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Friday, November 01, 2013

*seared filet with tomato and fresh mozzarella.

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You know that warm, contented, even feeling you get when you do something for someone else? It can be anything—offering a ride to the airport, taking care of a pet, loaning your wedges when someone has nothing to wear with her new pants—but by far the fastest and easiest way to get there is by cooking. By and large, people love to have someone make a meal for them. It's comforting and stress-relieving and generous, and those are all wonderful feelings to both give and receive.

But as it turns out, you can (and I would argue, ought to) achieve the same sense of happy, self-high-fiving bliss when you cook for one.

There are a lot of rules out there that are alleged to improve the lives of single people: Eat at a proper  table. Don't eat in front of the TV. Don't dip pretzels in the tub of cream cheese and call it dinner.

I break all of those rules. Stop judgin' me, Internet advice columns. I like my couch and my Big Bang Theory and my sleeves of saltines, and I shan't apologize for it.

But the truth is that there are a lot of perks to being the only one in the house who brings home the bacon, shall we say. No one else gets to say, "I don't like mushrooms" or "Do you have to put avocado on everything?" or "Sweetie, I love you and I love turkey sandwiches, but I think this is bordering on obsession and we might need to call in some medical professionals if you don't eat something else."

It also means that, because you aren't trying to please vast numbers of all manner of people, every now and again even your recession-strained budget will let you indulge a little.

So yes I did buy this $14 filet mignon on a Tuesday night. I ate half of it with this pretty little wedge of iceberg and then turned the other half into a steak salad for lunch the next day, which technically makes this a $7 steak dinner, which technically makes this worth every penny.

The steak is loosely based on Ina's method: hot pan, sear, roast, rest. Grills are great if that's your bag, but I'm unlikely to fire up some charcoal on a weeknight when I'm just cooking for me. (Or ever, really. Fire is hot and I am clumsy.)

When I decided to make this a Caprese steak, I forgot one teensy little detail: It's late October. I took a chance and got super lucky with what has to have been the absolute last of the good late-summer tomatoes. I didn't have high hopes for it given that it had lost some of that plump cheerfulness you like to see in an Alabama mater, but when I sliced into it it was absolutely perfect.

There's a decent chance I stood at the stovetop and seared the steak with one hand while I jammed slices of juicy tomato and cold fresh mozzarella into my mouth with the other.

Reducing the balsamic is just the easiest thing in the world to do; you leave it to bubble away in a pan and let your nose tell you when it's syrupy and thick. (Wait for things to smell sweet and smoky, but do keep a half an eye on the pan so it doesn't burn!) I could even have let it reduce a bit further in this case, but I was hungry. You can see that it cascaded off the hot, melty cheese, but pooled into a dark, sticky puddle around the steak. Ain't nothin' wrong with that.

I was lazy with my wedge salad, because that's exactly what a wedge salad allows you to be. A hunk of iceberg, a drizzle of dressing, and a smattering of store-bought bacon bits were all I needed. A proper wedge salad would benefit from thick chunks of blue cheese, crispy pieces of real bacon, and bits of chopped tomato, but I had piled so many layers of goodness onto my steak that I wanted to keep things simple.

A simple salad. A splurge on a steak topped with gooey, salty cheese and sweet, lightly roasted tomato. Big, bold flecks of freshly ground black pepper all over everything. Make it for you and yours some Tuesday soon! 

Or, better yet, wait until they're out of the house and make it all for you.

Enjoy!

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Seared Filet with Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella

¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 (10-ounce) filet mignon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tomato slice
2 fresh mozzarella cheese slices

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a grill pan or cast iron skillet over high heat 5 to 7 minutes or until very hot.

2. Meanwhile, pat steak dry with a paper towel, and sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper on all sides. Cook steak about 2 minutes on all sides or until evenly seared (about 10 minutes total).

3. Top steak with tomato and mozzarella; place pan in oven, and cook until a thermometer inserted in thickest portion of the steak reaches 125 degrees (for medium-rare).

4. Remove steak from pan, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest 10 minutes.

5. Place balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vinegar has reduced by half. Drizzle over steak before serving. Makes 1 serving.

 

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I am a work in progress. I perpetually need a hair cut. I'm totally devoted to my remarkable nieces and nephew. I am an elementary home cook and a magazine worker bee. (Please criticize my syntax and spelling in the comments.) I think my dog is hilarious. I like chicken and spicy things. I have difficulty being a grown-up. Left to my own devices, I will eat enormous amounts of cheese snacks of all kinds.

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