One of my absolute favorite ways to relax is to take my time cooking a really nice dinner on a weekend. I’m so frequently rushed to bang something out between work and blogging and watching re-runs of The Office that I sometimes forget how relaxing it can be to take the time to enjoy the process of cooking a good meal.
But I did exactly that a few weekends ago when I made a nice meal for Betsy and I for a Saturday night date. And yes, you can have a date and never leave your house. Turn off the TV. Turn on some music. Open an bottle of wine and throw aluminum foil balls at your cat. What more could you want for a date night?
For dinner, I made up a real meat and potatoes dish with a very lovely beet salad. For the meat, I cooked a pink peppercorn flank steak that was really good.
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. I wanted something light to start the meal off and one of Betsy’s favorite salads is a roasted beet salad. The flavors pair really nicely with the meat and potatoes (and red wine) and it’s very pretty.
1) For beet salad, cut tops off of beets and set them on a baking sheet. Roast at 350 degrees for about an hour until a knife easily pierces them.
2) Let beets cool slightly and then peel and slice.
3) Mix together dressing ingredients and right before serving, toss greens with dressing. Then plate up each salad.
4) For potatoes, roast a head of garlic. Cut off the top and drizzle in some olive oil and a pinch of salt. Wrap the whole thing in foil and roast at 350 for 30-40 minutes.
5) Cube potatoes and boil in salted water for 10-15 minutes until they are fork tender. Drain and mash with other ingredients.
6) For steak, let it come to room temperature before cooking. Rub each side well with salt and pepper.
7) Sear steak for a about 3 minutes per side.
8) Let the steak rest for five minutes and then slice across the grain.
9) For steak sauce, gently crush pink peppercorns. Add wine to the pan that your steak cooked in and scrape up any little bits. Turn heat to low. Add shallot and peppercorns. Add butter to make it silky smooth.
10) Serve steak and potatoes with sauce.
The Beet Salad
To roast the beets, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Just brush off any dirt. No need to wash them since we are going to peel them later. Cut off the tops and set them cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake them for about an hour or until a knife will easily pierce one.
Let them cool for a few minutes and then peel and slice them. I sliced mine into pretty thick slices. These will stain your hands, but they are so worth it.
In the meantime, mix together your dressing ingredients and toss your greens with the vinaigrette. Then you can plate up each individual salad so it looks like this.
How pretty is that?!
You can prep all of the salad ingredients ahead of time and then just toss the greens with the dressing and plate it a few minutes before dinner. You don’t want to let it sit too long though or it will get all soggy.
The Mashed Potatoes
I love mashed potatoes more than anything. Ok. Maybe not more than anything. But more than anything that I can fathom as I write this post. I made this version a bit more rustic by leaving the skins on and also mixing it with a whole head of roasted garlic.
While roasting your beets, you should go ahead and roast your head of garlic. If you haven’t done this before, it’s maybe the easiest and most delicious thing in the world. Just slice off the very top of the bulb, drizzle on some olive oil, add a pinch of salt, and wrap the whole thing in foil. It’ll take about 30 minutes to roast.
Should look something like this.
When you’re ready to make the potatoes, give them a scrub and then cut them in halves or quarters if they are larger.
Boil these in salted water for about 10-15 minutes until they are fork very tender. Then drain them and mash them with all the other ingredients.
The best way to get the roasted garlic out of the bulb is to use your fingers. Once it’s cooled, pull off a clove and squeeze it between your fingers. The garlic pulp should pop right out.
Mash up everything with a masher or a fork. I wanted mine to be pretty lumpy.
Pink Peppercorn Steak
This steak was so good. Flank steak usually comes in pretty large sections. Since it was just two of us, I cut one steak in half and froze the other half for later.
Flank steak is relatively thin so it’s important to cook it right. The important things are:
1) Let it come to room temperature before cooking it. I gave mine a rub with some salt and pepper on each side and let it sit for about 30 minutes (covered) at room temperature while I prepped other stuff.
2) Cook it on high heat for just a few minutes a side.
3) Let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing it (while you make the sauce).
4) Slice it across the grain of the meat so it’s easy to eat.
So while your meat is coming to temperature or your mashed potatoes are cooking, you can get your sauce ingredients ready. It’s pretty straight forward.
Pink peppercorns are one of my new favorite ingredients. They are fairly mild but give a great color and flavor to a dish. They go perfect with this steak. To prep them for the sauce, I placed them between two sheets of foil and gave them a quick whack with a mallet.
To cook the steak, heat some oil in a large cast iron pan over high heat. When the oil is very hot and glistening, add your steak (which should have been seasoned already). Once it’s in the pan, don’t touch it! Let it sit undisturbed for about 3-4 minutes. This will depend largely on the thickness of your steak so keep an eye on it.
Check out my more lengthy write-up on steak cooking for more info. I wouldn’t recommend doing the oven method for flank steak though like I do in that post – it’s not a thick enough cut.
Anyway, about 3 minutes on the other side and then pull it out and let it rest before slicing it. I’ve added some helpful slicing guides below to illustrate the idea of cutting across the grain of the steak.
While your steak is resting, add your wine to the same pan that you cooked your steak in and scrape up all the little bits. Turn your heat to low and add your pink peppercorns and shallot. Let the sauce reduce for just a minute or two and then add your butter to make it silky and delicious.
This should go without saying, but serve the sauced steak with the mashed potatoes and a big glass of red wine.
If you want someone to fall in love with you, and they like meat and potatoes, this is one way to do it.