It’s sad but true.
Men left on their own, without the aid of a woman, are doomed to a life of helpless bachelorhood. Socks go un-darned, baseboards un-dusted and, worst of all, the kitchen unused. Just watch any Hungry-Man frozen dinner ad, and you’ll see some sad sack in a flannel shirt rescued from starvation by a repeatable foil pan of food. Something with a brown sauce.
With the exception of my brother, who reheats frozen dinners just to spite me*, the reality I see is more and more men discovering the joys of their kitchens. Unfettered from the burden of expectation that they must put three solids a day on the table, men find cooking liberating, a creative outlet with a great sense of accomplishment. I’ve got to believe that mothers and wives everywhere bite their lips and offer encouragement, hoping that laundry might be man’s next household frontier.
Recently, feeling particularly manly, I busted out a bunch of asparagus. No delicate sauces, runny poached eggs or sharp, hand-whisked vinaigrettes for me, I was making a stick-to your-ribs, hearty meal. With sautéed steak tips putting the red in my meat, I wanted something earthy to ground the rich beef and sweet, crisp veggies. Eying portobellos I wondered if they would be too meaty, too bold, for the early spring asparagus. The pairing, it turned out, was perfectly balanced. A delicate sauce – Béarnaise – with the fresh taste of tarragon, pulled the plate together.
It was hearty enough for a hungry man. And will make his Mom proud too.
*Alec, sorry for throwing you under the bus for a cheap laugh. I know you can boil pasta, too.
Sirloin, Asparagus & Portobello with Béarnaise
Serves 6 – 8
- 4 tbs olive oil
- 1 lb asparagus cut in 2” pieces
- 2 lb top sirloin cut in 1½” cubes
- 2 portobello mushroom caps, cut in 1/2″ slices
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup cognac
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 tbs Sherry vinegar*
- 1 tbs cold butter
- 2 tbs parsley
- 1 recipe Béarnaise sauce, kept warm
*Testing the recipe I used Sapore’s Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry vinegar. I do that a lot. You should too. It’s delicious!
- Warm 1 tbs oil in a 12” skillet over med-high heat. Add asparagus and cook 2 minutes. Remove from pan.
- Return skillet to heat with 1 tbs olive oil. Season sirloin with salt and pepper and add to pan in a single layer, browning on all sides. Cook about 4-5 minutes. Remove from pan and reserve with asparagus.
- Return skillet to heat with remaining 2 tbs oil. Add sliced mushrooms, cooking until browned. If brown bits on bottom of pan begin to darken, reduce heat to medium. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Remove and add to sirloin and asparagus.
- Return pan to med-high heat, add cognac and deglaze, scraping up brown bits. Add stock and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup. Remove from heat and whisk in cold butter. Season to taste with salt, pepper and vinegar. Toss sauce with asparagus, sirloin and mushrooms. Serve mixture topped with fresh parsley and Béarnaise.
Makes about 1½ cups sauce
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup Champagne or Sherry vinegar
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 tbs chopped, fresh tarragon
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 tbs cold butter
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- White pepper
- Combine wine, vinegar, bay leaf and 2 tbs tarragon in 2 quart saucepan. Boil, reducing liquid to about 2 tbs. Strain out solids and cool.
- Cool saucepan back to room temperature and add 3 egg yolks. Whisk until thick, about 1 minute. Add vinegar/wine reduction and whisk 30 seconds longer.
- Add 1 tbs cold butter to pan and set over low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and streaks appear on bottom of pan. If the eggs begin to scramble, remove from heat and whisk vigorously.
- Remove thickened mixture from heat, add 1 tbs cold butter, and whisk for 30 seconds to slow cooking. Add melted butter a few drops at a time, whisking constantly. After you’ve slowly added 2 tablespoons of butter, whisk in the remaining butter in a slow, thin stream.
- Season sauce to taste with fresh tarragon, salt, pepper and additional vinegar as needed.