Tuesday, March 18, 2008

March 18: Swiss Steak, Southwest Style

Something of an oxymoron, right? Okay.

We just finished dinner, and mmmmmmmmmmm-hmmmmmmm. All I can do is sit here and make happy food noises.

This was a total experiment, based on what looked good last night and was on sale in the grocery store. When I was pregnant, I had wretched morning sickness for about four months. One of the few meals I could stomach was swiss steak, also one of the few meals that my mother makes really, really well. At the time, my mother was 13 hours away and could not be at my house to make swiss steak every night, so I made it myself. Not every night, but once a week, at least. That, chili dogs, tuna-noodle casserole, white bread, and navel oranges were the only things that would reliably not make me yack.

The result of this was that I gained 100 pounds. The end. No, I'm kidding, I only gained about 28 pounds, and I give the credit to the fact that I lost about 15 in the first trimester. The real result is that I burned out a little on swiss steak and haven't really been interested until I found two packages of the most gorgeous-looking cube steaks in the grocery store last night on sale.

Swiss steak, in case you were wondering, is not from any neutral European country. It is a cheap piece of beef, usually bottom round, that has been swissed, or poked repeatedly with sharp objects, until some of the meat fibers are cut, tenderizing it by--well, basically by pre-chewing it for you.

I know, okay? I prefer to chew my own food, generally speaking. But we're talking about a seriously cheap-ass piece of meat that's magically transformed into a lean, beefy, fork-tender piece of deliciousness that does not occur in nature otherwise.

So here I am with these cube steaks, and some pantry staples. Dan and I both had the thought in our head that we wanted something a little spicy; and these gorgeous steaks were staring at me from the second shelf of the fridge.

So I modified my mother's swiss steak recipe slightly. Here's what I did:

Swiss Steak, Southwest Style

4 6-ounce swissed bottom round steaks
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 shallots, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1 14.5 ounce can Muir Glen Organics fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1 to 2 whole pickled jalapenos from a can, finely diced

Combine flour and salt, pepper, and cayenne, all to taste, in a shallow dish or plate (taste the flour, it should be fairly well-seasoned.) Dredge the steaks in the flour

Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the shallots, garlic, and onion to the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until they are fragrant and softening slightly, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the steaks in and brown, turning as needed to keep them from burning. Remove steaks from the pan.

Add tomatoes to pan. Use broth to rinse out the can, then pour the broth into the pan as well and bring to a simmer. Nestle the steaks back into the tomato-broth mixture and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes, turning steaks occasionally.

Stir the jalapenos into the sauce and continue to simmer another 20 minutes. While your steaks simmer, make some mashed potatoes. They don't have to be fancy, just regular old mashed potatoes are fine. Even the kind from the box will do; it's not really about the potatoes.

When the sauce is as thick as you want it to be and the potatoes are ready, make a big pile of mashed potatoes on a big platter. Pile the steaks over them. Spoon or pour the spicy tomatoey goodness over the whole thing.

Curse yourself for making something this yummy when you're on a diet. Only eat one helping.

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