Saturday, October 26, 2013

Steak Diane

 If you were talking Minneapolis fine dining in the last mid-century, there were two names that always rose to the top....Charlie's Cafe Exceptionale and Harry's. On January 8, 1978, Harry's burned to the ground in a spectacular four alarm fire. The corner of 11th and Nicollet has never been the same.

Charlie's was the composed and classy Cate Blanchett. Harry's was the flashy and brassy Cameron Diaz. I will never forget ordering Steak Diane at Harry's. FlambĂ©ed table side, it made for some of the best "food as theater" one would ever see. The showmanship of preparation was exceeded only by the taste of the food.

These dinosaurs are no longer around. Death by evolution, or in the case of Harry's, death by fire. The only restaurant left in Minneapolis that remotely resembles that kind of experience is La Belle Vie. Compared to Charlie's, Harry's and La Belle Vie, everything else is just a well-polished, third-world experience.

While the places we so loved may be gone, their food still lives on. This recipe serves two, but please exercise all due caution with the flambé...we don't need another four alarm fire for the history books.

4 (3-ounce) filet mignon medallions
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 teaspoons minced shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup sliced white mushroom caps
1/4 cup Cognac
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup beef stock
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 drops hot red pepper sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped green onions
1 teaspoon minced parsley leaves

  1. Season the beef medallions on both sides with the salt and pepper.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook for 45 seconds on the first side. Turn and cook for 30 seconds on the second side. Add the shallots and garlic to the side of the pan and cook, stirring, for 20 seconds. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until soft, 2 minutes. Place the meat on a plate and cover to keep warm.
  3. Tilt the pan towards you and add the cognac. Tip the pan away from yourself and ignite the cognac with a match. (Alternatively, remove the pan from the heat to ignite, and then return to the heat.) When the flame has burned out, add the mustard and cream, mix thoroughly and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the stock and simmer for 1 minute. Add the Worcestershire and hot sauce and stir to combine. Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pan and turn the meat to coat with the sauce. Remove from the heat and stir in the green onions and parsley. Divide the medallions and sauce between two plates and serve immediately.

    Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Braised Chinese Chicken with Chestnuts

This is another simple Chinese recipe from Fuschia Dunlop (the dish is called "Ban Li Shao Ji"). I recently bought her new cookbook, "Every Grain of Rice" and am in love with exploring the recipes contained in this 350 page gem. So many of the recipes are Paleo, as this one is, so I feel like I have stumbled onto a real gold mine.

This recipe could not be any simpler. The prep time is about 5 minutes and then you've got just 15 minutes of simmering. The chestnuts, a native crop of China for centuries, bring a unique taste and texture to the dish. You can buy them cooked at your grocery store. You can also buy them raw at Whole Foods. If you do the latter, simply slice off the base and blanch them in boiling water for 2 minutes.

4 boneless chicken thighs (about 3/4 lb.)
2-inch piece fresh ginger
2 spring onions, white and green parts separated
2 tbsp peanut oil
1 1/2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons chicken stock
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
7 ounces cooked chestnuts
Salt to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional)*

*The original recipe does not call for red pepper flakes, but when I made this dish, I thought it tasted much better with some heat.


  1. Peel the ginger and cut into thick slices. Cut the whole scallions into 2-inch lengths.
  2. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces.
  3. In a wok or pot, heat oil and carefully add the chicken. Allow the chicken to sear untouched on one side until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip the chicken over and sear on the other side for another 3 minutes. Add the ginger and white scallions and sear for about 30 seconds. Splash in the Chinese rice wine and stir well.
  4. Slowly add the chicken stock and bring the liquid to a boil. Stir in the sugar, chestnuts and soy sauce. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. At the last minute, add the green scallions and cook for one more minute. Adjust the seasoning with salt and add red pepper flakes if desired, then transfer to a deep serving dish.

Wine pairing: Syrah