There are foods that consistently remind me of someone special. For example…
Apricot chicken makes me think of my (maternal) grandparents. I remember roasting them a bird that I had glazed with apricot jam. I had to shove the chicken back in the oven for a good 15 minutes (all the while distracting them) to make sure it was safe to eat.
Italian bakery cookies remind me of my (paternal) grandmother and of New Jersey. And so do those fruity sugar candies, the hard ones like lemon drops.
Devil dogs make me think of my brother. And english muffin pizzas. So do cornichons and chicken carbonara.
Every holiday makes me think of my mother. How would she do it? How did she used to do it growing up? Grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner on Thanksgiving day? Only in the Dillon household so we could celebrate together, even if it was on Tuesday.
Any kind of lemon candy reminds me of my father- jolly ranchers, lemon drops, any of them… Lamb also reminds me of my father, and good steaks, and Julia Child. Anything about her triggers a thought of my father – what would he think? What kind of insight would he have on the topic or on Julia herself?
When I tell people how I grew up and where my parents met they instantly have an image of three course meals every night, and fancy dinner parties and gobs of butter. I don’t crush their dreams, I just let them imagine it as they would like. But the truth is, there were no fancy dinner parties, the multi-course meals were far more than three and more than you every thought you could eat. There were, in fact, GOBS of butter, gobs upon gobs. In Cookies. In Brownies. In Cakes. A good helping on egg noodles for a snack in a pinch.
What did not happen growing up, was me cooking. I was an eating champ. I had that stealth factor, I looked fairly small but I had at least 3 stomachs and a mature palate. For many years I think my parents assumed I should steer clear of the kitchen – pray that whomever I married could hold their own in the kitchen. Not that I can blame them, I totally destroyed a pan once. I was trying to boil water and somehow I managed to warp the bottom of the pan. Then there was that group project in college when I fell asleep on the couch while a cassoulet was warming on the stove (*spoiler: we ended up serving an apple galette, cheese, dried fruit and a baguette.).
I think that’s why I can’t get enough of Julie & Julia these days (okay, fine… since it was released). It has these strong messages about successes and failures and love, set against an amazing menu.
One thing I don’t remember from my childhood? Steak tips. Lucky for me, Carver is on a mission to make up for that. When we lived in Boston there was a fabulous mom & pop market that sold Burgundy steak tips. I am hoping to replicate the marinade all the way out here in the desert. Until then, I think tonight’s dish was an acceptable back up. Combining the egg noodles from my childhood (whole wheat, because we can), Carver’s steak tips, and a delicious pan gravy reminiscent of something my father would make.
Steak Tips with Mushroom and Onion Gravy
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3/4 pounds steak tips (or sirloin, cut into 1 1/2″ chunks)
- 1/2 pound mushrooms, wiped and quartered
- 1/2 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pinch thyme
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1/2 pound egg noodles, cooked according to package instructions
- Marinate the steak tips in sugar and soy sauce for at least 20 minutes (1 hour would be ideal).
- Heat half of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. You want the oil to get shimmery here – typically I spray the entire pan with non-stick spray before adding the oil as I find the oil goes further this way.
- Pat dry the steak tips and add to the hot oil. Brown a bit on each side until golden brown but not burned. This should take about 8 minutes.
- Remove beef from the pan and let drain on a paper towel covered plate.
- Add remaining oil to the pan and cook mushrooms with a pinch of salt. Stir well to get mushrooms evenly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic and thyme; keep stirring. Add another small pinch of salt and cook until the onions are browned, about 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle flour over onion/mushroom mixture and stir well to coat. Once the flour has been toasted, add half of the broth and bring to a boil. Stir well to incorporate the flour, vegetables and the broth.
- Return the beef to the pan, add remaining broth and simmer until beef is cooked through, 3-5 minutes.
- Serve a heaping cup of this beef and sauce over warm egg noodles.
And thanks, mom and dad, for the love and pep talks. Cody appreciates them too.