Elegance is often confused with wealth. Yet you should not associate the two with one another; they can each exist entirely independent of the other.
Take, for example, the dinner that I prepared tonight. A little salt, pepper, oil, and vinegar were the only seasonings necessary for this $10 sophisticated meal. Sliced skirt steak drizzled with a balsamic reduction balances oh-so-nicely with creamy Parmesan polenta and savory roasted tomatoes. I found that by omitting the spoonfuls of aromatics and spices from these basic ingredients allowed the true beauty of the steak, cornmeal, and tomatoes to emerge. I got this recipe idea from Martha Stewart, who has let me down a few times recently. You cannot go wrong with such basic preparation, though. No tricks or secrets are necessary for this hearty winter menu of balsamic skirt steak with polenta and tomatoes.
- 1pint grape tomatoes
- 6 scallions, white and green parts separated and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
- 1 pound skirt steak (cut into 2 or more pieces, if necessary, to fit in skillet)
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large saucepan, set 4 cups water to boil. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss tomatoes with scallion whites and 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast until tomatoes are tender and some skins have split, 12 to 15 minutes; toss with scallion greens.
Meanwhile, add 1 teaspoon salt to boiling water; gradually whisk in cornmeal. Simmer very gently over low heat, whisking occasionally, until polenta is thickened and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Whisk in butter and Parmesan, and keep warm over very low heat (whisk in some water just before serving if polenta becomes too thick).
Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high. Season steak with salt and pepper; add to skillet. Cook, turning once, 6 to 8 minutes total for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest, 5 to 10 minutes (reserve skillet).
Add vinegar to skillet, and boil over high until reduced to 1/2 cup, 5 to 7 minutes; stir in any juices from resting steak. Slice steak, and serve with vinegar sauce, polenta, and tomatoes.
The elegance of this meal stems from its simplicity. Just real food, prepared with a touch of thoughtfulness. I enjoyed serving dinner on our new fine china just to “break it in” after the honeymoon. The protein in this affordable cut of beef really satisfied me tonight. By slicing the meat prior to serving, you add to the presentation and reducesthe effort necessary to cut into this normally tough portion of steak. My dining companion, though, loved the polenta so much that he went back for seconds. I allowed it since the polenta cost mere pennies to prepare. It was impossible to pick a winner on our plates.
Until next time, enjoy the elegance of the little things. Perfection needs no adornment.