Ann and I are shameless omnivores. There are very few things we won't try. Ann draws the line at black pudding and haggis; I still suffer from occasional aesthetic panic about shellfish. This happens less frequently the older I get, but when it does the gastronomical renaissance man in me regresses to become the squeamish, sensitive child who gazed in horror at the humble mussel and saw something that looked like the diseased expectoration of a consumptive squid.
But one thing neither of us has any qualms about is a solid chunk of red-blooded, four-legged animal flesh. We have every respect for vegetarianism but sometimes we just want to get some juice-oozing meat between our teeth.
Last night I dropped in at the Grand Central Market and picked up a pair of thick New York Strip steaks. While I was there some plump little mushrooms called to me and that was that; I had dinner sorted. Steak in creamy mushroom sauce with baked spuds and salad. Simple yet effective, like the first Ramones album or a young Mike Tyson. Here's what I did for the two of us.
Steak with Mushroom Sauce
2 good, thick steaks (New York strip, sirloin, anything nicely marbled and about an inch and a half thick)
Ground black pepper
8oz mixed wild mushrooms, sliced (crimini, shitake, portobello... whatever you fancy)
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp heavy cream
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup of reduced beef stock
1 tbsp finely chopped shallots
1 oz butter
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to about 400. Use a griddle pan to cook the steaks if you have one, otherwise a regular skillet will do. Put it on full heat and leave it until it is terrifyingly hot. You want that pan hot enough to set off your smoke alarm, intimidate your neighbours and bring back terrible memories of Chernobyl. While it's reaching meltdown, generously sprinkle your steaks with coarse salt and ground pepper, press that in a bit and then lightly rub them with just a little olive oil. Slap 'em into the pan, then open the doors and windows and don breathing apparatus as your kitchen fills with smoke. Don't worry, you're not going to be searing flesh for long. Two minutes a side and that's it. Don't pierce the steaks while this is going on, and use tongs or a spatula to turn them. Don't move them around except to flip them that one time or to swivel them through 90 degrees if you're using a griddle and you want the pleasing traditional cross-hatched pattern.
Transfer the steaks to a roasting grill over a baking tray and put them on the middle shelf of the oven. You'll want to leave them there for about ten minutes if you like it rare, maybe 15 for medium-rare, 20 for medium. You'll need to know your own oven for this. While they're finishing, make the sauce as follows.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and fry the shallots and mushrooms until just tender, about 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle flour into the pan and quickly stir it in. Add the wine and the cream and blend. Reduce for about two minutes. Add the stock and the Worcestershire sauce and blend. Add salt and pepper to taste then keep on a low simmer while the steak finishes and the sauce thickens. Shouldn't take more than ten minutes at the very outside.
Pour a little of the sauce over each steak and serve it with whatever takes your fancy. As I mentioned, I went for baked potatoes with sour cream and a simple green salad with thinly-sliced red onion and mustard dressing. Obviously a full-bodied red was involved as well. When it comes to steak, some traditions should not be messed with.