Country Retreat

My mother-in-law has a couple dear friends that are like sisters. These are the kinds of friends that have seen many joys and sorrows together and have walked through many seasons of life side-by-side. Their children grew up together and the three of them have remained friends all these years (most of the “kids” are now in their late-20s and early 30s). Every few months they do an overnight together and rotate houses. Two of the ladies live “in town” and when they come out to my in-laws they call it a “country retreat”. They lay around the house and relax together, do a LOT of gabbing, watch movies, eat and just enjoy each others company.

This past weekend was a “country retreat” weekend and they came and stayed the whole weekend instead of just one night. I had been itching to recreate parts of a meal my mom made at Christmas as well as creme brulee (helllloooo birthday toy … err I mean torch) and they indulged me. I got to let the creative juices flow and had so much fun doing it! (My husband and father-in-law got to partake and enjoyed the creativity as well, which they didn’t mind)

The menu for the weekend was:
Beef Wellington with Brown Mustard & Horseradish Sauce
Haricot Vert Bundles Wrapped in Prosciutto Brushed with Herb Oil
Dinner Rolls
Crème Brulee with Berry Compote (I will save this for another post)

The recipe for the Beef Wellingtons is ridiculously long so I will just link to it. It’s a little time consuming and finicky, but oh man does it yield an amazing result that will not disappoint. Check it out here!

I will add that I bought a Boar’s Head brown mustard with horseradish thing to go with it and just added some Penzey’s Fines Herbs to help mellow it just a tad. It was the perfect bite to counter the richness of the meat and pastry.

Haricot Vert Bundles Wrapped in Prosciutto with Herb Oil (2 bundles per person)
3 8 oz bags of fresh haricot verts (the smaller French green beans work much better for this)HaricotVertBundles
Prosciutto (verrrrrry thinly sliced)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped chives
2 tbsp fresh basil paste
2 tsp fresh thyme (chopped)
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Chop the parsley, thyme and chives pretty finely. Put all in a bowl and add a pinch of salt and a couple grinds of black pepper. Be careful on the salt because the prosciutto is salty.
Slice the slices of prosciutto in half lengthwise.
Blanch the haricot verts and then plunge quickly into an ice bath to stop the cooking. You are going to roast them later, so they don’t need to cook long just get that bright green color.
Make sure the haricot verts are dried very well before starting.
Take about 10 haricot verts and wrap with a strip of prosciutto as many times as it will go around. Lay seam side down on a baking sheet.
Continue until you have made it through the all the haricot verts and prosciutto. I was able to get 2 strips per slice of prosciutto and made 12 bundles total.
Brush with the herb oil on all sides and roast in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes. We like our veggies not mushy, so we cooked enough to get them to crisp tender and a little crisp on the prosciutto.


steak tips with mushroom gravy

well, as you can see it’s been a while since my last post. this is primarily due to starting a new day job mid-April and quite a bit of company over the last couple weeks. this post was originally written at the begining of April. back in the next few days for a few more things i’ve been playing with over the last few weeks and haven’t had a chance to post.

the weather here has been a little odd … last weekend we had 10+ inches of snow, cold, cloudy, etc. this past weekend was 60s, sunny, a slight breeze … gorgeous! today … grey, cloudy, cold, windy and then this afternoon it snowed “buckets” for two hours, then the sun came out. being out in the weather today made me want something hot & hearty for dinner. and i found the perfect, new recipe! this meal hits two checkboxes, a new meal for the week and hot & hearty.

the recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen. before i continue i must take a minute to talk about Americas Test Kitchen. i was first introduced to it by my mom who had caught their program on a PBS channel & later learned about their website and a seasonal magazine. when she introduced me to it, i was also immediately hooked, especially by their magazine. the various sections are written by the different test chefs. they test everything from equipment, to techniques, to recipes, to food products. if you enjoy cooking, kitchen & cooking gadets and equipment and everything to do with cooking you will love this. when it comes to recipes, they talk extensively about how they tested them and all the components. it’s delightful reading! and their recipes (since they are so extensively tested) are always spot on! tonights feature is no different and the flavor was deep & satisfying! i made a few adjustments according to our tastes and what was available which i will note.

the current magazine’s topic is “skillet meals”. this piqued my interest. as much as i love to cook, i am always looking for recipes that don’t require every pan in the kitchen and don’t take all evening to make. there is a bit of prep required, but once you are rolling it doesn’t take long at all.

1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 pounds sirloin steak tips (see note regarding meat purchase below)
1 3/4 cups beef broth
1/4 oz dried porcini mushrooms
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound white mushrooms
1 large onion*
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour (i used gluten-free all-purpose flour of course)
1 garlic clove (we love garlic so i used 2)
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Cut sirloin steak tips into 1 1/2 inch chunks.
Combine soy sauce and sugar in medium bowl and add steak once it’s been cut into chunks.
Gently toss to coat and marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Meanwhile, microwave 1/4 cup of the beef broth and the porcini mushrooms in a covered bowl until steaming (about 1 minute). Let stand for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes drain porcini through fine mesh strainer lined w/a coffe filter (i did not use a coffee filter and it turned out fine), reserve liquid and mince porcini mushrooms, set both aside.
Halve and slice the onion thinly.
Clean mushrooms (this should not be done by running them under water as mushrooms retain the water, gently brush them off w/a damp papertowl)
Slice mushrooms into 1/4 inch slices.
Mince fresh thyme.
Peel garlic and mince.

To make meal:
remove steak from marinade and put on a meat-safe board and pat dry with paper towels and sprinkle with pepper.
heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a 12-inch skilled over medium-high heat until smoking.
add steak and cook until browned on all sides (6-8 minutes).
transfer to a large plate and set aside.
add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the empty skillet.
add white mushrooms, minced porcini mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
cook and be sure to stir frequently until all the liquid has evaporated and mushrooms start to brown (7-9 minutes).
scrape bottom of pan with wooden spoon to get all the little bits off the bottom of the pan (this is where a lot of flavor tends to reside).
add onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt, continue cooking and stirring frequently until onion begins to brown (6-8 minutes).
add flour, garlic and thyme, stirring constantly until the flour coats everything (about 1 minute).
stir-in remaining 1 1/2 cups broth and porcini soaking liquid, scrape the bottom of the skillet as you do this to make you get all that flavor.
nestle steak into mushroom and onion mixture and make sure all the accumulated juices make it in there as well, more flavor!
reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the steak is cooked to 130 degrees (another 3-5 minutes), stirring to coat w/sauce and turning steak.
season with salt & pepper and garnish with fresh parsley at the end.

i served this over gluten-free noodles, but hubby & i both agreed that it would have been better over rice or mashed potatoes. if you are thinking that having to make mashed potatoes is too much work for a weeknight, we have found that Bob Evans has “pre-prepared” mashed potatoes that are delicous and gluten-free. I am not a huge fan of pre-prepared foods, but this is a nice thing to have on hand when you don’t want to spend the time to make mashed potatoes.

*i used a finely chopped shallot instead of an onion because hubby is not so much an onion fan.