, I put those gift steaks to good use.  I decided that I would try my hand at another Julia Child recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume One.  If you’ve never seen the book, it is an very thorough look at French cuisine.  It was first published in 1961, and covers a wide variety of dishes…some of which are, well, unpleasant**.

**I will not be making the the following dishes:

Calf’s Brains in Red WIne with Mushrooms and Onions (p. 415)

Creamed Sweatbreads (p. 412)  By the way, sweetbreads are the pancreas and thymus gland of a calf.

Veal Kidneys Flamed in Brandy-Cream Mushroom Sauce (p. 418)

Now I’m sure these are all delicacies, but I think these have largely gone out of favor with the home cook, and the home cook is what the book is all about.  I really love the first sentence of the forward to the book.  It serves as a mission statement for the book, and I think it gives justification for treating yourself to a really special meal once in a while.

“This is a book for the servantless American cook who can be unconcerned on occasion with budgets, waistlines, time schedules, children’s meals, the parent-chauffer-den-mother syndrome, or anything else which might interfere with the enjoyment of producing something wonderful to eat.”

I love that.  I think it is true, and it applies to the vast majority of the recipes in the book.  I’ve been stress eating the last few days (which ends tonight), and I think that the Steak au Poivre (p. 296) qualifies as an occasional treat.

Unlike so many cookbooks of today, including my favorite cookbook, called The Internet, there are very few pictures to guide one in the recipes.  I think people were smarter and better readers back then, and you need to be careful to read and understand what to do when making a recipe.  That being said, the book provides you with enough info to really master making something great.

A Steak au Poivre is a pan-broiled steak covered in peppercorns and served with sauce.  I chose to make a red wine sauce (p. 295), rather than the brandy sauce…I didn’t have beef stock on hand to make it.

So, this home cook did his darndest to make a special meal for his family on a Sunday night.

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Here we have the evening’s ingredients set out and ready to go…the potatoes were for the Weight Watcher’s Dijon Roasted Potatoes my family loves.

First, I got out the gifted steaks and patted them dry with a paper towel as Julia recommends.  The patting makes sure the meat browns properly (Also known as the Maillard Reaction)

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Notice how moist the steaks are.  Let’s give them a TSA style pat-down:

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Well, now that that’s done, it’s on to the peppercorns.  If you’re geographically curious (and I always am) peppercorns come from India.  This recipe calls for two tablespoons of whole peppercorns cracked with a bottle or pestle.  I had no pestle, and the bottle wasn’t very effective.  Instead, I used the bottom of one of my frying pans.  This was the hardest part of the job…peppercorns all over the table.  But, after a few minutes, Most of the peppercorns were cracked.  At this point, you pat the peppercorns on your steaks.

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Once your steaks are peppered, they will look like this:

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Now, you may be thinking, “Good God Man!  That is way TOO much pepper!”  Surprisingly, it’s not too strong of a flavor.  You definitely could taste the pepper, but it did not overpower the meat.  My daughter loved it.  And surely you’re able to handle something a third grader could handle, right?

Now on to the cooking.  I used two pans for this, since one pan wouldn’t hold all the steaks at once.  First you add 1.5 tablespoons of butter to the pan.  Butter makes everything better, including steak.

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I set the pan on medium high heat (I used the 8 setting on my electric stove) and waited until the butter was melted and bubbling before placing the steaks in the pan.

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First off, sorry about the shaky pic…there is no book to teach me to master the art of iphone photography.  But, I will say my mouth is watering just looking at that pic.  The steaks cook for about 4 minutes a side.

Hey, here’s a neat tip: cook in a well ventilated kitchen!  A smoke alarm went off while I was cooking these beauties.  Smoke alarms never inspire confidence in your cooking skills among the family.

Speaking of tips, Julia tells you to place the steaks on a heated plate when they are done cooking, while you prepare the sauce.  This is a great idea, except as stated earlier, I am an occasional idiot.  I put one of our ceramic plates in our 375 degree oven where the potatoes were roasting.  It was in there for about eight minutes.  At that time, I thought I’d check to see if the plate got hot,  I checked with my finger.  Yes.  It was hot.  Don’t check heat with your finger.

Also, I used the time between flips to get the ingredients for the red wine sauce handy.  Butter, green onions, and red wine are ready.

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Soon the eight minutes were up, and we set the steaks aside on the hot plate.  Interestingly, Julia says to salt your steaks after cooking.  I will say, I liked this method.  The steaks were well seasoned.

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Finally, we needed to make the sauce.  This was really easy, and REALLY AWESOME.  First, I put in the green onions and some butter.  After about a minute I added the red wine.  You really let the wine boil down.  This is called deglazing a pan.  All the meat juices left in the pan get mixed in with the butter, wine, and onions and create a thick sauce.  Finally, you add about 4 more tablespoons of butter to the sauce at the end…I would not suggest eating this every day.

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What a saucy picture of my feet.  How appetizing!  Anyway, once all is said and done, here are the final results of our meal.  The following picture was taken by my incredibly talented wife.

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The steaks were heavenly.  The sauce was so rich and enhanced every bite of peppery, medium rare steak.  There were no leftovers.  In all, it took me about an hour to make everything.  In my mind, it was an hour well spent making something so wonderful for my family.  Overall, I’d like to thank my parents for giving us the steaks.  I’d also like to thank Julia Child for the recipe.  And I’d like to thank you for reading.

Finally, a question.  What is a special dish you cook for your family?

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