Monday, January 26, 2009

Steak and Potatoes

On the weekends, while the rest of the house is napping, I like to watch cooking shows on PBS. Everyday Food is good. I really like(d) Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen. But my favorite is America's Test Kitchen and by extension Cook's Country. I can't really tell the difference between the two. I need to squeeze some coin out of the tight purse and make a donation to PBS/GPB in gratitude and maybe a subscription to Cook's Illustrated.

I like these shows better than many of the new shows now on Food Network which seems to have gotten a little campy trying to reach new audiences, read market. If you read on-line forums and reviews you find people have a love-hate following of the Cook's Illustrated family of shows and magazine and for that matter, Christopher Kimball. The things that people hate about them are exactly why I love the show; it's quirky, anal retentive and focuses too much on technique. I love it!

A week or so ago the show was about imitating a diner breakfast, fluffy omelet with home fries. I don't know what the potatoes' proper name is but they are the ones where the potatoes are cut into small 1/2 inch or so cubes and fried crispy brown. It was timely since I had just recently attempted the same meal for breakfast and my potatoes came out under cooked. The two big secrets I learned were to use yellow or white potatoes instead of baking potatoes and to microwave the potatoes before cutting and frying them. There was also a "hidden" secret in that some diners use a big heavy press when cooking their potatoes but on the show they did not have that luxury. Hmmm????

So, having recently been inspired to run out and buy a bag of potatoes, I set out to make these for dinner Saturday night. I over estimated and used six potatoes when three probably would have sufficed. That resulted in having to do two batches because once I nuked the potatoes I was committed to cooking them. I fried them in my large cast iron skillet in two tablespoons of bacon fat that I had clarified for some extra flavor. Unlike on America's Test Kitchen, I didn't have the patience or ambition to turn over each potato cube to ensure even browning. So I just flipped them with a spatula and hoped for the best. BUT, remembering that comment about the press I took another cast iron pan and put it down on top of the potatoes to act as a press. It worked very well. The only thing that might have been better is if I had heated up the second pan to cook the tops as I used it as a press. Now I'm wondering about one of those George Foreman Grills?

To go with the potatoes I pulled out the other half of a chuck roast I had used for pot roast a while back. When I was a kid we ate "steak" a lot. But steak in my family was not an expensive cut like rib eye, porterhouse, T-bone or even sirloin but a comparatively inexpensive flat two inch thick chuck roast that my Dad would cook on the grill and then serve us slices. My roast was far too thick to cook that way so I sliced it down into inch thick slabs. They looked like boneless T-bone steaks. It turned into a great meal of cheap steak and potatoes.

So don't think Food Network is where it's all at, PBS is still pretty good too. That said, I watched Chopped for the first time last night. I had very low expectations. I mean, how many Iron Chef shows do we need? Never a good sign when your network starts ripping off its own shows. But, I was pleasantly surprised. I haven't really warmed up to Ted Allen as a show host, but I actually enjoyed the show.


Brook said...

Ha. Still like your kitchen music. And I used to love watching PBS cooking shows on the weekend. And yes, Food network too. But it seems that I am not watching very much tv at all anymore. It's on plenty but usually these days on kids shows or movies for Big Daddy D. Funny we used to watch the grilling show with Steve Raichlen together and enjoy Lidia and Rick Bayless too. Oh well. Maybe someday. Oh yes, I am also looking forward to Julie and Julia!

Huff Daddy said...

I've been unpacking my CDs, FINALLY, so I'm finding odds and ends that I haven't listened to in a LOOOOOONG time.

We should probably be more constructive in the evenings, but Dinah works on her computer at night with the TV on so I keep her company. FoodTV is mindless for her and entertaining for me.