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Bohemian Steak with Roasted Root Vegetables

Winter times. I’m ready to admit that it’s winter. As much as I love summer, especially summer in this city, I need the change of seasons. I may wish that summer lasted the majority of the year with the other three seasons crammed into a few months at the end, but I do need fall, winter and spring. Autumn is a necessary season – college football begins (Go State!), there are pumpkins at every corner bodega and birthdays happening on the calendar.

Birthdays, I say? Yep. I turned another year weathered in late September and my salt-and-peppered husband grew another year more gorgeous in early October. Our birthdates aren’t particularly special; sometimes there are gifts, often not. There are always cards, a great meal either here or at a low-key restaurant, and we usually have some point of major stress in our lives, this year being no exception. Trying to buy a house in a rough section of Brooklyn which is moving past its history as the center of the 80’s crack epidemic in 2014? Forget about it. Clearly I missed the memo from Wall Street saying we’ve all recovered from the recession.

This year, I came home on my birthday to an apartment filled with celebratory cheer: mums, cards and a box partially covered in wrapping paper (questionable). No, not the deed to a rowhome in Bed-Stuy. Before Frank took me to the next restaurant I’ll obsess over for months, I opened my gift. It was small, shiny, glinted in the light and made of fine metal.

Yes, readers, he gave me a saucepan.

Now. I’ve sadly let you down for a few months, passing the time in internet silence; while you’ve patiently waited for a new post and I somehow managed to add another point of stress to my life, this one being much worse than buying a home, all I’m coming back with is a story about a saucepan. I apologize. I’ve actually had to edit this half-written verse which I began in October, and I’m still on the fence about publishing a story in December, showcasing our autumnal meal of root vegetables when we’re already into more seasonal bounties like tangerines and Brussels sprouts. Let's see how it goes.

Back to the birthday. Dinner was amazing and as if the eggplant Parmesan I ordered couldn’t have possibly been topped in awesomeness, it was, because I high-fived THIS GUY on the way out! Holy shit! Best celebrity sighting ever, hands down. Mainly because he was singing along to The Supremes on Frankie’s sound system. Clearly, we drove home in ignorant bliss, convincing ourselves that a 950 square foot one-bedroom apartment was all we needed, as long as we had Bill Murray in our lives.

Moving on a few days, it was time to test out that saucepan. Here’s the great thing about getting married once before in your late twenties and only registering for nineteen items – aside from moving past that part of your life with the dignity in knowing that you weren’t one of those girls who had to have a $50 napkin holder and then never welcomed dinner guests into a giant home to see your $50 napkin holder (Use it?! Are you kidding?!) – you truly only have essentials. And if you’re actually the type who grows into her own in the kitchen, learning and loving and (like me) healing from a past struggle with food, you can turn your happy place into the room of your dreams, no matter how tiny it is. Which is exactly why this gift, this copper saucepan handmade in France means – almost? – more than a small, shiny, light glinting fine metal bauble. Adorning the kitchen is the equivalent to adorning oneself.

The very first thing I decided to make with this très français gift was Béarnaise sauce. The weather was still warm enough to grill but cool enough to roast vegetables, so I picked up a bohemian* cut steak along with romanesco, baby rainbow carrots, a fennel bulb and rosemary.

While Frank and I eased into our Friday night ritual of cocktails, a cheeseboard and reveling in staying home (we’re 39 and 34 now, okay? Staying home is cool!), I set out on the pan-roasted veggies. Sautéing a shallot in olive oil, I added in the romanesco, fennel and carrots, all roughly chopped with a few pats of butter and a couple sprigs of rosemary, the world’s best smelling herb. This was going to happen low and slow, seasoned with salt and pepper. Meanwhile the steak sat out at room temperature coated in salt and pepper, just hanging out until grill time.

For some reason we decided to add potato latkes to the menu?? I’m not sure why. Was it a Jewish holiday? One of my Jewish friends seems to have a holiday pretty much everyday in October. Or my husband suggested it? I don’t know. It was autumn, potatoes are autumn-y...? Um...I grated a few russet potatoes, wrung them out in a dishtowel to drain the excess water, and formed the patties with an egg, a few large pinches of flour, and salt and pepper. Fried in butter and keeping warm in the oven, they were a quick and simple addition, now completed.

My vegetables meanwhile, well, they were looking gorgeous. As they continued to slowly roast in the pan, I added a touch of brown sugar, soy sauce, blood orange, honey and more salt and pepper. I think. Look, this was over two months ago!

Okay. Time to use the Mauviel. Cue the heavenly harp sound.

Béarnaise sauce is one of the most classic French sauces, dating back to the 1830s. This seemed like the appropriate sauce to christen my new pan, as the Mauviel house was created in 1830. I loosely followed the recipe of this guy, one of today’s fine looking French-trained chefs. These sauces take practice, and personally, I’m convinced that until I can afford to spend a summer at Le Cordon Bleu mastering these things, my sauces will always be a bit thinner, less flavorful and more imperfect. As I dropped that first stick of butter into this little copper beauty, I delighted in the fact that I would soon have a less than perfect sauce to crown the steak Frank was now searing on the grill to a more than perfect rare. The butter looked beautiful as it melted. Velvety, golden and just…sigh... I poured it into a ramekin in order to wash and reuse my saucepan for part number two of the sauce.

As the minced shallot, champagne vinegar and white wine reduced in my new pan, I separately whisked the egg yolks over a small pot of boiling water. This is where my novice hands are exposed. I just can’t get those eggs thick enough! I slowly added the melted butter, then the reduction, and the sauce went back into the Mauviel to keep warm and at least award me a photo op.

Ready to plate. The steak now rested, Frank sliced it over the latkes, and I spooned that Béarnaise right over the steak with a heavy hand. The vegetables had caramelized and retained their colors, looking just right next to the alleged star of the show.

We sat down to try it all out. The steak? Good God. I just don’t know how people live without it. The latkes were as expected – heavy, blandish and nondescript. The Béarnaise was great – not amazing, but great. It lended an extra zing to both the meat and potatoes. The vegetables, believe it or not, ended up being a darkhorse. They were so good! And luckily, I’ve been able to recreate them since.

As my man and I look towards Christmas next week, a few things are clear on Powers Street. Santa won’t be bringing us a house, a car, or really anything else for that matter. I still need to sort out the other point of stress that fell into my lap last month. But as autumn fell to winter, we passed Thanksgiving peacefully and quietly, just our little family of four together at home. We kicked off Christmas season with a killer party this past Saturday. And we’re looking forward to a cleaner, happier and calmer 2015. Less mess, more sunshine.

*Bohemian cut, for those of you who are unaware – much like myself until very recently – is a cut of steak that continues where the porterhouse and T-bone end. My butcher described it as a “poor man’s sirloin,” as it comes from that general area of the animal, but has more marbling i.e. flavor. It is inexpensive, and if you can’t find it, a hanger, skirt or flank cut would be similar in flavor and cost.

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