For a New Year’s Eve dinner, we kept it low key and visited a friend for dinner. I was pretty excited since they mentioned they were making steak. I know they get shares (and also distribute) locally grass fed and grass finished beef from Joseph Creek Cattle Company.
I’m always over the moon whenever they have any meat on the table as appetizers during their various cocktail parties. In this case, we were going to do a full on dinner, and when she texted me that she was making steak I totally did a little “Woop!”. When you look at the rib-eyes below, you can see why I am always looking to go straight for any meat plate at their home.
Since they were also taking care of dessert, and F was going to bring something from his beer collection, I decided to also bring two sides. One was a vegetarian version of chicken fricassee, which I have made before– I asked F at the grocery store what he would like me to make to make sure he would also be satiated, and this was the dish he picked. This time instead of using Quorn chick’n, I just kept it to plain vegetables of mushrooms, edamame, green beans, . I did not serve it with biscuits this time, just plain since I recalled he was just eating it from the pan last time.
The other vegetarian dish was one I adapted from something I had pinned from Food and Wine, a Cauliflower with Manchego and Almond Sauce recipe. The recipe says it serves 6, but I think a 2 pound cauliflower head, once you trim it into florets, only serves 4 people as a side dish unless you have 3 side dishes like we did at this dinner.
Still, the description alone made it seemed like the perfect fit for a New Year’s eve side to accompany a steak before returning to normal scheduled more healthy post-holiday programming menus: “This outrageously rich sauce, flavored with salty, nutty Manchego, gets poured on sautéed cauliflower and baked until it’s golden and bubbling.”
- 1/2 cup whole unsalted almonds, plus 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped almonds
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided in half
- 1 2-3 pound head of cauliflower, cut into 1 1/2-inch florets. As you can see from my photos, with a 2 pound cauliflower the sauce smothers the cauliflower, if you want it to be less sauce increase the cauliflower amount
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup half and half
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk – the recipe calls for whole but to make up for the half and half, I used skim
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely shredded Manchego (about 1/2 pound hunk of Manchego). You can also use other mildly nutty cheese, such as Gouda
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika – either “sweet” (dulce) or “hot” (picante) works
- First, roast the almonds. You can buy them already roasted, but it’s so ridiculously easy to roast them in the oven at home too. F loves almonds as a snack, but prefers them raw, so that’s the kind we like to buy. To roast the almonds, lay them flat on a baking pan and put them in the oven at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes until you can smell the deliciousness wafting from them. Let them cool until you can handle them. Remember to set aside 2 tablespoons of the almonds which you are going to coarsely chop and use as topping later.
- In a large skillet, bring 1/2 inch of salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower florets, cover and cook over high heat until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain the cauliflower in a colander and set it aside.
- Then, in the same skillet that you have now removed all the water, add 2 tablespoons of butter, on medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook over medium heat, stirring until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to high, and add the cauliflower. Stir to mix, and then let it sit there for a few minutes to grown, and then stir to flip the cauliflowers to brown a bit on the other side. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Transfer the cauliflower to a 7-by-10-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.
- Now to make the sauce. In a small saucepan, heat the half and half until steaming (stop it before it begins to boil), then transfer it to a food processor or blender. Add the 1/2 cup of whole almonds and process until finely ground. Let stand for 10 minutes. The original recipe instructions are to strain the half and half through a fine sieve set over a bowl, pressing on the almonds to extract as much liquid as possible and then discard the ground almonds. I saw no reason to discard them- I liked the fact they gave a little bit of coarseness to the sauce and made it very thick- so I left the nut half and half mixture alone.
- Back to that same small saucepan which you had used to heat the half and half before. Melt the other 2 tablespoons of butter you have left in that pot. Add in the 2 tablespoons of flour and whisk over moderately high heat for 1 minute until it is browned and cooked. Add the milk and the almond half and half mixture and whisking constantly until everything thickens, 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Add 1 cup of the Manchego and whisk until melted. Whisk in the nutmeg; season with salt and pepper. Now top the cauliflower in the baking dish with this manchego and almond sauce. If you’d like to stop now and refrigerate it overnight you can… just bring it to room temperature before baking.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Sprinkle the cauliflower topped with the Manchego and almond sauce with the remaining Manchego cheese, the 2 tablespoons of chopped almonds and the smoked paprika. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, or until bubbling and browned on top. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
And here is the final product, our New Year’s Eve dinner at a friend’s home, after a lovely salad with mustard garlic vinaigrette and prosecco, we plated our dinner entree of butternut squash fettuccine (vegetarian), part of a juicy Joseph Creek rib-eye pan-fried in butter (not vegetarian), vegetarian fricassee, and this cauliflower with manchego almond sauce.
And mad props for the wonderful dessert she served an hour before it was countdown time, this awesome hazelnut panna cotta with Pinot Noir strawberries (the vegetarian got chocolate cake with the strawberries don’t worry- since panna cotta has gelatin, it may not be vegetarian safe, depending on your local vegetarian’s rules). She also served a great sparkling wine that after our New Year’s kisses and selfies, we tried with a little drop of her aunt’s raspberry wine, which I was having too much fun to recall to photograph.
They didn’t ask me to plug Joseph Creek Cattle, but if you are interested, feel free to contact Hal at josephcreekcattlecompany dot com. This is not the first time I’ve had that delicious beef (and yes, you can detect a grassier flavor to it)- and hopefully not the last time I am invited over to enjoy it. I totally went for seconds on the rib-eye. You may have heard that grass fed beef is healthier for you- but not only is it lower in calories and fat that its regular beef counterpart, but it is rich in omega 3s and there is ongoing research to see if it can reduce cancer risk. Although the beef is leaner, I still saw some great marbling, and there was definitely some juicyness to that steak as you saw on my dinner plate.
Which of the dishes of my New Year’s Eve dinner sounds most appealing to you? Have you had grass fed, grass finished steak before, and did you notice a difference? Do you think it’s spelled rib eye or rib-eye?