image from here
We're definitely on a tighter budget right now. We just had a baby, just bought a new car, and are currently paying for our last semester of graduate school. So we really can't go out to eat as often as we used to. But I just love food. I have a relationship with food that I can't even describe. I love to make it, eat it and look at it way too much for my own good.
Sometimes this tighter-budget-but-absolutely-adore-ingredients thing is hard. I've actually done well with it lately. With more practice, I've been able to decipher when I should (and can) spend a little bit more on quality ingredients. For example: before when I went to the spice section of the grocery store, I'd get the cheapest kind. Store brand, if they had it. But over Christmas break Tyler entered an Iron Chef competition (at my Dad's bbq competition) and bought Lawry's Garlic Salt. Had I gone shopping with him, I would have bought the cheap kind. But now I'm addicted to the Lawry's kind (green lid!) and I realize it makes a HUGE difference in my cooking. The same goes for mozzarella cheese. When it is a major component of my dish (ex: my fried eggplant pizza) I splurge a little and get the fresh kind that comes in a ball. No more pre-shredded mozzarella at this house.
On Valentine's Day we stayed home (to conserve our sanity and budget) and I made Tyler a killer-good meal. We had (cheaper but still good - see below) steak, crisp asparagus, and oven-fried yukon gold potatoes. The entire meal was well under $10 but was restaurant-quality. Tyler was so impressed with my cooking skills!
Steak went on sale again this week ($3.97 a pound!) so we picked up 3/4 of a pound for under $3. I added fresh green beans and our leftover yukon gold potatoes as side dishes. Tyler told me that was some of the best steak he's ever had in his life. (!!!) So now I'm on cloud nine. Ladies, when your husband has been to some of the best steakhouses in San Diego (and spoiled with $40-a-plate Roy's for his birthday dinner) and he tells you your steak is comparable, it's a big deal.
Here's how to make really awesome steak, without a backyard grill:
steak (we used boneless top sirloin)
salt & pepper
cast iron skillet
Place your cast-iron skillet in your oven and preheat the broiler. When blazing hot, remove and place on a hot burner. Drizzle olive oil in your pan. Liberally salt and pepper your steak and place in pan. Here's the most important part: don't move the steak once you put it in the pan. Let sear for about 1 1/2 minutes, and then flip and sear the other side. (You'll know when it's ready to flip when it comes off the pan easily. If it is still sticking, it's not ready.) Smear about a 1/2 tablespoon of butter on the top of the steak and let melt. After about a minute, stick your steak in the oven, right under the broiler. We like our steak medium-rare, so we remove it from the oven by the two minute mark. Remove steak from pan and place on a plate or cutting board. You have to let it rest for about five minutes before cutting into it.
These directions will vary depending on how thick your steak is. The thicker the steak, the longer you'll need to keep it under the broiler. Our steaks have been 1" or less thick. When your steak bounces back well, it is medium-rare. If it doesn't yield and bounce back as easily, your steak might be over-cooked.
Side dishes to go with your amazing steak:
For my asparagus, I boiled it in an inch or two of water for six minutes.
I did the same for our green beans, and then topped with grated romano cheese and salt and pepper.
To make the oven-fried potatoes, wash and slice yukon gold potatoes. Place them in a 9x13 pan and drizzle olive oil, salt & pepper, and garlic salt on them. Toss and bake in a 400-degree oven for 35-40 minutes, tossing every so often.