There are days when only a great big hunk of steak will do... and when this craving coincides with finding a beautiful piece of beef fillet at the meat counter, then you're in business!
The only question then is what to cook with it - my usual answer would be a cheesy gratin dauphinois and French beans with crispy bacon, preferrably accompanied by a pungent pepper sauce. And although I believe that you should never change a winning team, I do explore new combinations every once in a while. They're mostly letdowns of sorts (great in their own right, but just unable to beat the invincible duo), but I discovered a little gem last week that I want to share with you...
Slow-roast onions stuffed with polenta - not only do they look very decorative and sufficiently rustic for the occasion, they also tasted great, providing you with the necessary carbohydrate kick, but being considerably kinder to your waistline than the gratin.
The other high note of the evening is that after at least 59 different attempts at pulling together a great-tasting red wine sauce (trying everything from a £2.99 supermarket's own to some great Burgundy), the quest for the holy gravy is finally over - Cassis being the secret ingredient. I couldn't believe how quick and easy it was to cook, though I will admit that I used thickening granules and stock concentrate - but ever since I found that even the top of the crop use powdered (instant) potato mash et al. in their haute-cuisine cooking, I have become a bit more confident to admit to rummaging in my own bag of tricks without calling it cheating...
Roast onions stuffed with cheesy polenta*
4 medium onions
700 ml vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
50 g polenta
1 clove garlic (finely diced)
25 g grated cheese (I used Comté)
salt, pepper, nutmeg
Cook the onions (skin on) in 500 ml vegetable stock with the cloves, peppercorns and bay leaf for about 30 to 40 minutes, until they're soft enough to easily prick them with a fork. Reserve the stock.
Carefully cut off the tops and set aside. Scoop out two thirds of the onions, then chop finely and reserve in a bowl.
Meanwhile, prepare the polenta to package instructions (I cooked 50 g easy-cook polenta in 200 ml stock until soft and set), then leave to cool. Stir in half of the chopped onions and the garlic, season with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. Stir in the cheese, reserving 4 tsp of it for the topping.
Preheat the oven to 200 C.
Place the onions in a greased oven-proof dish, fill tightly with the polenta, top with one tsp of the cheese each, then cover with the onion tops.
Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes.
Red wine & cassis sauce
(makes ca. 250 ml)
400 ml good quality Pinot Noir
75 ml Cassis
1 tbsp vegetable stock concentrate (Knorr, formerly Benedicta)
1 clove garlic (halved)
1 small piece of bacon rind (optional)
50 g butter (ice cold and diced)
Put the wine, cassis, concentrate, garlic and bacon rind in a non-tick pot and simmer until reduced by half. Add the butter and thickening granules until you achieve the thickness you desire.
* based on recipes in Obauer's "Hemmungslos Kochen"