At this point, let’s face it, being stuck at home just plain sucks. How can we keep ourselves cooped up in four walls when there’s a whole world out there of people, places and things? I can assure you that we at the Talon are struggling to deal with social distancing as well; however, we have found that as long as we keep ourselves busy, it’s easy to forget our lives are being taken over by a little strand of protein. Instead of worrying about things out of your control, we suggest you pick up a new skill or hobby. And what hobby better to pick up than cooking?
This past week I was sent on a mission to Trader Joe’s to buy some chicken that my mom could make dinner with. I went to Trader Joe’s and went to their meat aisle scanning for the chicken she wanted. I walked up and down like twice (not seeing the chicken) and was beginning to feel like a bother and in the way of other customers so I got nervous and decided to leave. As I was walking towards the door, my eyes took one last look at all the raw meats and my eyes stopped on two words “Flank Steak”. So then I walked out and went home. I told my mom that I was not able to get her what she wanted. She was frustrated but she said not at me just at Trader Joe’s and she said she was going back the next day. Right before she walked out of the door that next day I said really quickly “canyoupleasegetsomeflanksteakwhileyouarethere” and she was like what are you going to do with flank steak and rather ambitiously I said, “cook it”. So she bought it for me and I cooked it. In theory, it was great but in reality, it turned out really bad so now it’s cut up into little pieces and my beloved flank steak is dog treats for the next week.
Anyways, enough about my sob story. Here’s the recipe I used and maybe if you follow along closer than I did and cook it for the correct amount of time (which I did not) it will turn out better for you.
*Keep in mind these measurements are all for roughly a .7 lb steak*
So the first step is getting the steak marinated. There’s a wide variety of flavors you can marinate your steak with, just use your head and don’t put weird things together. The marinade was actually stellar on this steak and the flavors blended beautifully. My marinade consisted of :
¼ cup of low sodium soy sauce
¼ cup of olive oil
¼ cup of red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
A generous amount of salt
A few sprinkles of lemon pepper seasoning
After combining all of those ingredients in a bowl, throw in your steak and make sure to submerge it into your concoction so all parts are equally juiced up. Then, cover the bowl or dish and leave it in the fridge for 2-18 hours. I set my steak to marinate at around 3:30 pm and took it out to cook around 8 pm.
2. Once the steak is ready to be cooked I would advise cutting it into strips. Make sure that you are cutting the opposite direction of the grain. It will break up the fibers and make the steak easier to eat and handle.
Once sliced, place them in your pan which should be on the highest heat setting and should have been greased up with either some butter or pan spray. This is the hard part. Keep an eye on your steak strips and do your best to gauge when to pull them out of the pan. I’m a medium-rare kind of girl so I made the mistake of taking them off too early and having them too rare. Then I put them back on. Took them off. Too tough. From this experience, I can say that cooking steak is an art skill that takes lots of practice to master.
While my culinary story may not be as tragic as Simone’s, I still hope to share with our beloved readers a look into my favorite pasta dish: Penne Alla Vodka. At first glance, this creamy tomato sauce appears to resemble a color similar to tomato soup with a much thicker consistency. I can’t recall my first experience with this wonderful dish but I can assure you it is my go-to at any Italian dining establishment. However, as a broke high school student, eating at Italian restaurants often is simply not feasible. So, after some mild research and a few trial runs, I have come up with a decently easy to follow recipe with the potential for modification so you may craft your ultimate pasta dish.
There are two ways to create the sauce for our recipe. 1) Making the vodka sauce from scratch and 2) turning store-bought red sauce into a vodka sauce.
-Three cloves of garlic (minced)
-28 oz can of whole skinned tomatoes
-Tbsp spoon tomato paste
-Tbsp soon Oregano
– ½ Shot of Vodka
– Between ½ and 1 cup of heavy cream.
Store-Bought (hop into the recipe at step four)
-28 oz can of red sauce (brand is irrelevant but try and steer clear of ragu)
-½ Shot of Vodka
– Between ½ and 1 cup of heavy cream.
If making sauce from scratch, heavily coat a pan on medium-high heat with olive oil and put garlic into the pan. Lightly salt the garlic and allow very slight browning.
Pour the tomatoes and tomato paste into the pan. Then, with a fork, mush the tomatoes until they are at your desired texture. I personally prefer a chunkier sauce.
Allow the sauce to lightly simmer. As it does so, add the oregano, salt, and pepper to taste. This step is really important as you have to constantly season, mix, taste, and repeat. A lot of Italian cooking follows the principle of Quanto Basta or the right amount. In other words, it’s up to you to add seasoning until the taste is what you desire. No two chefs will agree on the same exact amount of an ingredient in a dish so it comes down to Quanto Basta, a personal interpretation of what makes the dish taste best.
After the sauce has simmered for 15 minutes, add the cream. Once again this comes down to personal preference, hence the range of quantities for the cream. Simply add, mix, taste and repeat. Additionally, look at the color of your sauce to determine when you have added enough cream. I prefer mine on the whiter side but go online and look at pictures of vodka sauce to achieve your preferred opacity.
Important tip: Put your cream into a small dish before it goes into the pan and spoons some of the sauce into the cream. This will help the cream acclimate to the difference in temperature better and prevent it from curdling once in the pan.
Once the cream is well mixed, pour in the vodka and crank up the heat. The goal here is to cook the alcohol out of the vodka so that all we are left with is that bitter Russian taste. This should take between 3 to 5 minutes of high flame. For this step, it is important that the pan you have been using has a lid as you should expect hot red bubbles.
Finally, prepare a box of penne pasta as instructed by the box. Remember to salt the pasta water and coat the penne with olive oil once the water is strained out. From here, you may either pour the pasta directly into the pan with the sauce or allow those dining with you to apply the sauce at their leisure. As a final touch, top off your dish with shredded parmesan and cracked black pepper to add texture.
While this dish may seem daunting at first, I can assure you it is one of the easiest recipes to nail. If you’re not an avid cook, I suggest modifying the store-bought sauce first, as seasoning, the sauce made from scratch is the most difficult part. This dish is great to impress your friends, family, and maybe even that special someone with a soft spot for the culinary arts. Luckily, most of these ingredients can be found at home, but if your parents don’t trust you with their vodka, the recipe can be made without it instead.
We hope that in your quarantine boredom you can find interest in one of these recipes! Surprise your family and say YOU’RE cooking dinner tonight. If you do try these, let us know via email! Enjoy the rest of your day!