Outback experiment

wpid-img_0007.jpgLast summer I was working with a LOT of different contractors to get my folks’ new place fixed up, with varying degrees of success. The one that was most irritating was of course also the most expensive, and when I told them how annoyed I was on their customer survey they sent a rather nice apology note and two gift cards to Outback Steakhouse. We don’t generally go to chains like Outback, but hey! Free food! So last night after meeting with a tax advisor we rewarded ourselves with an outing into darkest Burlington, where the steakhouse is tucked into a hidden cul de sac between Target and the freeway.

I had done a little research on Chowhound on what our best bet might be (and what absolutely NOT to order), so after fighting off offers of a Blooming Onion, we settled on one Porterhouse steak to split, with blue cheese wedge salad for me and Caesar salad for Jon.

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The steak was ostensibly 20 ounces but that includes bone, so it really wasn’t that big. It was cut quite thin but was done more or less to our specifications (although the waitress was careful to make sure we knew what “medium rare” meant so we wouldn’t freak out at the pink center.) It was tender and salty and quite edible.wpid-img_0006.jpg

The Caesar didn’t seem to be anything special – lots of garlic, little or no anchovy, dull croutons. No big surprises. wpid-img_0005.jpgThe wedge was quite fun, as I have a personal fondness for this sort of thing. The bacon was incredibly sweet, though, like candy. Between the dressing, tomatoes, raw onions and iceberg lettuce, it balanced out pretty well, but it was still a bit too sweet for my taste.

It all turned out to be plenty of food, plus two glasses of cheap wine, so we still have another gift card. We haven’t decided whether we’ll go back, and if so, what else would be safe to order. Any suggestions?

 

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more blue cheese dressing

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We have gone sort of gaga for blue cheese dressing ever since I learned how simple it was to make (I blame Hopworks in Portland for first really converting me to the idea, with their big delicious chunks of Rogue Blue). Last night’s dinner was our third meal using the steak from our anniversary (the second and fourth were sandwiches) – we just sliced the steak super thin and piled it on top of butter lettuce tossed with a buttermilk-white wine vinegar-stinky gorgonzola dressing. This time I got the quantity exactly right, and we heaped the salad into really big bowls and ate in front of the television. Perfect.

Anniversary

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Yesterday was our 20th anniversary. Jon has class in the mornings during the week, so we didn’t go anywhere for the official day, but we had a good time. First we got some lunch at Slough Food, sitting out in the garden with our dog and a glass of wine.

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After that we stopped by the Taylor Shellfish farmstand for some oysters, then came home and sat on our own patio with potato chips and cocktails before starting to shuck. The weather’s been weirdly hot and dry, but it was perfect in the shade under the deck.

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Jon had picked up a couple of gorgeous ribeye steaks at Silvana Meats. He grilled them, using indirect heat and applewood smoke to give them some extra flavor. I picked our first tomatoes and zucchini and made a sort of caponata salad-y thing, mixing grilled zucchini chunks with fresh tomato, parsley, basil, capers and red wine vinegar.

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We had a little blue cheese on hand, so I sprinkled some on the steaks.

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While we were in Santa Cruz my brothers-in-law bought us a few bottles of Odonata wine as an anniversary present, so we opened the petite sirah for this. Amazing wine, and it was beautiful with the smoky steaks and vinegary salad. It was a good celebration.

black and blue

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A simple dinner, just grilled steak and salad, but both parts were experiments. Jon tried a new method for the steaks, first cooking them with indirect heat until they reached 115°, then setting them over a very hot flame for a final sear, and I made an attempt at a blue cheese dressing that would go with both meat and greens.

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We had moderate success – the steak was a tad overdone, although far from inedible. It had a nice crust on it. The technique’s definitely worth revisiting, but with a little less actual flame during the final sear.

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My dressing came out pretty great, in spite of not having buttermilk on hand – I mashed a nice soft and stinky gorgonzola with a splash of milk, some mayonnaise, a clove of garlic and some white wine vinegar. The only problem was that I went totally overboard with the quantity, so after eating nearly a whole head’s worth of fresh green lettuce (and the steak) we were rather gorgonzola’d out. I’ll do this again, but make maybe half as much. Or save some for leftovers.

another great combo

chimichurri

I’m not feeling very verbose today, but I want to get this post up while I’m thinking about it. What am I thinking about? Pot beans with chimichurri. I’m not sure why I stumbled across this combination, but it was wonderful and we’ve eaten all the leftovers and now I’m going to have to make it again very soon.

vaquero beans

I used speckled Vaquero beans from Rancho Gordo, soaked in salt water, then rinsed and cooked with onions and garlic fried in bacon fat. The beans had a soft texture and nice flavor, and kept their pretty spots much better than I expected. They were good by themselves, but with a drizzle of chimichurri on top – woof! It was incredible. I ate a whole bowl of just beans and sauce for lunch yesterday, with a piece of good sourdough bread.

The chimichurri I made this time was a bit different than the one I described back in February. I used a recipe from Francis Mallmann’s amazing book Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, which goes like this:

Chimichurri Sauce

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 cup fresh oregano
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 head garlic, broken apart and peeled
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil Continue reading