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Best Side Dishes for Steak

on May 17, 2016
For meat lovers, nothing beats the taste, the aroma, the sizzle or even the anticipation of a thick, juicy steak. It matters not whether it is a boneless short rib, a flank steak, a London broil or a Porterhouse. A steak simply brings out the inner carnivore. Though it may be tempting to eat the steak alone and with one's bare hands, it's always civilized to have a side dish to accompany it. Here are a few of them:    

Fried Potatoes

  Sometimes, there is simply no steak without potatoes. Even though steak and chips are associated with the Brits, potatoes are actually a New World root vegetable. They are easy to grow, inexpensive, filling and nutritious. There are several types of potatoes. Floury potatoes are good for mashing, though waxy potatoes are not. Use waxy potatoes for boiling or salads. All-purpose potatoes are good for frying and for potato salads. They don't fall apart when they're boiled and don't become gluey when they're mashed like starchy potatoes.   Yellow, firm-fleshed potatoes such as Yukon golds are good for frying. They can be made into gaufrettes, or waffle-cut chips, matchsticks, shoestrings, ribbons, and puffs. They are quickly prepared on a device called a mandolin, whose blades can be adjusted for the type of potatoes desired. However, the cook must be very careful with a mandolin because the blades are super sharp!   Before frying, raw, sliced potatoes need to be soaked in ice water for a least an hour. This gets rid of the surface starch that would have them stick to each other when they're fried. They should also be dried very thoroughly before they are put in the hot oil to keep the oil from foaming up.   Generally, the oil should be at 350 degrees Fahrenheit before the potatoes are added. The slices, chips, strings or ribbons are cooked until they're golden brown, then removed. The cook should wait for the oil to return to 350 degrees F before adding another batch.   Some cooks fry French fries twice. After cooking, they let the fries cool down, then sprinkle them with corn or potato starch and put them in the freezer overnight. Then, they reheat the oil and put the fries in for another cooking.     If a person craves mashed potatoes with their steak, they should use the dry and floury type such as Russets. They should peel and boil them until they easily yield to the point of a knife, drain them and then mash them before adding any liquid. Some people put the potatoes through a ricer, which results in an especially fine texture.   After that, hot liquid, whether milk or water, is added to the potato, along with salt and butter. Some people add the juices from the pan the steak was cooked in, which makes mashed potatoes even more delectable.   Russets are also good for baking, which is the simplest way to prepare a potato. After being baked in a hot oven for about 50 minutes, they can be opened up and topped with cheese or sour cream and chives.   Potatoes can also be sliced or grated and then sautéed. Again, yellow potatoes are best for sautéing. Some cooks drop the slices into boiling salted water for five minutes or so then fry them while others fry them raw after drying them.   Waxy potatoes that keep their shape after boiling are excellent for potato salads. There are all kinds of potato salads, but a simple kind is one made of cubed potatoes and a vinaigrette of Dijon mustard, good extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, minced scallions or shallots and salt that's added when the potatoes are still hot. Other cooks add mayonnaise after the potatoes have cooled down a bit, dill, celery or even bits of anchovies.   Sweet potatoes are actually not related to regular potatoes. They are related to morning glories! Yet, they can also be made into fries.    

Sauces

What is steak without a bit of sauce? Some people just sprinkle some fresh herbs, salt, and pepper into the pan juices and pour them over the meat, which is fine, but others crave sauces that are more substantial. Here are a few:  

Bernaise Sauce

This sauce is a mix of two to three shallots; tarragon vinegar; wine vinegar; about a dozen coarsely cracked black peppercorns; a few sprigs of fresh tarragon and butter, salt and egg yolks.  

Barbecue Sauce

Every good cook has their own version of barbecue sauce. One type uses catchup, caramelized onions, mustard, molasses and brown sugar. Since barbecue sauce can be quite flavorful, it's best used sparingly on a good steak. For a steak that's less than perfect, it can be slathered on.  

Parsley Butter

This recipe calls for a quarter pound of softened butter, some freshly ground pepper and finely chopped fresh parsley, salt and a tablespoon or so of lemon juice, added a drop at a time while everything else is being blended in a bowl with the back of a spoon. After everything is well blended, the butter is rolled into a cylinder in wax paper or parchment paper and put in the fridge to firm up. Herbs such as chives, thyme, tarragon or sage can be substituted for parsley.  

Mushroom Sauce

This can be made with the familiar button mushrooms or ceps. Ceps are more robust mushrooms with thick steps and brown caps. They are notable for not falling apart during cooking but keeping their texture. If they are bought dry, the need to be reconstituted in warm water for about a half an hour. The liquid can be used in other recipes, such as soups.   For a mushroom sauce, the cook should use about a half a pound of mushrooms, five tablespoons of butter, two tablespoons of flour, two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, a cup of heavy cream and salt. The ingredients are cooked until they are just hot.  

