Tag Archives: meat

A Food Story

11 Sep

A few weeks ago, my mom and dad took Rob and me out to dinner for our 5th anniversary. Five years! It seems like only yesterday that we were having our first celebration together. Anywho, for such a fun occasion, my mom and dad researched one of the top ten restaurants in Jacksonville – a Brazilian steakhouse.

We walked into the restaurant first noticing the intoxicating meat smell, and the busy speediness of gaucho-dressed men delivering meat galore. Drinks were flowing, people were joyous, and keeping to traditional Brazilian style, the plethora of meat (lamb, steak, pork, chicken!) was brought to diners on giant saber-like sticks. I was filled with new-experience excitement, Rob’s carnivorous eyes were about to pop out of his head, and my parents’ giddiness was palpable.

Our hostess sat us at the best seat in the house: in the back of the massive room next to the wine cellar, with a clear view of all the restaurant action. It was explained that the buffet was for appetizers and side dishes, and at any time we could help ourselves to the feast. But, of course, not before opening the bottle of champagne for such a celebratory occasion.

The man explaining the buffet tag-teamed the next act of their choreographed dance, and three well-dressed men scurried to the table, one bringing the standing ice bucket, one with a black towel French-ly draped over his arm, and another who, I guess, just came to watch. Really, it all happened so fast – the “pop” of the cork and it landing in front of me happened almost simultaneously. It was weird, and as I picked up the cork to express my confusion, only then to see my mom rubbing her head. In a Brazilian whir, the towel man held his thumb over the bottle top (not the towel mind you), and the standing man rushed to her side. Rounds of “I’m sorrys” and “Are you oks?” flourished, and as being the only blond at the table, I was the last to figure out the obvious – the cork popped early, flew by me, bounced off the wine cellar glass, smacking my mom upside the head.

Needless to say, the corkage fee was waived, and uber excellent service was to come.

The appetizers were a feast in themselves. Cheeses, meats (ironically), veggies of all colors, bread, olives, you name it. As only one can naturally do with big eyes and a hungry stomach, we all loaded plates (full plates – none of those dainty appetizer plate things), and rushed back to the table. The sense of urgency was profound in this place! So much action, so much food, how was one to contain oneself?

Forks in hand, the four of us dove into our meal-in-themselves appetizers, only looking up to longingly ogle a gaucho walking by with a stick o’ meat. Then that gaze fell on each other with a pining urgency – the silent understanding of the dire need to finish the veggies on the plate ASAP.

Finally (but probably eaten in record time), the veggies were done. But next were the sides! My dad somehow developed cat-like moves and in 3.2 seconds made it to the buffet table and back with a lovely helping of creamy mashed potatoes. Rob took this as the baton handoff for getting his sides and got up to tackle the buffet, but didn’t seem to be as fast. Not being able to contain ourselves any longer, my mom, dad, and I flipped our meat tokens to green and like moths to a flame, gauchos were at our service.

Our first cut happened to be the house specialty, a top sirloin perfectly cooked, juicy, and medium rare. With a smile (and I swear a glitter in his eye), the Brazilian man (who could have been from Hoboken for all I know) elegantly sliced off a piece of meat. Then in true gaucho-patron collaboration, we took the tiny silver tongs sitting with our utensils and grabbed the falling meat. It truly made the most barbaric idea of eating meat off a stick into one of the most fun and classy restaurant experiences.

As my mom, dad, and I glutinously moan over the meat, we realize that probably the biggest carnivore among us is still missing – poor Rob! Here we are devouring the Brazilian meat and Rob is stuck at the potatoes.

Upon Rob’s return it didn’t take long for him to catch up. All of us completely had our fill and one by one turned our green meat tokens to the stopping red side. Except, that is, when the ribs went by. Then my dad and Rob had to try. Then it was red. Oh, but then the filet came ‘round again. Ok, one more. Now red. Wait, wait, wait – was that the house special again? Sir?

This carried on for a bit and actually got to the point where the gauchos knew that our red tokens did not mean stop. They really meant, I’m-totally-stuffed-but-if-you-walk-by-me-with-a-stick-o’-meat-I-have-the-inabilty-to-decline-so-pile-it-on-boys!

The bustle of the restaurant kept on, but like most good things, our indulgence came to an end. Rob wiping his brow was also a clear stopping sign. Meat sweats are a real thing, you know.

Not really realizing until the very end of the night, the restaurant manager had kept a close eye on our table – he was probably watching for anymore rogue corks, or flying meats, or God-forbid a sword fight. We received many, many thanks for dining there, and we in turn gave our gratitude. What a night!

I’ve been saying for years now that if someone made a television show about my family, people would be binge-watching us. Our Brazilian night was no exception, and no joke!

As this is my food blog, I could try and recreate the perfectly marinated meat, or try to reenact the night for the sole purpose of a recipe, but I won’t. Some stories are best just leaving a taste of laughter – you’ll have to go and taste the meat on your own!


