Category Archives: Fine Cooking

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Flank Steak

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Photo courtesy of Fine Cooking

I discovered this recipe while standing in line at Home Depot of all places.  Glenn and I were in the midst of yet another home renovation project and as we stood in the check out line for the second time that weekend a new (to me anyway) magazine caught my eye.  I had never heard of Fine Cooking, but was immediately drawn to their colorful pictures, interesting recipes, and honest product reviews.  I ended up buying the magazine back in 2005 and have been renewing my subscription every year since then. We no longer own our renovated house but that very first recipe has been come a family favorite whether it is served as a quick go-to weeknight dinner or as a part of a more formal representational dinner.

Because the marinade is so good, I like to serve the steak with a starch that can soak up the juices.  Garlic mashed potatoes, a simple risotto, or gouda bread pudding are all good choices.  Regardless of which side dish you choose, the steak is fast and easy to make and is sure to please whomever is sitting at your table.

BOURBON & BROWN SUGAR MARINATED FLANK STEAK

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup bourbon or other whiskey

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1 1/2 to 2 pounds flank steak

  • Combine the first five ingredients in a large Ziploc bag.  Seal and shake to fully combine and dissolve the sugar.
  • Add the steak to the bag, seal, and massage to cover the steak with the marinade.
  • Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  • Prepare a medium-hot grill.*  Remove the steak from the marinade and shake off the excess.  Grill the steak for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until desired doneness.
  • Let rest for 5 minutes then slice on the diagonal. 
  • Pour the marinade into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cook until syrupy and serve over the sliced steak.

* You can also broil the steak in the oven for 3-4 minutes per side.

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Crispy Smashed Roasted Potatoes

I’ve been trying to make more interesting side dishes to accompany my entrees.  While I will spend hours perfecting the perfect main course, by the time I get to the side dishes, I seem to run out of momentum.  This recipe for a ridiculously easy potato dish is courtesy of Fine Cooking Magazine.  With only three ingredients and a little prior planning this dish comes together quickly.  (Plus smashing the potatoes is a lot of fun!). I served the potatoes with sour cream and chives to go along with grilled chicken.  I’m now thinking that I could easily dress the potatoes up for a more formal dinner or even serve them with a dipping sauce as a part of a buffet table.  Regardless of how I make them in the future, this dish is a keeper.

CRISPY SMASHED ROASTED POTATOES
 
 
12 to 15 baby red potatoes
2 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup olive oil
Boil the potatoes:
 
1)  Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with at least one inch of water.  Add 2 teaspoons of
     salt to the water.  Bring the water to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook the potatoes
     until they are completely tender and can easily be pierced with a skewer.  Make sure they are
     cooked through but don’t over cook.  The total cooking time will be 30-35 minutes.
2)  While the potatoes are cooking, set up a double layer of clean dish towels on the counter top.  As
the potatoes finish cooking, remove them individually from the water, and let them drain and sit for
just a minute or two on the dishtowels.
Flatten and cool the potatoes:
 
3)  Fold another dishtowel into quarters, and using it as a cover, gently press down on one potato with
    the palm of your hand to flatten it a thickness of about 1/2 inch.  Repeat with all of the potatoes.
    Don’t worry if some break apart a bit; you can still use them.
4)  Cover a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil; place a piece of parchment on top of the
     foil.  Transfer the flattened potatoes to the baking sheet and let them cool completely to room
     temperature.
Roast the potatoes:
 
5)  Heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Sprinkle the potatoes with about 3/4 teaspoon of salt and pour the
     olive oil over them.  Lift the potatoes gently to make sure some of the oil goes underneath them and
     they are well coated on both sides.  Roast the potatoes until they are crispy and deep brown around
     the edges, about 30 to 40 minutes, turning over once gently with a spatula half way through
     cooking.
6)  Serve hot.

Roasted Chestnuts

Chestnuts roasting in Ljubljana

Chestnuts are a perennial autumn nut.  Wander through any European city during the fall or winter months and you can see roasting on just about every street corner.  You can easily follow their distinctive sweet fragrance to the closest vendor.  There is nothing better than eating hot roasted chestnuts from a paper cone as you roam the streets.  This time of year chestnuts are also abundant in the markets.  From chain grocery stores to neighborhood shops and the grand vegetable markets, bins of the nuts are everywhere.  Not only are chestnuts good to eat “as is” they add body and complexity to other foods.  Whether combined with roasted vegetables and bread dressing or as a main ingredient in a  soup, they add rich complexity to any dish.

Roasting chestnuts at home isn’t hard but it is time consuming.  Last November in a fit of over ambitious insanity, we hosted a lunch for twelve two days before our sit down Thanksgiving dinner for twenty-four.  Thinking I could multi-task with my ingredients, I planned a chestnut apple soup for the lunch and a chestnut sage dressing for Thanksgiving dinner. Even with the able hands of my visiting parents (who for some reason haven’t visited since) Glenn and I spent hours trying to pry the roasted chestnuts from their shells.  I couldn’t figure out why they were being so stubborn and at that time I vowed that until we had access to shelled chestnuts I would not be including this tasty ingredient in any of my dishes.

Fast forward a year………….we are heading into Thanksgiving week and chestnuts are once again on my menu.  This year, however, my menu and guest list are saner and I have a plan.  I also did more research and I think I may have found an easier roasting and shelling method.  Chestnuts must be cooked before being eaten.  Various methods call for boiling, broiling, roasting, or grilling the nuts before shelling them.  In pure experimental mode, I used three methods for cooking my chestnuts:  grilling on the gas fired grill, broiling in the oven, and roasting in the oven.

X marks the spot
ROASTED CHESTNUTS

Regardless of which method you chose, it is necessary wash and score the nuts before cooking.  I used a small paring knife to cut a large “X” on the flat side of each nut.  Given the large quantity of nuts I had, this was a time consuming, and if one isn’t careful, dangerous task.  Fortunately I only stabbed my thumb once on this go around.



Oven Roasted Method:  Place the scored chestnuts on a piece of tinfoil, add a small amount of water, and wrap to form a packet.  Place the packet on a baking sheet and roast in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Chestnuts ready to roast

Grilled Method:  Place the scored chestnuts in a grill basket and grill over a 400 degree grill for 20 minutes.  Shake the basket every five minutes to ensure that the nuts cook evenly and none of them scorch.  You can also place the nuts directly on the grill but you will then need to use tongs to turn the nuts.

Chestnuts on the grill

Broiled Method:  Place the scored chestnuts on a baking sheet and broil under high heat for 10 minutes.

You will know the chestnuts are cooked when the nuts are fragrant and the shells split open.  Once they are cool enough to handle, peel the shells and the inner skin from the nut.

So which method did I prefer?  By far, the broiled nuts were the easiest to shell.  The grilled method worked well too but for some reason I found the roasted nuts to be extremely difficult to shell.  From now on if I can’t buy my chestnuts from a street vendor I’ll be cooking mine at home under the broiler.

The payoff

Try your chestnuts in the following recipes:

Fine Cooking’s Chestnut Soup with Crisp Prosciutto
Saveur’s Chestnut Pound Cake
Williams-Sonoma’s Pear, Chestnut, and Sage Dressing 
Williams-Sonoma’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Chestnuts

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