Hollandaise Sauce

Even experienced cooks are a bit afraid of hHollandaise sauce because the traditional recipe calls for warming the egg yolks in a double boiler, adding lemon juice, melted butter, hot water and salt. A faulty technique can cause the eggs to curdle, but one way to save this is to whisk in a teaspoon or two of boiling water, one drop at a time. Or, a fresh egg yolk can be placed in a bowl and the broken sauce can be added very very slowly while being beaten with a whisk. This takes a bit of time, but eventually, a smooth sauce will appear.   A quick way to make Hollandaise sauce is to put the eggs in a blender, turn to low speed and add boiling water a drop at a time followed by the other ingredients.  

Pesto

Pesto is traditionally made with basil, garlic, pine nuts, grated Parmesan cheese and olive oil, but the pesto that's the best for steak is actually made of the more peppery tasting watercress. The pine nuts are replaced with hazelnuts, and a dash of chili gives the sauce an extra kick.  

Peppercorn Sauce

For many diners, this is the only sauce to put on a well-made steak. Remove the steak from the pan and all but about a teaspoon of the juices. Then, add minced garlic and minced shallot, about a quarter cup of cognac, two cups of consommé and a tablespoon of black peppercorns, coarsely crushed with a mortar and pestle. Add some heavy cream and cornstarch and whisk them together. Pour them into the peppercorn mix, blend them well, then add about two teaspoons of Dijon mustard and the juices from the plate the steak has been resting on.   Sauces from Southeast Asia have been found to go surprisingly well with steak, even though they can be fiery hot. One of them is called Weeping Tiger Dressing. It is so packed with hot green chilies that the diner will know how it got its name.   A good recipe for Weeping Tiger Dressing includes one or two bird's eye chilies, one of the fiercest chilis in existence; chopped cilantro; fish sauce; sugar and lemon juice.    

Mac n' Cheese

There are whole books dedicated to different recipes of macaroni and cheese, but the best to serve with steak is probably the basic. This is elbow macaroni cooked in lots of boiling salted water then mixed in a Cheddar cheese sauce, topped with grated Cheddar cheese and buttered bread crumbs and placed in the oven for about 20 minutes.   Other variations on the mac n' cheese theme are to add chilis like poblanos or orecchiette pasta instead of macaroni. Orecchiette looks somewhat like mouse ears. Instead of cheddar cheese, gorgonzola cheese can be used, and a teaspoon or two of balsamic vinegar and lemon zest can brighten the entire meal.    

Roasted Vegetables

Roasted vegetables not only go well with steak but dry roasting them brings out their very best flavor. The best temperature for roasting vegetables is about 400 degrees Fahrenheit, though sweet vegetables such as parsnips need the heat a little lower at about 375 degrees, so the sugar doesn't char and taste bitter.   Vegetables are best cut into bite-sized chunks, save asparagus and string beans, which are tender enough just to be trimmed a bit. Then, they should be spread in one layer on a cookie sheet that's been sprayed a little with olive oil. Coat the vegetables in the oil, and put them in the oven until they're fork tender. Check every 10 minutes to make sure the vegetables don't catch. If they have, give the pan a shake or move them around with tongs.   Some of the vegetables are going to be done before others. Check them with a fork or the point of a knife for tenderness.   The best vegetables for roasting are Brussels sprouts, broccoli, beets, new potatoes, parsnips, sweet potatoes, zucchini, asparagus, and carrots.    

Kale

One way to prepare kale as a side for a steak is to strip the leaves from the tough ribs then place as many as will comfortably fit in a microwaveable dish. Coat the leaves with olive oil and put them in the microwave on high for about six minutes or until they're crispy. Sprinkle with salt and enjoy. Some people also sprinkle toasted almonds over the kale after it's done.    

Creamed Spinach

Creamed spinach is what they give diners at a steakhouse, but it's not hard to make at home with milk, flour, single cream and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. Recipes call for a lot of spinach, like two 200 gram bags full, but it will reduce down.    

Mushrooms

There are nearly endless ways to prepare mushrooms. Prepare the big portobello mushrooms by removing the stems, and putting them cap side down in a skillet full of hot oil and letting them cook on each side for about 10 minutes. Stuff them when they're cool enough to handle.   Wild morels with their sponge-like caps can be sautéd in butter for a few minutes. Then, add a squeeze of lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and simmer them for about an hour, adding chicken or beef broth to keep them from drying out. In the end, add a beaten egg yolk, adjust the seasonings and serve on toast points alongside the steak.    

Onion Rings

Some believe that the best onions to use for onion rings are Vidalias, which are large, sweet onions that only grow in certain areas in Georgia. In one recipe, the onions are soaked in milk for about a half an hour after being separated into rings, then dredged and placed in 370-degree oil until they're golden on all sides. In other recipes, the onions are thoroughly dried, dredged and then dipped in a batter made of flour and beer, or even club soda as in a tempura batter.   Onion rings don't even have to be fried. They can be iced. Separate a yellow onion and red onion into rings, put them in a bowl of ice water, and make sure they are completely submerged. Put them in the fridge for an hour, then serve right away.    
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