start with a bowl


What is your favourite meal?

Seriously. What is your favourite meal?

If it’s your birthday, or you’re on death row awaiting execution, what do you want to eat?  I find this question curious as I don’t know that I have a favourite meal.  I can narrow it down to a handful of things, but depending on my mood, or the time of year, I really don’t know what my favourite meal is.

This question came up yesterday as it was Thom’s birthday.  I won’t say how old he is, but I will say that our ages no longer begin with the same number.  Early in the day a friend posted on his facebook wall that she was excited to see what I was cooking and baking for his birthday.  I suddenly felt panic.  I hadn’t made specific plans.  Crap.  This wasn’t because I don’t love him and don’t think his birthday is special, but because I really couldn’t imagine what his favourite meal was  – just as I couldn’t think of mine. 

My last boyfriend was always very clear about his favourite meal.  He wanted pizza and a McCain Deep and Delicious Cake.  I know.  No cooking required.  But that’s what he wanted.  It was his clear favourite. Just the idea of that meal made him smile and he had fond memories of past occasions where pizza and freezer cake were on the menu.  Now, let me be clear my ex likes my cooking.  His selection was in no way a reflection of my cooking.  In fact, we have a standing agreement that he will housesit if the fridge is full of leftovers. 

But back to Thom’s birthday.  I figured the simplest course was to ask him.  He was stumped.  His answer was pretty similar to my perspective; it depends on his mood, the time of year…  So, I had to use my coaching skills and drill down with questions.  Eventually he decided that a striploin was a treat (I prefer rib steaks and they’re usually a bit cheaper) and that Steak au poivre and frites with a nice Côtes du Rhônes would be his preferred dish.  Steak au poivre and frites is special from Thom because it was a French classic (he grew up in Paris).  He remembers fondly enjoying it at a restaurant called Le Cheval Noir in Bougival (a suburb of Paris) when he was a teenager. As for dessert, he wanted a few squares of dark chocolate (we had some Lindt left over from the holidays) and the last of the blood orange champagne sorbet still in the freezer from New Years Eve.

When I was a kid, steaks were reserved for the BBQ alone.  When Thom and I moved in together, he showed me how to make a steak in a cast iron pan on the stove top.  I love this method, primarily because you are basting a steak in butter. Seriously.  Butter. Thom wanted to cook with me yesterday and together we prepared an awesome meal. I apologize for the pictures.  My kitchen has horrible lighting for pictures after sundown.

We looked up a number of recipes for the peppercorn sauce.  I started with the bible (JuliaChildand Thom went online.  Eventually he found a recipe from Alton Brown that he liked.  When making something classic I love to look at a few recipes to get a wide perspective. It helps me to really understand the process of the recipe and makes it easier for me to wing it next time.  Seeing where the recipes are the same and where they are different allows me to know where I can play if I want to put my own spin on it.   Interestingly, there weren’t a lot of variations. This recipe is pretty classic.  They all contained butter, peppercorns, cognac, and beef stock.  I liked that Julia used shallots and Thom liked that Alton used whipping cream.  We went with what we liked from both recipes and put together a silky, rich sauce with an awesome peppery bite.  

While I focused on the steaks and the sauce:

steakssteaks cookingpeppercorn sauce

Thom went to work on the frites:  

shoestring frites

He cut very thin shoestring fries so that the sauce could be the star when you dipped the frites in the sauce.  Since we were only making two potatoes worth of frites it seemed silly to haul out our T-Fal deep fryer.  Instead we went old school and filled a pot with oil and pulled out the candy thermometer. 
frites cooking

A digression  – over the holidays I was thinking I needed a new candy thermometer.  I had made several Italian meringues and some sponge toffee.  I felt that my sugar was always a bit burnt or dark even when I was below the desired temperature.  It might have been wise to listen to that little voice in my head that said “get a new candy thermometer.”

Now back to our frying adventure.  When the thermometer reached the desired temperature, Thom put the frites in the pot.  Then, very swiftly and dramatically, the oil bubbled up and over.  It went all over the ceramic stove top (very grateful I didn’t have a gas stove last night) and it poured down the side of the oven.  To make a long story short, we selected a lower “desired temperature” and now the oven and the floor are sparkling clean! 

It was a beautiful meal.  We were really pleased with the results and are looking forward to having it again. Will Thom want it next year for his birthday?  Maybe…maybe not.  I almost hope not so that we can have another fun, culinary adventure next year.

steak au poivre

I want to thank Meat on the Beach for awesome NY Striploins.  A great dish starts with great ingredients. 

Happy Birthday, my love. 


Amy • January 11, 2016

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