Tuesday, January 10, 2012

steak with cilantro pesto/duck fat potatoes

This is a nice medium rare steak with some cilantro pesto sauce and a side of delicious potatoes cooked with duck fat. It was a pretty good dinner, but the potatoes were definitely the star, even if the steak fanned out over the bright green sauce is considerably more photogenic.

For most of my life, I had a very strict definition of what pesto is, but lately I've been branching out, with mixed results.

I suspect this may have been one of my more successful alterna-pesto efforts, had it not been for the difficulties presented by Nathan's crappy, crappy blender, which refused to cooperate. Despite my best efforts, this pesto remained slightly chunky, with disparate ingredients. Also, this recipe calls for pumpkin seeds in lieu of the traditional pine nuts (or walnuts, if you're like me), and they definitely could have benefited from some toasting, especially since the blender didn't quite get them ground finely enough.

Luckily, the flavor was good: slightly spicy, with plenty of salt, lime and, of course, cilantro. It was a good accompaniment to the perfectly seared steak, although a good steak can certainly stand on its own. It isn't something I'd dash out to make again, but I can see other people (except for the weird ones who think cilantro tastes like soap) really liking it.

The side dish was another story. I was excited to make the potatoes, because I have been keeping a small container of duck fat in the fridge for a long long time, and duck fat and potatoes is one of those classic combinations that you just keep coming across. Let me assure you, it did not disappoint.

The potatoes are fried in the duck fat until they get nice and golden brown. Then you add some water and put the lid on the pan to make sure they get cooked all the way through. Nathan was totally convinced they'd be gross and soggy, but instead they were perfectly tender and delicious. A little richness from the duck fat shows these potatoes to their best angle, and some garlic slivers certainly don't hurt in the taste department. Winners all around, and a recipe well worth holding on to.

Cilantro Pesto
from Serious Eats "Sauced"

2 cups packed fresh cilantro, rinsed and dried
3 medium garlic cloves
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ olive oil
¼ cup cotija cheese
1 serrano pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
1 tbsp lime juice
Kosher salt

Place cilantro and pumpkin seeds in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Pulse until cilantro and seeds are finely chopped. Add garlic and serrano pepper and pulse to combine.

With the blender or food processor running, pour in oil in a slow, steady stream and blend until smooth. Add the cotija cheese and lime juice and blend again. Season with salt to taste.

Potatoes Sarladaise
Serious Eats "French in a Flash"

3 tbsp clarified butter, goose fat, or duck fat
4 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into ½" discs
8 medium cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 cup water
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp chopped flat leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper

Add fat to heavy-bottomed 12-inch non-stick skillet and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook stirring occasionally, until potatoes are deep golden brown.

Reduce heat to medium low. Add ¾ cup water and salt to potatoes. Cover and cook until potatoes are tender, adding additional water if water evaporates before potatoes are cooked through. Cook until liquid is evaporated. Add parsley, season to taste with additional salt and black pepper, stir gently to combine, and serve immediately.

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