- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 8, 2005

When I grew up, houses had small kitchens and separate dining rooms. How times have changed.

My parents bought our 1930s home two decades after it was built, and although they renovated the kitchen by adding new cabinets and flooring, they retained the room’s original size.

We ate most family meals in a small, adjacent breakfast room that barely accommodated a table and four chairs. The dining room was used exclusively for entertaining company. Now, our kitchen is the biggest room in the house.

It has a large center island, enough cabinets to store a lifetime’s worth of cooking equipment and, best of all, an alcove bordered by a bay window for dining. More often than not, I entertain as well as cook in my kitchen.

That’s what I did when two good friends came for a visit.

I didn’t want to be alone in front of the stove, missing out on catching up, so I set our kitchen table with nice linens and fall flowers and invited everyone in while I cooked.

From Friday-night supper to Sunday-morning breakfast, I reveled in the convenience and pleasure of preparing and serving meals in the same room.

Our friends ate with abandon all weekend, and, although they liked all the dishes, their favorite was pan-grilled flank steaks marinated in a mixture of red wine, crushed garlic and sage leaves.

I used grill pans to quickly cook the steaks, but they could just as easily have been cooked on an outdoor grill. For serving, I arranged the sliced meat on a platter and topped it with a bouquet of sage along with sage butter, which is a blend of butter, chopped sage and garlic. Fresh green beans dusted with sea salt and a cauliflower gratin made fine side dishes.

The flank steak recipe serves six, so I had leftover meat, which I used in a salad for Saturday’s lunch. I cut the remaining steak slices into smaller strips, combined them with torn romaine lettuce, sliced heirloom tomatoes and crumbled goat cheese, then tossed the ingredients in a vinaigrette dressing.

Served with warm ciabatta bread, the leftover flank steak salad made a simple, yet delectable light entree.

Easy, casual and relaxed, kitchen entertaining is here to stay — at least in my house.

Flank steaks with red wine, garlic and sage

2 cups dry red wine

6 large garlic cloves, crushed

12 medium fresh sage leaves, torn into small pieces plus extra sprigs for garnish

Freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt

2 flank steaks (about 11/4 pounds each), trimmed of excess fat

Olive or vegetable oil for greasing grill pans or grill

SAGE BUTTER:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves

1½ tablespoons minced garlic

1½ teaspoons red wine vinegar

In a large nonreactive baking dish (such as a 9- by 13-inch Pyrex dish), whisk together wine, garlic, torn sage leaves, 1 tablespoon pepper and 2 teaspoons salt. Place steaks in dish, turn several times and cover with plastic wrap. Marinate in refrigerator at least 3 hours or overnight, turning occasionally. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before cooking.

To make sage butter, in a small nonreactive bowl mix together butter, sage, garlic and vinegar with a fork until well blended. (Butter can be prepared 1 day in advance. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 45 minutes or longer before using.)

When ready to cook steaks, oil two large stove-top grill pans lightly and place over medium high heat. If using an outdoor grill, arrange a rack 4 to 5 inches from heat source and oil it generously. Prepare grill for a hot fire (high temperature).

Pat steaks dry with paper towel, then salt and pepper them on both sides. When grill pans or outdoor grill are hot, add steaks and grill 4 to 6 minutes per side for medium rare. (Internal temperature should be about 140 degrees.) Remove to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes. Cut meat on the diagonal against the grain into 1/4-inch thick slices.

To serve, arrange sliced steaks on a platter and top with dollops of sage butter (which will start to melt). Garnish meat with a bouquet of sage leaves. Makes 6 servings.

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