Monday, August 11, 2008

Cooking Like a Top Chef

...Top Cheftestant Lisa Fernandes, that is.

I miss Top Chef and thought I'd play a little with some TC4 recipes. One that intrigued me was Lisa Fernandes' steak with spicy apple caramel sauce and peanut butter mashed potatoes. Sounds kinda weird, but the judges all seemed to like the dish; I thought I'd give it a try. The recipe looked simple enough, but I made a few minor modifications.

There were a couple of cute little cherry peppers in my garden which I used instead of Thai bird chiles. I didn't puree any peanuts into fresh peanut butter - I just used what I had (a combination of Peanut Better Thai Ginger and Red Pepper and Jif). And, instead of NY strip, I used a sirloin, seared in a hot pan and finished in the oven.

The sauce was a variant of a Vietnamese style caramel sauce, similar to this one I made last year. But tastier. Last year's sauce was a bit insipid. Lisa's was rich and flavorful, sweet but not obnoxiously so, the garlic giving it great savor. I didn't puree it in the blender, as called for in the recipe (who wants to clean out a sticky blender?) or strain it.

Now I know why the judges raved over the dish. Peanut butter and potatoes is a match made in heaven, as is apples, caramel, and steak. It was a rich combination of flavors that was definitely restaurant-quality. The only thing I wasn't crazy about was the steak itself. It was a sirloin from Ceriello's, a cut of meat we had bought from them half a dozen times in the past, so it should have been great. But it was a bit tough and not nearly as flavorful as I expected. Maybe because it had been frozen for a couple of weeks, I don't know. I don't think that should have made so much difference in the texture of the meat.

The tart apple salad was a perfect counterpoint to the sweetness of the sauce and the unctuousness of the potatoes. I'd definitely make this dish again.

Steak with Spicy Apple Caramel Sauce (courtesy of Bravo)


Peanut Butter Mashed Potatoes:

1 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 cup fresh peanut butter
1 oz peanut oil
2 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup melted salted butter
1 cup warm heavy cream
Salt to taste

Spicy Apple Caramel Sauce:

1 cup sugar
1 tsp water
1/2 can coconut milk
1-2 tsp fish sauce
1 clove chopped garlic
1-2 red Thai bird chilis, minced
16 oz fresh apple juice
4 Thai chilis, rough chop

1 green apple, julienned (I used granny smith)
1 tsp roasted peanuts, chopped
1 scallion, sliced
2 tsp apple reduction
Salt to taste

N.Y. Strip Steak:
1 grilled strip steak, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste


Peanut Butter Mashed Potatoes:

Puree roasted peanuts into fresh peanut butter with enough peanut oil to make smooth.

Boil potatoes and put through a ricer. Mix together in a bowl with butter and heavy cream until smooth and creamy. Add peanut butter mixture and adjust if needed. Season with salt.

Spicy Apple Caramel Sauce:
Place sugar and water in a pot and cook on high heat until golden brown in color. Add coconut milk and whisk. Add fish sauce, garlic and chilis; remove from heat. Puree in a blender and strain.

Reduce apple juice in a pot with chilis on low-medium heat until half cup is left then add 1/4 cup to caramel sauce.

In a bowl, mix ingredients together.

N.Y. Strip Steak:
Grill strip steak seasoned with salt and pepper to desired doneness.

To Serve

Place mashed potatoes down first, top with sliced steak. Drizzle caramel on steak; top with salad.