Feeling Blue

29 Jul

Not really – things are great!  We’ve had beautiful sunny days on the Oregon Coast, Empire Café’s booth at the Farmer’s Market is selling out, and aside from Sig’s new obsession of sneakily stealing and chewing on wine corks, life is good.  But I do still have blueberries.  Lots of them.

During our spontaneous Costco visit the other day (spontaneous because Costco is two hours away, and we hadn’t planned on going), we picked up some beautiful flank steak.  Our Coos Bay butcher, while having some great, local, and sometimes hard to find cuts of meat, he is often lacking on the flank steak.  It’s a wonderful cut of meat – thin, flavorful while still on the lean side, and responds beautifully to marinades.  I don’t see much of it in restaurants, and I’m wondering if my naïveté is missing something in the steak world; like my affection for flank steak is similar to saying fake nacho cheese is good for you (isn’t it?).

Anywho, growing up, my mom used to make flank steak all the time.  She’d grill them on the rare side, a little more rare than my dad would prefer, and slice them construction paper-thin.  She usually served them with one of our favorite sides – sautéed mushrooms in butter and wine.  Those were usually gone within the first serving.  In my way younger days, I coined the term, “Red Juicy Meat,” in our house and would ask for said food almost every dinner.  And the leftovers were perfect for sandwiches – PB&Js were great (still are), but nothing beat a 3rd grader’s steak sandwich.

So our steak dinner the other night came together kind of haphazardly.  I’ll give you the Jill and Rob conversation (and yes, our kitchen conversations are like this.  Me, more so than him, which often leaves him with raised eyebrows and hands out waiting patiently for me to explain a complete thought.  Such a good man):

We have the steaks – ok, will marinate and grill.  But what else?  We have mushrooms – ok, but let’s try something different.  Inspiration?  Canal House’s Summer volume – yes, pg. 28.  Now, what else… let’s see… Blueberries.  Blueberries, blueberries, blueberries.  Grapes?  Ok, grapes.  “Jill, what…. do you want me to do?”

What?  You didn’t get all that?

So, our summer steak dinner came together beautifully and blue.  Rob had the inspiration to make Blueberry Mojitos (if you want the recipe let me know – I’ll have to ask him how they are made!), and they were the perfect start to our Flank Steak with Roasted Blueberries and Grapes.  And the mixture of the juices from the wine, garlic and herb sautéed mushrooms (I adapted and changed the Canal House Sautéed Mushrooms a bit) was a tangy fresh paring to the hearty meat.  The Roasted Blueberries and Grapes weren’t too sweet, masking the integrity of the steak, but rather gave a syrupy contrast to the salty marinade.  It was divine.

In true tradition, the mushrooms were gone within the dinner, but the leftover steak made for a great appetizer the next day – mini steak crostinis.  It was no lunchtime steak sandwich, but still great.

As I write, I’m finishing the last of the fresh blueberries, popping them in my mouth like bar mix at a pub.  But don’t worry; there are 5 more gallons in the freezer.

Flank Steak with Roasted Blueberries and Grapes (serves 4-6) 

  • 2, 1 lb. flank steak
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/2 c soy sauce
  • 2 c pomegranate juice
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • cracked pepper
  • 1 small bunch of grapes
  • 2 c fresh blueberries
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • s&p
  • chopped parsley (for garnish) 
  • crispy shallots (optional, for garnish)  – simply heat up about 2 c canola oil in a small pot, and drop in thinly sliced shallots in about three batches.  Take out of oil when golden and crispy, and place on paper towel to drain.  Sprinkle with a bit of fine sea salt while they are still warm.  

Preheat oven to 500 degrees, and preheat grill.

To make the marinade, combine the soy sauce, thyme, pom juice, garlic, and cracked pepper in a large lasagna pan.  Add the meat, turning a couple times to make sure it is covered.  Marinade for at least 1 hour (2 hours is the max outside of the fridge), up to 8 in the fridge.

Meanwhile, in a small cast iron pan, melt the butter (I just put the pan with the butter in the oven while it’s heating).  Once melted, but not browned, add the grapes and the blueberries, and a bit of s&p.  Mix together, making sure the fruit is coated with the butter.  Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the fruit is syrupy – blueberries have released their juices, but still have some integrity, and the grapes are swollen and look as if they are going to pop.  Take out of the oven, and immediately hit the fruit with the balsamic vinegar, mixing to combine.

Take the meat out of the marinade, and pat dry.  Drizzle steaks with olive oil, salt, and a generous amount of pepper.  Grill to your liking (I think medium rare is the best for flank steak).

After grilling, let meat rest for about 15 minutes tented with foil.  When ready to serve, place on a platter, slice thin strips against the grain of the meat, and pour the lovely roasted fruit on top.  Sprinkle some parsley and crispy shallots on top, and you’ve got a winner winner steak dinner.  


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