Let's go over a couple of kitchen tricks for this week's feature: Fashioning a gourmet-style "dry rub" to add flavor interest to an otherwise straightforward cut of beef, we'll subject a steak-size cut - just enough for two - to a fast oven-roast treatment.
Although this recipe requires a bit of advance treatment, it shouldn't take much time out of your day. Count on spending a half-hour or so during the afternoon (or even the night before) to make and apply the dry rub, then less than a half-hour to roast it for dinner.
I picked up this idea from "The Babbo Cookbook," a new book full of colorful photos and intriguing original Italian-style recipes from Mario Batali, a familiar personality on television's Food Channel and proprietor of the restaurant Babbo in New York City. Naturally I couldn't resist a few changes, speeding the process a bit and moving the cooking venue from broiler or grill into a hot oven.
The secret ingredient that gives the dry rub its unique personality, though, is all Mario's: It's based on dried porcini mushrooms whacked into a powder with a mini-food processor.INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)
2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
2 large garlic cloves
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon sugar
Cayenne to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
12-16 ounce boneless beef steak, sirloin or New York strip
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1. Grind the dried mushrooms into a powder. A mini-Cuisinart is easiest, but you can use a spice grinder or even a mortar and pestle.
2. Mince the garlic, and blend it in a small bowl with the mushroom powder, salt, sugar, cayenne and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, adding olive oil a little at a time until you have a moist paste.
3. Rub this paste ("dry rub") all over the steak, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature for 2 to 4 hours (or overnight in the refrigerator).
4. Before dinner, preheat your oven to 425F, and make a quick vinaigrette with the remaining 1 ounce olive oil and the balsamic vinegar.
5. Remove the plastic wrap from the steak and place the steak on a rack in a small roasting pan. Roast for 12 to 15 minutes (for rare to medium). Slice thin, across the grain, drizzle with the balsamic vinaigrette and serve.
I like to serve this kind of unusual entree with simple accompaniments that won't steal the stage: Crusty bread or roasted potatoes, a green salad or vegetable, and a glass of wine, of course, make this a meal.
WINE MATCH: Just about any red wine will work with steak, of course, but the earthy flavors that the dried mushrooms and garlic impart call for something on the "rustic" side. I saluted Batali's Italian roots with a robust red from the Veneto, Masi 1999 Ripasso Campofiorin. You'll find my tasting notes on this wine at
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Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Thai-accented pumpkin soup (Nov. 7)
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