Recipe: steak and mushrooms on polenta
I’m back from California and this time I’m home for a good few weeks which makes me more than just a little giddy. It’s not that I don’t love California – because I love the hell out of California – but this was my fifth trip in just over seven weeks and at some point I start to long for my routine again. The trip was totally worth it though. Have a looksee.
expansive fields of tidy tips
classic combo: lupine and poppies
cherry tree blossoms
It’s spring and that means green grasses and a glorious rainbow of wildflowers in the Golden State. Timing is everything and it’s hard to get that right when you book travel a few months in advance, but we make due. You can find the full sets from day 1 and day 2 on my photo blog. On our third day, the weather forecast was for rain. California poppies don’t open when it rains, so my shooting pal and I drove north up the coast to Big Sur (beyond Big Sur, the road was closed due to a landslide). As our dumb luck would have it – the skies opened up for us!
elephant seals take a group nap
hummingbird checking me out
The rest of day 3 along the Central Coast is on the photo blog. We rolled into Big Sur shortly after noon and stopped at Nepenthe on the recommendation of several friends for lunch with a view. Despite the cool temperatures (50s) we opted to sit out on the patio to soak up the sun and gaze out onto the Pacific. After our meal we continued up the coast and dropped by The Big Sur Bakery. We got a browned butter strawberry tart on a whim. Wow… WOW! Finest browned butter tart I’ve ever had. EVER.
dining outside at nepenthe in big sur (with a view!)
*amazing* browned butter strawberry tart from big sur bakery
On our last day we drove into Los Angeles and met with Todd and Diane and Allison and Son for ramen at Mottainai, crispy cream puffs at Marukai Market, and ethnic shopping safari. Diane loaded us up with some Vietnamese green mango pickles before we left to catch out flight back to Colorado.
ramen at mottainai: the reward at the end of the trip
diane insisted on a dozen fabulous crispy cream puffs to share
This is the second year in a row I’ve gone to shoot the spring bloom in Southern California. It’s a visual shocker to return home to snowfall, brown and crunchy dead grasses, bare aspens, and dark pine trees. But it’s home and it’s wonderful! I have a hankering for spring-like dishes lately so I figure I should get to posting the dish I made for our anniversary back in March.
simple: polenta and salt
pour in the polenta when the water comes to a boil
The first time I had polenta was in the field in Argentina and despite the project leader’s best efforts, it wasn’t so appetizing. That’s saying a lot because most things you wouldn’t think to eat at home actually taste GOOD in the field. I kept away from polenta for nearly a decade. But eventually I had it prepared properly and well at friends’ houses and restaurants. So I figured I’d give it a try at home… with mushrooms and steak.
luscious chanterelle mushrooms
This is actually a common combination at some of the fine dining establishments in Boulder. You know me – I love trying to re-create this kind of thing at home for a fraction of the cost and no dress code! Turns out that making polenta is easy peasy. Just don’t walk away from it. I left mine fairly plain with just a smidge of butter because I knew the other parts of the dish would provide plenty of flavor (and fat).
stirring in a pat of butter
pan-seared amazingness (chanterelles)
You can use whatever mushrooms you like, but I’ve been on a kick for chanterelles ever since Danny whipped them up with egg and quinoa for breakfast last summer at Shauna and Danny’s house. They cost me an arm and a leg at my local Whole Foods.
salt and pepper the steaks
pan searing steaks (and making a huge mess)
The steaks… Originally I used dry-aged filet mignon (from Whole Foods) and they were heavenly buttery melty-in-your-mouthy good albeit pricey. This time around they only had regular tenderloin. Still good, but not as good as the dry-aged beef.
slicing the steaks after they’ve rested
spooning out some polenta
Timing it all is something I could use more practice doing. I kept the polenta and mushrooms warm while the tented steaks rested for a few minutes. Meanwhile I used the fond in the pan to make a port reduction. Slice the steaks (or go whole steak if that is your desire) and serve it up on a creamy bed of polenta with heady mushrooms. Prepare to lick your plate clean.
don’t forget the reduction
that’s about as romantic as we get here
Seared Steak and Mushrooms on Creamy Polenta
3 cups water
1/3 tsp salt
1 cup dried polenta
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsps butter
2-3 oz. chanterelle mushrooms per person, wiped clean and sliced thick
salt and pepper
one 6-8 oz. steak (filet mignon works well) per person
vegetable oil for pan-searing
port reduction sauce
In a medium saucepan, bring the 3 cups of water and salt to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and pour the polenta into the water in a steady stream while stirring constantly. Stir for about 20-30 minutes until the polenta becomes thick and tender. (If it dries out too quickly, you’ll need to add some hot water). Stir in a tablespoon of butter.
Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a sauté pan over medium high heat until the butter is melted. Add the mushrooms and cook until browned. Flip and brown the other sides. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the mushrooms. Remove from heat and keep warm.
Sprinkle salt and pepper on all sides of the steaks, rubbing to distribute evenly. In a sauté pan, heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil over high heat. When the oil shimmers, place the steaks in the pan (but don’t crowd them) and cook until the base is nicely browned. Flip and cook the other side. I like rare, so this takes about 2-4 minutes per side for 2-inch thick steaks. Remove the steaks from the pan and tent them under foil for 5 minutes. Use the fond (the browned bits) in the pan to make the port reduction sauce. When the steak has rested, slice the meat on a diagonal (against the grain) into 1/4-inch thick slices.
To serve, spoon polenta onto a plate, layer slices of mushroom, and then arrange slices of steak in a fan. Pour reduction sauce on top or serve on the side.