Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mushroom-Caper Smothered Chopped Steaks: for Tom

This past weekend as bitter cold struck from New England to Georgia I returned to my home town in the Connecticut River Valley to spend time with my brother who is in rapidly failing health and in hospice care. Although he himself is no longer eating, Tom had invited a neighbor and good friend from our younger days plus our third brother for lunch, which he asked me to fix. The improvised meal was quite successful, and we were all jolly despite the circumstances. Tom said the food smelled great, and he thoroughly enjoyed the happy sounds of his guests eating. The recipe is dedicated to Tom, for whom I'll probably never be able to cook again.

I had to shop quickly in the "Country Market" in the village center, a store which has changed little since I was a teenager. The meat there is freshly cut and artisanally presented, so much more beautiful and old-world than at the the big supermarkets in Atlanta. The other ingredients had to be simple, and the cooking fast. I picked up some mushrooms, a jar of capers, half-and-half cream, and some English muffins. There was little in Tom's kitchen to work with.

This recipe will serve six (I did a half a recipe). We did not have wine with our lunch, but a malty beer, like Bass, or a dry medium-bodied wine such as a Spanish or Italian red or a Pinot Noir would do well.

Mushroom and Caper-Smothered Chopped Steaks Tim

6 burgers at least 1/4-pound each, made from ground sirloin or chuck
1 pound mushrooms
3 English muffins, split
Butter or olive oil for toasting the muffins
Salt and pepper for the burgers
3/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons red wine
1-1/2 cups half and half
4 tablespoons capers, drained

Shape the burgers 1/2-inch thick, evenly flat, and a little wider than the English muffins (the meat shrinks). Rinse the mushrooms and trim off the bottom 1/8 inch. Slice the mushrooms 1/4-inch thick. Warm the oven to about 150 degrees.

Heat a large frying pan to medium high and add several tablespoons butter or olive oil. When melted, place the split muffins cut side down and toast until just golden. Turn them and briefly heat the backs. Hold the toasted muffins in the warm oven. Heat the pan to hot. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on one side of the burgers and place them in the pan, seasoned side down. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the tops. After one minute, slide a spatula under them and turn them. Fry for one more minute, then turn them and reduce the heat. Cook until desired degree of doneness, testing by twisting the tip of a sharp knife into a burger and checking the interior color. When cooked, place the burgers on the English muffin halves and keep them warm.

If there is grease in the pan, pour off all except about 1-1/2 tablespoons. If not enough add a little butter or olive oil. Fry the mushrooms, sprinkled with 3/8 teaspoon salt, stirring often with a spatula so they don't stick. As they start to shed some liquid and begin to shrink, add the pepper and the red wine, and continue to stir and fry. When the wine has reduced, add the half-and-half and cook it down to half, stirring frequently. Stir in the drained capers and remove the pan from the heat. After a minute, taste and add a little salt if needed (the capers are fairly salty).

Place the burger-topped English muffins on lunch plates. Spoon the mushroom-caper sauce over the burgers.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks Dad,
It is nice to have a aromatic detailed visual of the lunch in Higganum. I will have to try this sometime and toast to Tom

8:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tim, thank you for cooking for us that day. It was simply the best lunch I have ever had....knowing that Tom was enjoying it almost of much as we did. It was a magical meal and a gift to us all.


6:40 AM  

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