A vegetable gratin is more time consuming. But it's a great frosty-weather side dish that has Robert thinking––steak house in the big city. His creation is a layer of potato and broccoli, bubbling away in a rich cheddar sauce. Robert makes that dish first, then the steak. And he brings the heartiness up one rung with a ripe cabernet.
The side dish
One baking potato
Two tablespoons flour
Two tablespoons butter
Two cups, or so, half and half
One pound sharp cheddar
Par boil thick slices of potato for five minutes; boil the florets for three minutes. Let cool.
In a sauce pan, melt the butter, whisk in flour to make a thick roux, then add the half and half.
Make sure the dairy is not no-fat ultra pasteurized. No taste. Use the real stuff. Once the béchamel is thickened on low heat, add salt, pepper and fresh nutmeg. Off the heat, whisk in most of the grated cheese. Whisk until it becomes a glossy smooth sauce. Don't put back on heat. That can lead to fractured cheese. Add a little dairy if too thick.
Slice the potatoes thinly. Oil a big ramekin. Layer with potato and broccoli, then some sauce, then one more layer and all the sauce. Top with the remaining cheese. Middle rack of 350 oven for 50 minutes. Test for potato doneness with a fork. Robert has found that potatoes can be finicky.
One one-pound prime New York strip
Salt and pepper. A litte olive oil.
Robert lets the steak sit at room temp. for at least two hours. When the veggie is done and resting, liberally salt and pepper the strip. Sear it in oil in a hot pan for two minutes a side. Then, into a 280 degree oven for seven minutes. The low temp serves to both finish the steak and let it rest. Out of the oven, the steak can go on some type of rack for eight minutes. Very important step. Let the juices stop boiling and begin redistributing so you don't have a runny plate. Robert preaches this at the dog park. "Make sure to rest your steak," he says to any grille master who will listen.
Slice the slightly crusty medium rare beef. Plate with a few scoops of cheesy vegetables.
This supper demands a cabernet. While Robert stocks a number of expensive Bordeaux, on this night he opened an American bargain: Columbia Crest Grand Estate––dark fruit. herbs, coffee hints. lasting finish. He always decants reds.