Friday, August 20, 2010

Lighthouse Steakhouse

Sometimes, in summer, if you have a good butcher, all you need is a steak.

Luckily, we do. Just down the road is a little market called the Lighthouse. It is legend around here, for its fresh meat, home-baked breads -- banana or zucchini bread that crisps up when toasted and hit with butter -- and the piles of fresh produce that farmers deliver each morning. Corn in the bushel by the door, baskets of ripe peaches on a makeshift well-weathered shelf that has, by some miracle, been bearing its sweet load as long as I can remember.

The market is pervaded by the smoky smell of roasting chickens, for the Lighthouse had a rotisserie long before Whole Foods and Harris Teeter decided it was trendy, and they occasionally throw on a brisket, or a turkey, for good measure. At lunch the line for fresh-made subs is a community sounding board. And if, when you are paying, there is a bunch of asparagus, or a basket of yellow plums, by the checkout, grab them.

But the star here is meat. People from places far closer to "civilization" (ie bigger and more plentiful markets) come here with coolers when their summer stay comes to an end, to load up on Norm's flank steaks and NY strips, perfectly trimmed filets and tender  ground beef, not too fat nor too lean.

All you need is salt, and a grill, and you've got a meal.

Grilled Filet Mignon

The filet is the most tender cut of meat, as it is taken from a non-weight bearing muscle in the cow that is rarely exercised. It is also the most expensive, as there are only 4-6 pounds in the average beef; you can use this basic method for any cut of steak.

Choose steaks that are 1-1/2 inches in thickness. Bring them to room temperature by taking them from fridge 45 minutes before cooking.

Fire the grill up to hottest possible temperature. Using tongs, put meat on the grill and leave it at least two minutes to sear in the juices. After about 5 minutes, flip; longer for medium or well. Test the steak after a couple more minutes; purists hate to pierce or poke meat so use the thumb test instead. A thumb in a rare steak will leave an indentation; if medium will give but leave no mark, and if well will be firm. If you use a thermometer (we do) grill to 130 degrees for rare, 130-140 for medium-rare, 140-155 for medium, 155 to 165 for medium-well, 170 plus for well.

Purists also extol the virtues of salt at the end of the process, saying it bleeds the juices if applied before grilling. Let the meat sit at least 5 minutes to let the flavors develop.

Try this easy mushroom to ground the plate, and you've got a steakhouse at home. The Portobello is the filet mignon of mushrooms, a grown up crimini, dense and meaty.

Portobello Stuffed with Spinach
serves 4

4 Portobello mushrooms
1.5 lbs spinach, fresh
3 cloves garlic, slivered
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (I use a toaster oven: spread on the sheet and spray with olive oil, toast until golden, about 5 minutes.)

Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet and add garlic. Cook until golden. Add spinach in handfuls -- it will wilt and as it does, stir up the garlic to combine.

When spinach is completely wilted, take a slotted spoon and fill tops of cleaned Portobello mushrooms.

Sprinkle pine nuts on top and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until mushroom is tender.


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