Monday, February 9, 2009

Steak Salad, Weiner's Circle, and Book Club

I may have mentioned before that I don't like salad. Don't look so shocked! I stand by my claim that cold, raw veggies piled on top of cold, raw veggies is no culinary triumph. And in the middle of winter? Fuggedaboutit.

However, top a salad with enough red meat and cheese, and I'll probably eat it. I'm also officially pioneering semi-cooked salad, where I add just an element or two of warm, cooked veggies to balance out the cold, crunchy ones.

Behold: Steak Salad with Baked Fries.


1 (1-lb.) sirloin steak, visible fat removed
steak rub
nonstick spray
olive oil
2 baking potatoes, sliced into steak fries
salt/pepper/cayenne pepper/all-purpose seasoning
1/2 large white onion
3/4 c. chopped mushrooms
1 bag lettuce mix
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1/2 c. grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 c. dried cranberries
1/2 small English cucumber, halved and sliced
bleu cheese dressing
bleu cheese crumbles***

***A PREEMPTIVE NOTE: I had no idea how bleu-cheesy my dressing was, and in retrospect, I'd leave out the crumbles. Just use your judgment based on how the dressing tastes.


Preheat the oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick spray. Toss the potato wedges in about a T. of olive oil, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and seasoning. Bake for about 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned.


Heat about 1 T. of olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Cook the mushrooms and onions with a little salt and pepper until beginning to caramelize. Set aside and keep warm.


In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and cranberries. Set aside.


Tenderize the steak by beating it with a meat mallet (isn't cooking fun?). Rub the steak generously with the steak rub, and also with a little olive oil. Heat up a grill pan or nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side, or until it's reached the desired level of doneness. Slice thinly.


Place some salad on each plate along with some potato wedges. Top with the onions, mushrooms, and steak. Drizzle with dressing and add some bleu cheese crumbles.


You blog fans who live here in Chicago can attest that the Weiner's Circle is a landmark that has really earned its reputation. For those of you who are uninitiated, WC is a burger joint in Lincoln Park (just blocks from my apartment) that's famous for its cheddarburgers and infamous for its...ahem...colorful after-hours antics. The women who work there take no crap from enebriated yuppies looking to soak up the vodka crans.

On the particular night pictured below, I was privy to two college-age guys treating the workers to a "sexy butt contest" (there was really no clear winner). And if you want a special treat that's not on the menu, just ask for a chocolate milkshake. You're guaranteed to like what you get.


Jess and I started a book club recently, and I was the first designated host. The host's only real duties are to provide food, drink, and shelter to the club.

I was inspired by Ina Garten's advice about making party platters: always stick to large sections of the same thing.

For the inaugural book club, I did cold platters of olives, artichokes, grapes, strawberries, hummus & pita, and prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella. The only thing I technically cooked was roasted pears. Here's the recipe:


8 assorted pears, halved and seeds removed
3 T. butter
3 T. honey

Preheat the oven to 375. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and whisk in the honey (I used the last of my aunt's pear honey). Drizzle over the pears and bake for about 40-45 minutes, until softened and beginning to brown.

We read and discussed the wonderful book What is the What? by Dave Eggers. I highly recommend it!

Thanks for reading! I'll be back to the Fearless posts soon.

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