Monday, May 23, 2011

Rock Soup or Flank Steak?

While we waited for our dinner to braise this afternoon, the girls and I went outside, where Miss proceeded to make her own dinner of Rock Soup. It all started with puddles this morning, which we used to "paint" the driveway with sticks and grass, and then sponges and sponge brushes. This afternoon, however, the puddles were all dried up, so I got Miss a bucket of water and she proceeded to "paint" some more.

Who knew that a bucket of water and some sponges could provide such entertainment?? Lass just loved being in the grass.

After a while, the painting stopped and Miss said, "I stiwing (stirring!)" so I asked her what she was making. "Wock soup!" was her answer.

Everyone had to taste some and we "oohed" and "aahed" over how delicious it was.

Lass especially enjoyed it.

Shortly after filling up on Rock Soup, I had to come inside to finish fixing our real dinner. Tonight was the night I used our most recent "Chopped" ingredient, flank steak. I decided to use what I learned in my cooking class on braising to make the flank steak, since it is a pretty tough cut of meat. The dish? Braised Flank Steak Stew with Fennel and Leeks. It was delicious. Even Miss gobbled it up. Here's the recipe:

Braised Flank Steak Stew with Fennel and Leeks

1.5 lb (approx) flank steak, cut into 1 inch pieces
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp minced fresh lemon thyme (or regular thyme)
Salt and Pepper
1 cup chopped carrots (about two handfuls of baby carrots)
2 celery ribs chopped
1 medium onion chopped
1/2 cup red wine
zest from one lemon
beef stock
1.5 lbs Dutch baby potatoes
1/2 stick butter
vegetable oil
2 fennel bulbs, sliced
1 large leek, halved, rinsed, and sliced
4 tsp sugar

Put the cut up steak, thyme, and garlic in a bowl and add a few tablespoons of olive oil (enough to wet all the steak) and some salt and pepper. Mix to get the meat well coated. Put in refrigerator overnight.

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. While your pan is heating, start flouring your meat (make sure you shake off the excess flour). Add about a tablespoon of olive oil and let it get hot, then add your meat in batches.

Get the meat pieces nicely browned. Then remove to a plate, add more oil, and do the next batch. Repeat if necessary.

I had to cook the meat in three batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Lass woke up from her nap after the second batch and decided to help me out.

Once all the meat is browned, add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and put in the carrots, celery, and onion. Cook until they start to soften and brown.

Then pour in the red wine. Let it cook for a minute or two to reduce a bit. Then put the meat back in the pan, making sure to also get any accumulated juices on the plate poured into the pan. Add the lemon zest and enough beef stock to cover the meat half to two-thirds of the way. Cover the pan and put it in the oven for about 2 hours.

About a half hour before your meat is done, start cooking the rest of the stew. Cut the larger baby potatoes in half. Put them in a sauce pan with enough cold water to cover them. Bring to a boil and boil until tender, 10-12 minutes. Drain off water and add butter and salt to taste. Smash up the potatoes as you stir in the butter.

Once your potatoes start to cook, put another skillet or saute pan over medium high heat. Slice your fennel and leek. Blot them dry with a paper towel. Put about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in once your pan is hot. When the oil is hot, put in the fennel and leek and stir to coat. Stir them occasionally. You want them to start to brown and caramelize. Add sugar during this process (fennel has very little natural sugar in it, so adding sugar helps it to caramelize nicely). Cook until softened and browned.

Pull the meat out of the oven. Taste the sauce and check the consistency. When I took mine out the consistency was perfect, but the sauce needed more salt. Add S&P as necessary and adjust thickness of sauce as needed (to thicken whisk some cornstarch and beef stock together and add, or add more stock to thin). Put some potatoes in a bowl and top with beef mixture and then fennel/leek mixture. Makes about 4 servings.

I would not have done anything differently with this dish other than maybe skipping the leek and adding a third fennel bulb. The fennel added a delicious sweetness and crunchy texture, but the leek didn't really seem to bring anything to the dish. My husband was wishing for more fennel, though I thought the ratio of fennel to the rest of the dish was okay, so maybe I would add more fennel, maybe not. I guess since the elements are put together after they're cooked and each person can choose how much fennel to add on top, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to cook another bulb and then each person can add as much as they want. Otherwise, I was extremely happy with the dish! Next week, two ingredients (in one dish)!

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