Monday, March 3, 2014

Cooking Together- A Love Story

Tonight we BOTH get a turn in the kitchen- The Chef makes the PERFECT steak, always the absolute perfect medium rare for me. No one else can do it EXACTLY perfect and I have had steak cooked by many many many people. I don't know how he does it. He just KNOWS........

So he is going to work his magic on some steaks with some meat rubs and maybe even the grill pan (not his favorite pan but I love the grill marks) and I am in charge of the side dish.

Our recent trip to the Taj Mahal of grocery stores, as you know, kept me captivated in the bulk buying section for a good hour, overwhelmed by the incredible variety of options available to me. So many things. So ugh !! But one thing I have been DYING to try was right there, and inexpensive, a whole barrel full with a scoop sticking out just beckoning to me!! Israeli couscous.  

Now I love couscous. It's so super easy, really requires ZERO cooking other than bringing water to a boil and is such a versatile side dish. Whatever you add to it transforms it. Where regular couscous is teeny tiny, Israeli couscous is BIG. Almost like pearl tapioca- big beautiful dots of delicious, and I can't wait to start creating. Because it is much larger, it does require some actual cooking. My research has revealed both a rice-style cooking method which absorbs all the cooking liquid, as well as a traditional pasta-style cooking, in lots of salted water and then drained. I have decided to toast mine and use the absorption method and let my creativity take over from there.

Besides the bulk grain section, The Chef practically had to drag me from the produce section. In fact, we were there so long that he actually made friends with the produce manager and stood talking food prices and so on for quite a while. I think they really bonded over baby carrots and hot peppers. Row after row of tropical fruit, amazing organic produce, every type of potato known to man, peppers of all kinds- it was like Disneyland. "It's A Small World"- you know- the ride that takes three days to get through......ya, that's me in the produce section. 

Brussels sprouts were what I was on the hunt for, and I was not disappointed. I loved the cute market basket display, and I got to pick through and choose my sprouts myself instead of prepackaged sprouts with a few yuckies hidden in the middle. Oh- and baby carrots- but not just any baby carrots- baby tri-colored carrots !! I squealed with delight as I filled "my splurge" part of the cart- the kid seat part. By the time I got done filling my allowed splurge area I had bulk Israeli couscous, bulk cracked wheat, bulk brown mustard seed, a big container of olives, marinated provolone and peppadews from the antipasti bar, a nice hunk of cheese and a crusty baguette. I was in heaven!

The Chef selected a couple nice Angus steaks and some other meats from the meat counter, we finished up our shopping and got out of there before I got too comfortable and wanted to just live there.

Now he is going to handle steak duty like so:

Classic Johnny and Kay's Steak DeBurgo

2 steaks- use the cut you like, filet is awesome, we are using sirloin
1/3 cup butter, plus more if needed
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 tsp crushed dried basil
salt and pepper

Season steaks with salt and pepper. Melt butter in skillet, add steaks and cook to desired doneness. Add additional butter to make sure you have about 1/4 cup or so in the pan. Add the crushed garlic and saute for a minute or so. Add basil. Return steaks to pan and turn to coat. Place steaks on serving plates and pour butter over.

My contribution to this meal (oh, I have long dreamed of having a man I could cook with side by side- this is true love folks) will be the side dish. I am combining my starch and veggies into one-

Toasted Israeli Couscous with Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

1 cup Israeli couscous, uncooked
2 tb oil
1 1/4 cup chicken stock or broth
3 slices of bacon, chopped
1/4 lb fresh Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise then sliced like slaw
1-2 tb sugar
freshly ground black pepper
several splashes balsamic vinegar

Heat the oil in small saucepan. Add the couscous and cook and stir until it is toasted and evenly browned. Don't overbrown- just looking for a toasty color. Add the broth and simmer on medium low heat for about 10 minutes. The liquid should completely absorb into the couscous and it will be al dente.

While the couscous was cooking get the chopped bacon going until crispy and remove from the pan to drain, reserving the bacon fat (at least a couple tablespoons, maybe 3). 

To that add the shredded sprouts  and the sugar and give that a quick toss over the heat til barely wilted. I left the sprouts with enough crunch that they are almost nutty in the finished dish. Toss sprouts, couscous, bacon and a splash or two of balsamic vinegar in a large bowl and toss to mix. If you think you need more "sauce" to the mixture, add a splash or two of chicken broth. You could also do a splash of white wine if you have it. Serve with The Chef's awesome steak.

As always, my steak was perfectly cooked and perfectly seasoned. Buttery sauce with lots of absolute favorite way to cook steak. But what about the side dish ??

It was sooooo yummy !! The Brussels sprouts added a nice veggie element, the bacon a nice bit of crunch, the couscous was cooked perfectly. The bacon fat and balsamic were the perfect match for this dish. We will definitely be making many return trips to the bulk buy bins!

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