June 20, 2011

A Father's Day feast

It was my husband's first Father's Day and I thought it deserved a special celebration. It's hard to believe our first year as parents is coming to a close (June will be one year old a week from today) and as I plan her first birthday party, I am reliving the memories of a year ago: the pregnancy, the birth, the bliss of our first few days and weeks as new parents. And, most of all, we are really enjoying getting to know her as she grows into the cutest and sweetest little girl, her personality lighting up our lives on a daily basis.

Of course, the year has not been without its challenges, most of all in the sleep department. But June gave her daddy and I the best present of all the other night: she slept through the night (almost) for the first time in her life! Which meant that mom got some rest (finally) and was not a huge grump all day long. It also meant I had the energy and desire to cook a feast for my hubby and his family who came over to spend the day with us.

I wanted to use the grill since that always seems like a Father's Day thing to do, even it means the dads usually end up "manning" it while I'm busy in the kitchen with the other dishes. But I'm not really a huge fan of grilling meat, or fixing meat in general. But I wanted that summer flavor that the grill imparts and also didn't want to have to turn on the stove on a hot summer day.

I found a great recipe in Cook's Illustrated for Grilled Argentine steaks with Chimichurri sauce. Perfect. Has Father's day written all over it. I bought three smallish sirloin steaks from the Turnip Truck. I made the sauce in the morning --a delicious mixture of cilantro, parsley, garlic, red pepper flakes and oil that would make anything taste great. The recipe for grilling the steaks called for a few unusual steps that promised to give the meat that Argentine taste of "churrasco" or wood-infused flavor that comes from grilling over an open fire. Also, it promised to yield a steak that was perfectly charred on the outside, but still moist and juicy on the inside. Let me just say that it delivered on all counts and was probably the best steak I've ever made at home.

(photo courtesy America's Test Kitchen)

Those unusual steps were to sprinkle a mixture of kosher salt and corn starch on the steaks and then put them on a wire rack over a sheet pan and into the freezer for 30 min before grilling. It also called for using wood chunks (preferably oak) on a perforated aluminum pie plate while heating the grill on high for 15 min with the lid down. Then, move the wood to the side but keep it in the grill while cooking the steaks. This is what produces that smoky, delicious and subtle essence of burning wood. Man, were they right. The meat, perfectly grilled by my father-in-law to medium rare, then sliced thinly, the chimichurri sauce passed at the table to pour over it, made for a near perfect steak. And I'm not a steak person.

To go with it, I made veggie skewers with red and green peppers, red onion, mushrooms and zucchini that we threw on the grill while the meat rested. And a French potato salad made with a vinaigrette of olive oil, red wine vinegar, parsley and lots of fresh herbs from our garden. Yum.

(the photo is from the magazine since mine didn't look that pretty when served)

And for dessert, I made this peach thingy I saw in Martha Stewart Living, July. An easy summer dessert made of store-bought angel food cake, fresh peaches which are really good right now and whipped cream, layered in a loaf pan and put in the freezer just long enough to set and slice. It was a hit and so very easy!

It was a lovely day and a feast worthy of the best dad in the universe, next to my own, of course.

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