Friday, June 28, 2013

"The Steak Book" & "Burpee's American Harvest Cookbooks" - Steak, Butter-Gin Flambe and Fricassee of Asparagus, Peas & Ham for Father's Day

Date I made these recipes:  June 16, 2013 (Father’s  Day)

The Steak Book by Arthur Hawkins
Published by:  Doubleday & Company, Inc.
© 1966
Recipe:  Steak, Butter-Gin Flambe – p. 88

Burpee’s American Harvest Cookbooks – the Spring Garden by Perla Meyers
Published by:  A Fireside Book Published by Simon & Schuster
© 1988
Recipe:  Fricassee of Asparagus, Peas and Ham – p. 14

It’s felt to me that much of this year has gone by in slow motion, so imagine my surprise when Father’s Day came, I cooked and it went!  Talk about your “blink and miss” moments!

Although my dad is no longer alive, I found two perfect cookbooks to use on Father’s Day, all thanks to the St. Paul Public Library.  One of the branches I use, St. Anthony, closed for renovations in early June but before they closed, they held their annual used book sale.  And kids, for a whole buck and a half, I purchased these two books along with a third, Duncan Hines Desserts.  I do believe that aside from books that I’ve been given for free, that is the best deal ever!  So thank you, St. Anthony Library.

Given how much my dad adored steak, it was almost cosmic that this book was included in the sale.  And one of my father’s other passions, gardening, made the purchase of the Burpee’s cookbook (from the famous Burpee Seeds Catalog) a no-brainer. 

So to start:  in my house, there was STEAK and there was steak.  We had STEAK – a huge cut of sirloin about 3-4 inches thick that my dad broiled to perfection.  His perfect steak was practically blue – in other words, almost raw.  My mother, on the other hand, thought she would surely die of cooties if she had any red showing and so my father very reluctantly broiled hers to medium.  If he overdid his steak, he fumed the entire meal and if he was asked to redo my mom’s steak, he fumed even more.  STEAK was serious business.

This book has lots of “steak” recipes such as Swiss Steak, steak with a cream sauce, steak with other sauces and the worst, chopped steak. We had one steak in our household and that was sirloin and that was that!  My mother watched the local newspaper adverts like a hawk and when the price went down, we got a treat.

This recipe also includes one of my dad’s favorite ingredients – gin.  A good steak and a great martini is the elixir of life, trust me on this.  But a word of caution:  the recipe calls for you to add four tablespoons of gin and then flame the pan.  Well, reader, I got as far as two tablespoons and that pan went up in flames.  Luckily, my husband was right there and so he took the pan off the stove and called for me to get a lid.  By the time I got the lid, the flames had gone out but sheesh, we could have been incinerated and what a waste of good meat and booze that would have been.  Don’t try that at home!

My favorite vegetable accompaniment to most meals is asparagus and the Fricassee of Asparagus, Peas & Ham was absolutely perfect for this steak.  I do not remember much of my grandparent’s farm in New Jersey but I do remember asparagus.  (New Jersey is the Garden State, don’t you know.)  My dad also grew asparagus in his vast garden along with peas, beans, all kinds of lettuces, potatoes, corn and the like.  And I often think of dad when reading the comic strip, Crankshaft, as that loveable curmudgeon, Ed Crankshaft has a love affair with seed catalogs that rivals my dad’s.  When that seed catalog came in the mail, it was like Christmas for Men in our house. (My favorite, of course, was Sear’s Christmas catalog.)

According to the internet, Burpee Seeds was founded in 1876 in Philadelphia and started its mail order business in 1915.  That’s pretty darned impressive considering that home gardening endeavors took a bit of a hit for a few decades before roaring back to popularity in recent years.  Of course, Lou Verme never let up on the throttle and continued to plant and tend to his garden almost up to the day he died.  I cannot say I shared his enthusiasm for gardening (dirt is Nature and Nature is not your friend) but I loved looking through the catalog as the illustrations were pretty.

Like the steak recipe, this one is very easy to make and very yummy.  I thought the sugar (2 teaspoons) might make the dish too sweet but it was perfect.  The recipe calls for fresh peas but ha! - good luck with that this year, probably the wettest growing season we’ve had for years.

So there you go dad:  we feasted on your favorites and tipped a martini glass to you in your honor.  And almost burned down our house but details, details – the important thing is that we saved the rest of the gin from further destruction! 

Steak, Butter-Gin Flambé – serves 4
*2 ½ pounds steak, 1 inch thick
Freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons gin

*the author lists the preferred cuts of meat for each recipe.  In this case, sirloin, porterhouse (our choice as it was on sale), club, Delmonico or file mignon are the best cuts for this recipe.

Trim excess fat from steak and pan-broil in heavy skillet to desired doneness.

Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and remove to heated platter. 

In the same pan, melt butter, stir well, add gin, and warm gently.

Ignite (watch yourself!), pour over steak, and serve while sauce is still blazing.

Fricassee of Asparagus, Peas & Ham – serves 6
*The author notes that this dish is a delicious accompaniment to poached eggs.
2 pounds fresh peas (about 2 cups shelled) (or use frozen)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 ½ pounds thin asparagus, trimmed to 5 inches and stalks peeled
4-6 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup cubed smoked ham
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely mined fresh chives

Place peas in a medium saucepan with water to cover.  Add a teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until barely tender.  Drain and set aside.

Bring lightly salted water to a boil in a vegetable steamer.  Add asparagus spears, cover, and steam until barely tender.  Remove and reserve.

In a large nonstick skillet, melt the butter, add the ham, and cook for 1-2 minutes without browning.

Add the cooked peas and asparagus, sprinkle with the remaining sugar, and toss lightly for 2-3 minutes or until nicely glazed.  You may need to add more butter.

Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with chives and serve hot.

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