Wow. That’s a mouthful, huh? A freakin’ AMAZING mouthful.
This dish, ladies and gentleman, is a real stunner. Not only is it exceptionally delicious, but it’s pretty too! It’s perfect for serving to that special someone on Valentine’s Day….although, I could see myself making a big batch of this and keeping it all for myself… it’s THAT good.
In my humble opinion, cooking food for someone is one of the greatest displays of love. It may sound cheesy, but to me, food is love. I absolutely ADORE cooking for people…whether it be just my husband or for a party of 30. I realize that not everyone feels that way, but food-freak-ism is something that my husband and I both suffer from. It’s one of the first things we discovered we had in common. A total love for food. Often, when we need to reconnect, we stay in and cook dinner together. It’s one of my most favorite things to do with him. It’s one of the best ways to spend a “date night.” We crack open a bottle (or three) of wine, cook something delicious, and then sit down and enjoy each other’s company. No cell phones. No TV. No distractions. Just me, him, wine, and food. Heaven!
On our very first date almost seven years ago, my husband took me to an upscale sushi restaurant in Philly. I was totally intimidated…not by the food…or by him…but by the daunting task of trying to look semi-cute while getting huge sushi rolls into my mouth using my very inept chopstick skills. Totally stressful first-date-eating scenario. We sat down and Dan immediately ordered a bunch of sushi to share (and I requested a FORK. I half-expected the server to tell me that they did not even have forks. So embarrassing). When the food arrived at the table, he let me choose first and then proceeded to hastily and rather alarmingly SHOVE a giant piece of lobster roll into his mouth. The act had an air of hilarious…ferocity. He grinned at me while his mouth was full of food (which I found oddly charming and semi-disturbing) but otherwise was completely unaware of the wave of relief washing over me. Clearly he was NOT concerned with how he looked while eating sushi…so why should I be? He was just reveling in the deliciousness, completely unconcerned with what I or anyone else thought of him. I dug in and had one of the best meals of my life…despite my feeble attempt at eating sushi with a fork. Thankfully, my chopstick skills have vastly improved since then. OK, moderately improved.
His first sushi roll “shove” was a private moment for me that I’ve since shared with him…we laugh about it now. That semi-awkward dinner was the first time we ate together. We’ve enjoyed many meals since and have many more ahead of us. Food is one of our common denominators…whether it be eating it, cooking it, or talking about it. We’re both food obsessed. That’s why dishes like the one I’m sharing today are so perfect for those special nights in – it takes some time and effort, but if you’re serving it to someone who really appreciates the food, it’s the best gift you can give! (Or, like I said, you could make this and keep it all for yourself. No judgement from me!)
So, back to the recipe… it’s a total knockout. It does require a little bit of planning because of all the different components, but each component in itself is very simple to make. Timing is probably the trickiest part of a dish like this. The polenta needs to be warm and crispy, the steaks cooked perfectly, the onions soft and sweet, and the sauce thick and glossy….all at the same time. Sounds complicated, but I promise you, you can do it. If I can do it, anyone can! Really!
You can even make a couple of the components ahead. The polenta can be cooked and cooled completely ahead and then pan crisped at the last minute. The caramelized onions can be made ahead and then reheated with the kale at the last minute. The steaks and the sauce do need to be made just before eating, but that’s pretty manageable if you’ve done the other stuff ahead.
I definitely don’t cook like this all the time. My usual style of cooking is what you see on the blog: simple, yummy, and straight-forward stuff with only rare high-maintenance touches. This is a “special occasion” dinner. Save it for Valentine’s Day or a birthday. Your special someone will definitely appreciate the effort…and inevitable tastiness!
I know mine will…even more than he did that lobster sushi roll. I’m sure of it.
(PS – I’ll soon be sharing an adorable Valentine’s Day dessert to follow up this incredible steak dish. Stay tuned!)
Steaks with Crispy Polenta, Caramelized Onions & Kale,
& Balsamic-Cherry Sauce (makes 2 servings)
For the Polenta:
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup quick-cooking polenta
½ cup parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
For the Caramelized Onions & Kale:
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
4 cups baby kale
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper
For the Steaks:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 (6-oz) filet mignon steaks
Salt, pepper, herbs de Provence
For the Sauce:
1 shallot, finely minced
⅓ cup beef stock
⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
⅓ cup cherry preserves
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 teaspoon flour
Salt and pepper, to taste
Chives, for garnish
For the Polenta:
Bring the water to a boil. Whisk in salt. While whisking gently, pour the polenta into the water. Continue whisking until the polenta thickens, about 1 minute. Whisk in the butter and cheese until smooth. Taste for seasonings, adjust as necessary, and then pour the polenta into a small greased baking sheet or loaf pan. Spread it out evenly. Allow it to sit for 15-20 minutes or until cool and solidified. This step can be done a day ahead.
Slice the polenta into squares large enough to hold one steak. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add about 2-3 tablespoons of canola oil. When the oil is hot, add the polenta squares. Fry the polenta for 2-3 minutes per side, or until crispy and golden brown. Keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.
For the Onions & Kale:
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil. When hot, add the butter, onions, and a pinch of salt. Allow the onions to cook for 5 minutes, and then add in the garlic. Cook on low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are caramelized and soft. Add the kale and a splash of water, cover the pan, and turn off the heat. The kale will wilt but should stay very green. Set aside.
For the Steaks: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Season the steaks with salt, pepper, and herbs. Heat a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, and when hot, add the steaks. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side, and then transfer the pan to the oven. Cook for 5 minutes, remove from oven, and allow to rest. At this point, the crispy polenta can be added to the oven to stay warm.
For the Sauce: Place the same skillet used for the steaks over medium heat and add the shallot. Cook until soft, and then deglaze the pan with the stock and allow to reduce by half. Add in the balsamic vinegar and allow to reduce by half again. Whisk in the cherry preserves until smooth. Combine the butter and the flour together in a small bowl and then whisk into the sauce. The sauce will thicken slightly and become glossy. Check seasonings and keep warm.
Place a crispy polenta square on each plate and then top with the caramelized onion mixture. Carefully place a steak on top. Drizzle the sauce all over the steak and on the surrounding plate. Garnish with fresh chives. Serve immediately.