A Budget Steak Meal From A Steak Master

Chef Michael Lomonaco was our first Chef on a Shoestring ten years ago, and he's back to celebrate his "anniversary" with a steak dinner - for the budget-minded.

In the mid-'80s, he was in the center of it all at Le Cirque, working under Master Chefs Alain Sailhac and Daniel Boulud. By 1989, Michael was playing a major role in the revitalization of the old New York establishment 21. He stayed on there until 1996, turning the rather staid, clubby restaurant into a modern American culinary destination that helped to redefine fine dining in this country.

In 1997 Lomonaco was appointed Executive Chef/Director of Windows on the World. He brought his cutting-edge American cuisine with him, replacing what had been a French-inspired menu with food that made diners and critics take note. Michael eagerly took on responsibility for all culinary operations at the Windows on the World complex, including the main dining room, the intimate Wild Blue and the boisterous Greatest Bar on Earth. In addition, he managed the kitchens for and oversaw the Windows' private dining menus and operations.

A little over a year ago he opened "Porter House New York" in the Time Warner Center. Focusing on prime aged steaks, seafood and updated versions of classic steakhouse side dishes, Lomonaco has re-invented the New York steakhouse.

In our Chef on a Shoestring kitchen, he's preparing a classic steakhouse meal for four, on our budget of $40. The menu includes Chopped Salad, Hanger Steak with Caramelized Shallots, Homemade French Fries, and topped off with a Pear & Cranberry Cobbler.

Food Facts

Hanger Steak: This steak is relatively inexpensive, but is still a nice enough cut of meat to appear on Michael's upscale menu. He likes hanger steak because it has a big meaty flavor. Hanger steak can be a bit chewy (a.k.a. tough) if you don't cook it properly OR slice it properly. Michael will show us both of these things. Also, it's essential to know that hanger steak has a nerve running through its middle that you can't eat. Butchers typically cut this out for you, but be aware so you can ask if needed.

Michael suggests cooking the steak on a grill pan or cast iron pan - about 4 minutes a side.

As the steak and shallots cook, you can toss together the chopped salad. He'll whisk together the dressing and you can try the salad. This is a classic steakhouse starter, and is a nice complement to the steak.

Recipes

Porter House Chopped Salad

Home-Made Italian Dressing

1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
2 teaspoons minced fresh shallots
1 teaspoon chopped anchovies
2 teaspoons chopped parsley leaf
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salad

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped into 1/8 inch wide strips
2 ripe Roma tomatoes, diced
½ cup thinly sliced radish slices
½ cup chopped raw carrots
1 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup tightly packed parsley leaves
½ cup grated Pecorino cheese
2 whole scallions, washed and chopped

1. For dressing, whisk together all dry ingredients, with vinegar, slowly whisk oil into already mixed ingredients, chill for an hour before serving

2. For chopped salad, combine and toss together all ingredients in a large bowl and chill in your refrigerator.

3. Just before serving, toss dressing with salad and serve on small individual plates.

4. Sprinkle additional grated cheese over each salad and freshly ground black pepper.

Serves 4

Pan-Roasted Hanger Steak With Caramelized Shallots

1 trimmed hanger steak, about 1-1/2 pounds; center nerve removed
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup finely sliced shallots
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 peeled garlic clove
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

Note: Hanger steaks, when trimmed of excess fat, will divide fairly evenly into two pieces each when the center nerve is removed, yielding four 5-ounce portions; for a larger portion, more hanger steak will be needed. Cook the steaks pan-roasted or on a grill for best results, and rare-to-medium rare is the most desired cooking temperature for maximum flavor and juiciness without toughening, something that happens in the medium-well cooking range.

Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan or cast-iron skillet and heat it over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Season the steaks with salt and pepper and add to the hot pan. Cook 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare, turning only when the first side has charred to a deep charred color. Turn and cook the second side. When the steaks have cooked sufficiently transfer to a platter, set aside and keep warm.

While the steaks are cooking, put 2 tablespoons butter into a medium sized sauce pot and heat for 30 seconds, add the shallots to the butter, and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, caramelizing to a golden color. Add the sugar and allow to caramelize further. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the vinegar, then carefully return the pan to the stovetop and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, reducing to a syrup thickness. Turn off heat and keep the shallot sauce warm.

Slice the hanger steaks into ½ inch thick slices, place the sliced steak on plates and spoon some sauce over each steak and serve with French fries.

Serves 4

For French Fries and Dessert, turn to page 2...

Home-Made French Fries

3 pounds Idaho or russet potatoes, well washed and scrubbed
Canola, peanut or vegetable oil, for filling a fryer.
If you dare, add 50% beef lard or suet to the oil for more robust flavor

Preheat the oil to 245°F.

Either by hand or using a French-fry cutter, cut even fries that are ¼-inch-square and 5- or 6-inches long, gathering them in a bowl of cold water as you work.

When the fryer is hot and ready to cook, drain the fries of all water and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels. This is critical: Water and salt are the enemies of frying oil. The fries can sit on paper towels for a few minutes, in a single layer, to air dry if you're not sure you've gotten all the water out. Once dry, add just enough fries to the fryer basket to fill it halfway. This will insure even cooking without allowing the frying oil temperature to drop too much, which results in greasy fries.

This first fry is also called blanching since it's not meant to add any color. The fries will only be par-cooked and their color will only change from raw white to slightly creamier color. The batch of fries is done when they appear to be a more yellow-white than raw-white color, approximately 5 minutes. Remove each batch, drain of all oil, and spread out on paper towels to cool.

After all fries have been blanched, they will hold for several hours. Refrigerate them, covered, if you like, but do not freeze them.

When ready to serve: Bring a fryer to 365° to 385°F. (It can be the same oil, but only reuse it once.) Cook the fries in batches. Do not overload the fryer, each batch should fill the basket halfway. Fry each batch to a rich, golden-brown color. Time will vary from 2 to 3 depending on the fryer and the speed with which it reheats. For crispier fries, fry a bit longer. Drain and salt each batch as soon as it's done, and keep them covered and warm while you fry the remaining batches.

Serve the fries piping hot alongside the dish of your choice, or on their own.

Serves 4

Pear And Cranberry Cobbler

1 pound ripe pears peeled, seeded and cut into eighths
¼ cup dried cranberries or raisins
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar plus more for dusting the pastry before baking
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
¾ cup heavy cream
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus melted butter for brushing cobbler
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Put the fruit in a bowl with 1 cup of the sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch. Gently stir together, and then pour into a 3- to 4-quart casserole or soufflé dish.

Put the flour, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl and stir together until thoroughly mixed. Add the cream and combine. Add the cold butter quickly; combining only briefly, to leave the mixture as lumpy as possible, which helps make a flaky crust.

Lightly flour a work surface and dump the lumpy pastry out onto it. Flatten gently with your hands or a rolling pin into a shape approximately 1-inch thick and just large enough to cover the top of the fruit in the dish completely. I like to cut the pastry into 2-inch circles or squares using all the pastry. Top the fruit with the pastry, brush with melted butter, dust the top with sugar, and bake in the oven until the pastry top is nicely browned, 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve warm pear cobbler dusted with confectioner's sugar.

Serves 4