Sunday, March 23, 2008

Birthday, Part 2

As I was sitting down to eat the dinner I made for Ross as the closing ceremony of sorts to his birthday weekend, I realized that it wasn't very Fearless. Not only had I cooked something very similar to every component of the dish before, I have cooked every component of the dish for this BLOG before!

But, since Mother Nature INSISTS on dragging out Winter as long as possible here in the Windy City (see below for evidence), some good old comforting treats seemed like a good idea. Red meat, baby!

So, lack of Fearlessness taken into consideration, I must give my Filet with Balsamic Reduction with Baked Mac 'n' Cheese & Tomatoes and Bacon-Roasted Asparagus a

It would be even lower if I were not a bit on edge from the German Chocolate incident on Friday - the Great Cake Disaster of '08 (which has now eclipsed the Great Salsa Disaster of '06 as my worst kitchen performance to date). So I was conscious of trying to redeem myself, and additionally, steak (especially filet) is always a bit tricky, because it can go from perfectly cooked to tough in just a few short minutes, and I wanted it to be perfectly medium-rare and melt-in-your-mouth.

Read on to see if I did better on this birthday endeavor than the last one...


2 filet mignon steaks
Emeril's Steak Rub
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter

1 bunch asparagus
3 strips bacon
1/2 tsp. olive oil
salt and pepper

1/2 lb. cavatappi noodles
3 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
3 T. butter
2 T. flour
2 c. milk
3/4 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 c. Panko-style bread crumbs (I use Ian's brand)
salt and pepper

1/2 can beef broth
1/2 c. red wine
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 T. butter
pinch red pepper flakes
salt and pepper


Boil the cavatappi noodles until they're al dente. Preheat the oven to 375. When the noodles are almost done, melt the butter in a large saucepan, and whisk in the flour to make a roux, cooking it for about a minute. Whisk in the milk, and cook it over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, until it begins to thicken.


Break up the cheese (I used slices of cheddar since that's all I had), and whisk it until it's smooth and melted. Drain the pasta, and stir it into the mixture. Add in the halved grape tomatoes, stir to combine. Pour the whole mixture into a shallow baking dish and top with bread crumbs. Bake for about 30 minutes at 375.


Cut the tough ends off the asparagus and rinse. In a small baking dish, toss them in the 1/2 tsp. olive oil and salt and pepper. Chop the bacon into small pieces, and sprinkle it over the top. Add it to the oven with the mac 'n' cheese and bake it for 15 minutes.


In a small saucepan, combine the balsamic vinegar, wine, beef broth, brown sugar, pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Bring to almost a boil, and cook it until it's reduced by 3/4 and thickens enough to coat a spoon. Take off the heat and stir in 1 T. butter.


Heat butter and oil in a skillet for the steaks. Using about 1/2 tsp. Emeril's Steak Rub (or any steak rub you like), press the rub into the raw steaks on both sides. Then cook them in the pan on both sides until desired doneness (it took about 5 minutes total for medium rare, but these were relatively thin filets).


Ladle a few spoonfuls of the sauce over each steak, and plate them up with the mac 'n' cheese and asparagus. Mangia!


It was just Ross this time, as it was his special birthday meal. He had some wonderful things to say. A few soundbites:

"It took me 10 years to realize that steak rub is way better than steak sauce."
"I didn't think you could still impress me with your cooking, but I'm impressed."
"I love when my vegetables can taste like meat."
"The steak is seasoned perfectly."


I give it 8 stars. I'm proud to say I did NOT overcook the steak, and it was nicely spiced. The 2 missing stars are for the asparagus - while Ross likes his vegetables to taste like meat, I like my vegetables to taste like, well, vegetables. And the bacon didn't get super-crisp, as I'd hoped. It was still sort of mushy - not my bag.

I do feel like I redeemed myself for the birthday cake quasi-fiasco. (It's worth mentioning that I am the only one who feels that it's a travesty - fortunately everyone had had enough beer by the time they tasted the cake that it wouldn't have been very memorable even if it had been spectacular.)

NOTE: I have a new favorite food blog that you MUST check out: Smitten Kitchen. The photography is so beautiful (in fact, it's inspired me to step up my OWN photography - how's it looking so far?).

As always, thanks for reading! More soon...

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