Today was one of those no good very bad days starting at 12:30 am when I was awoken by my fire alarm and continuing straight through work. When I was finally able to pack up for the day all I wanted to do was take a long walk home and stand in my kitchen chopping and dicing and creating tasty dishes. I find cooking, and preparing food to be incredibly relaxing, and a great de-stresser. So I took great joy in spending the last few minutes of work thinking through what I wanted to make myself for dinner. Now, to be fair, I had one of those "sad when its over", absolutely delicious, perfect meals on Saturday night, and I took a lot of inspiration from that. So I cant really take credit for a couple of the ideas as basically I would love to be able to recreate it completely, though I know that thats next to impossible.
I was having one of my ridiculous steak cravings so I stopped to pick up some steak, some baby portobello mushrooms for a wine sauce that I was picturing, baby arugula and fingerling potatoes- my favorite type of potato. Somehow I have lived as long as I have, and cooked as much as I have and Ive never had cooked arugula-other than on a pizza as a topping. Saturday night I had it sauteed with onions, asparagus and mushrooms and it was delicious. Arugula has a great spicy, sort of peppery taste to it when raw, and when cooked it mutes slightly but still holds enough of its flavor to add a great dimension. I decided to add it to my fingerling potatoes that I sauteed with just a little bit of olive oil, chopped garlic, chopped shallots, a few red pepper flakes to turn up the heat a bit and salt and pepper. I laid this mixture down as a bed (Im telling you- inspiration) and sliced steak that I had cooked up in my trusty grill pan over the top if it. I cannot tell you how sad I am to not have a real grill, however I adore my apartment and where I live so I guess Ill just have to survive as having one here will just not work. A grill pan does a good enough job I guess- you dont get that great charcoal/fire taste in the meat, but you can get a great caramelization and grill marks so its sort of close.
I then turned my attention to making a wine sauce to cover the meal. I had sliced the mushrooms down into pretty thick pieces and added them to a sauce pan with butter, garlic and shallots simmering. I allowed them to cook for a while to absorb those flavors. Mushrooms are fantastic in that they will just soak up different flavors and really showcase what you cook them with. I do wish that my brain had been working a bit better when I was at the store as I would have remember to pick up some thyme, or maybe some rosemary to add another dimension of flavor to the sauce. After the day I had though I was happy to just know my name, so the sauce would have to do without that addition. Once I had felt that the mushrooms had had enough time to absorb the flavors, I added about a quarter of a bottle of a Spanish red wine. The first few times I tried to make a wine sauce I found that they turned out very bitter tasting, and what Ive realized is that I hadnt been cooking any of it long enough. I hadnt allowed the garlic to saute long enough to turn a bit sweet, and I hadnt allowed the alcohol in the wine to cook off to leave the sweetness and the richness of the grapes. This time I allowed the wine to simmer, over a medium heat, until I could see the reduction happening. The smell of the sauce went from an acrid, alcoholic smell to one of a combination of all of the different ingredients. It smelled delicious. I spooned quite a bit of it over the steak and sat down to enjoy with another glass of red wine.
I would absolutely change a few things to this dish. The arugula was delicious, and added a brightness to the dish that was necessary in contrast to the wine sauce and meat, however as it was under the meat, the dish did not showcase the beauty of it. I enjoyed it as a bed, but I either should have reserved a bit to stand up to the sauce on top of the steak, or I suppose that parsley over the top would have added the necessary brightness to the top of the dish. I also would have added a bit more herbs in general to my cooking. However, I have to say, it hit the spot. The steak had caramelized nicely on the outside, the potatoes had absorbed a bit of the heat with the pepper flakes, and peppery arugula complimented that well. The sauce was delicious.
Sometimes there is nothing better than making something with your hands- chopping, prepping, slicing, stirring...its a form of accomplishment to step back from a meal that youve enjoyed and know that you created it as well. To me, its the greatest satisfaction that no matter what else happens in the day I can make something and be completely happy with it. What else do you need really?