Back from Summer Hiatus with a quick easy dinner I love, steak and pasta.
If I’ve learned anything over the years from favorite chefs like Patricia Wells, Suzanne Goin, Nigel Slater and more, often times when cooking simplicity is best. I may love to make cassoulet over seven days, but I love just as much a simple dinner.
One simple dinner I’ve come to enjoy over the last few years is the combination of steak and pasta. It’s not something I ate growing up; we had a cattle farm so we ate a lot of steak, but we always had steak with a baked potato. Whether loaded with everything or dressed only with butter, salt and pepper, a baked potato is a perfect food, particularly when the inside is moist and tender and the outside crispy as hell. Oh my. After discovering the wonderful combo of steak and pasta, however, I don’t serve a baked potato with a steak nearly as often.
I believe I was turned onto this combo on my first visit to the LA institution Dan Tana’s. Located next to the equally famous Troubador on Santa Monica Blvd, Dan Tana’s has been open well over fifty years and I dare say will be open well over fifty more. An Italian steakhouse with wonderful cocktails, Dan Tana’s serves up terrific versions of Italian classics (the veal parmigiana, for instance, is to die for) but they also serve the Dabney Coleman, a 20 oz New York Strip that might be the best steak I’ve ever tasted. It comes with a side of pasta and the first time I tried this pairing, I knew I’d be having a lot of steak and pasta from then on.
While grilling a steak is good, I prefer cooking my steaks on the stove in my cast iron skillet. You get a marvelous sear and, if you so desire, you can make a terrific pan sauce while the steak rests. You can also boil your pasta while the sauce cooks so that steak and pasta finish at the same time. Add a side of my garlic salad and a glass of red wine and you have a quick, simple, killer dinner that comes together fast even on a weeknight.
My go to steak as of late is a New York strip. It may not be as tender as a filet or ribeye, but the flavor is by far my favorite of the three. If your preference is a filet or ribeye, each works just as well.
I love to make a lot of different pasta dishes but with a steak, I have two go-tos: Giada’s lemon spaghetti, which is lovely and accompanies a steak beautifully, or even better, the classic and devastatingly good Cacio e Pepe. (I could eat Cacio e Pepe every night of my life and never tire of it, ever.) Both of these pastas are simple, with just a few ingredients involving very little prep. In fact, you can prep your pasta sauce while the pasta is boiling and the pan sauce cooking!
Fast, easy, delicious.
Oh and Gluten Free friends! Both of these pasta recipes are perfect for Spaghetti Squash! I use spaghetti squash with these two preparations as much as I do regular pasta.
Below, then, I will give you my method of cooking a strip (as well as my favorite pan sauce for the strip) and the recipes for both pastas. Try them all and enjoy!
STEAK AND PASTA
NY STRIP with pan sauce (serves 2… double for 4)
NOTES: While I usually like to serve a steak whole, I find, with a NY strip and pasta, slicing the strip makes a lovely presentation particularly if you make a pan sauce, which I highly recommend. I also find when eating steak with pasta, one large steak will easily serve two, another good reason to slice the steak.
Also, these instructions are detailed in order to make sure everyone knows exactly what to do but you will see, reading through them, that this is a fast, easy prep.
1 12 – 16 oz NY strip
1 large shallot, sliced (or 1/2 a small sweet or red onion, chopped)
1 fresno chili, halved then sliced into half rings
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
white wine or dry vermouth
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 T mustard
butter, salt and pepper
– An hour before you want to cook, remove steak(s) from the fridge and salt and pepper on both sides. DO NOT BE SHY. Let the steaks sit, covered, to bring the meat to room temperature.
– Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat for 3-5 minutes, get it really hot.
– Add a glug or two of olive oil and let heat up for a couple of minutes.
– Add your steak to the cast iron skillet. It should really sizzle and pop! If it doesn’t, take it out and let the oil get hotter. You’ll probably need to use your vent when cooking the steak. Let sear, without moving, for 4-5 minutes, then flip and do the same. (This is for a pretty thick NY Strip… if you have a thinner slice of strip, it is only going to take a minute or two on each side.)
– After the steak has cooked on both sides, turn the heat down to medium low and remove the steak from the pan, remembering the steak will continue to cook when resting out of the pan! Pull it off before it is done. You can always cook it more.
NOTE: every steak is a different thickness and we all like our steaks cooked different temps. I like medium rare, leaning towards rare, for instance. It’s impossible for me to give exact times. Get a really good sear on both sides and let the steak rest.. then cut into it. If it is too rare, let the steak cook a few minutes IN the pan sauce. You’ll still have a great sear on the top side and the pan sauce will add flavor to the steak anyway.
– As the steak rests, add your shallot and Fresno chili and sauté over low heat, scraping up brown bits from the bottom.
– When the shallot and Fresno chili are soft, add the garlic and sauté only a minute more so it doesn’t brown.
– Add 2 or 3 glugs of dry vermouth or white wine and turn up the heat to medium high, stirring well. Let the alcohol mostly cook off, which takes a few minutes.
– Add the broth, a few shakes of salt and pepper, 1 T mustard and the thyme. (I just throw in about 5-10 sprigs of thyme. The small leaves will fall off on their own and you can extract the stems when you serve.)
– Let the sauce simmer and bubble and cook down, stirring occasionally to incorporate the mustard. After 5 or so minutes, the sauce is ready though if you have time you can keep cooking it down to make it thicker. A couple of minutes before you are ready to finish, add a pad of butter and let it melt and incorporate into your sauce. Yum.
– Slice your steak into thick strips and spoon the sauce, with the shallots and chili, on top. Serve with a side of Giada’s Lemon Spaghetti or Cacio e Pepe.
CACIO E PEPE
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lb dried spaghetti
2 T butter at room temperature
4-6 oz of finely grated pecorino cheese
1.5 T freshly ground black pepper
– Cook the spaghetti in well salted water according to the package directions.
– While the spaghetti cooks, mix the pecorino cheese with 2 T water and the butter. Mix well to make a paste. (While you can skip this step, it helps the cheese not to clump when mixed into the spaghetti later.)
– When the pasta is al dente, scoop out 2 cups of pasta water then drain your spaghetti.
– If using the same pot, dry it out and heat the olive oil over high heat until almost smoking. Add the spaghetti and a cup of the pasta water. This will splatter! Have fun but be careful! Toss a couple of times, then:
– Add the ‘pecorino sauce’ and the black pepper. Continue to toss, mixing well, adding a little more pasta water if need be so the sauce thickens and clings to the pasta. Taste! If you need more pepper or cheese, go for it! Remove from the stove and it’s ready to serve.
NOTE: I get my water boiling as I cook the steaks and then throw in the pasta when I start the pan sauce. It usually times out so that I can toss the pasta while the sauce finishes its last few minutes, then everything comes together at the same time.
FINALLY: This Cacio e Pepe is perfect as is. But it is also terrific with a little fried pancetta added in!