What to do with all those peppers?
Dinner was inspired by a certain randomness and instinct. You know those days at the store, late afternoon with no list, no clue and hoping for the best. Usually I plan out our weekly menus and shopping but not this day, not this dinner. Seeking eye-candy to spark something good. You’ve been there haven’t you?
The bag itself was beguiling, tempting with the bright candy colors. Mini jewels of crisp sweetness singing their summer cheeriness in the cold room of the big box store. Pick Me! Pick Me! I’m helpless to their call. Weaving and dodging the other shoppers (and hoping to not get run over as I pass the sample tables) I made my way to the meat counter. Not knowing if tonight will be dinner for two or four I found myself looking at the steaks — some are really expensive, but the sirloin steaks looked good and in they went. Next to the wine section where browsing is like a trip around the world. Steak needs red, and a recommendation from the wine guy convinced me to try a South American red wine. Grabbing the fresh Pugliese and the night’s menu was sealed. Simple ingredients, meat, vegetable, bread, wine.
I get excited about flavor combinations and peppers and steak have long partnered successfully. I’m not usually concerned about making it up as I go along, quality ingredients usually carry you through. This unstructured creative cookery is often what I like best, those times when you can just taste it in your mind before the final outcome and then be pleasantly surprised that it worked. What’s not to like in a steak sandwich anyway? Served open-faced on a thick slice of Pugliese to catch the juices and a glass of a smooth, fruity and slightly smoky 2011 Chilean Montes Cabernet Sauvignon (90 Points – Robert Parker.) My Dad would call this a “good fix.”
Preparation is fairly straightforward and simple. Season your steaks with salt, pepper and a little garlic granules and let it come up to room temperature while you slice your peppers and chop some onion. My goal was to have the peppers still with a bit of crunch – you know that sensation when the firm flesh releases the bright pepper juice just as you bite down. The trick is to cook the vegetables in stages, each on it’s own and to the desired doneness then combine at the end to blend together. This is a lesson learned by reading Julia Child’s recipe for classic ratatouille.
- 4 6-8 oz 1½" thick sirloin steaks
- salt, black pepper, granulated garlic to taste
- olive oil
- 4 cups sliced red, yellow, orange mini-peppers
- 6 each Hot Peppadew Peppers (may substitute Mild)
- ½ medium size yellow onion chopped
- 1 15 oz can no-salt diced tomatoes and juices
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 loaf crusty bread (Pugliese or Sourdough French)
- Pat steaks dry with paper towels, season with salt, pepper and granulated garlic on each side. Rest and let come up to room temperature before cooking (about 30 minutes)
- Saute onions in olive oil over medium high in a 12" heavy skillet (cast iron works best) for 3-4 minutes until soft and transparent. Remove from pan.
- Add peppers and cook for 5 minutes until they are just tender but not soft.
- Remove vegetables from skillet and increase heat to high.
- Sear the steaks, be sure to not overcrowd in skillet for 5 minutes each side.
- Add back in the cooked vegetables, wine and tomatoes. Lower heat and cook together for 10-15 minutes (if you like your steak medium rare, you can remove at your preferred temperature and let it rest while you finish up the peppers.) Mixture will thicken as it cooks.
- Place thick slices of bread on each plate, add steak and top with the vegetable wine mixture.
- Serve with the same wine you used in cooking. It should be that good.
Here’s a hint at what else became of that bag of peppers. What would you prepare?