As I mentioned yesterday, Andy's actual birthday was too hectic for a real family celebration, so we did it today instead. I adapted the menu to please both the kids and the Birthday Boy. The kids got their favorite steak (which, for the record, they have on a weekly basis, while Andy and I usually go for rib-eyes). Andy and I had a salt-crusted strip steak à la Tyler Florence. It was delicious. I used a big, beautiful (locally raised!) strip steak I got from InSeason and cut the rest of the ingredients in half. It's impossible to know how much of each herb is really meant, so just wing it.
Salt-Crusted New York Strip
2 (18-ounce) New York strip steaks (1½” thick)
6 egg whites
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves only
¼ bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves only
4 sprigs thyme, leaves only
3 stems fresh sage
3 cups kosher salt
Preheat oven to 475°.
Bring steaks to room temperature; drizzle with a little olive oil and a few turns of black pepper.
Put egg whites in a large mixing bowl and gently whisk until slightly foamy. In a food processor, pulse the garlic, bay leaves, rosemary, parsley, thyme, and sage a few times. Add to egg whites with salt and combine well until it holds together like a paste.
Set steaks in the center of a large cast iron skillet and mold the salt paste on top of and around the sides of the steak:
Bake in the hot oven for 15 minutes, then pull out and rest for 7–8 minutes.
Crack shell open, remove steak, slice, and serve.
Yum! You don't get those nice seared-in grill marks, but the meat is extremely juicy and flavorful.
For dessert, I again decided to please Andy even if it meant serving something different to the kids. They got the last of Julie's birthday cake, and he got a Maple-Nut Tart, which was right up his alley. He loves walnuts and pecans, maple syrup, and pie crust. If you know someone who prefers a hearty yet slightly less-sweet dessert, this one is a real winner. Be sure to top it with vanilla ice cream.
1 recipe pie crust dough (see below)
2 large eggs
¼ cup packed light-brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup pure maple syrup
1½ cups pecan pieces
1½ cups walnut pieces
Preheat oven to 350°. On a lightly floured piece of wax paper or parchment paper, roll dough into a 12" circle. Carefully fit into a 9" removable-bottom tart pan, gently lowering dough into bottom and sides of pan without stretching. (Turns out that my removable-bottom tart pan is way smaller than 9", so I used a fluted ceramic quiche pan.) Roll rolling pin over edge of tart pan to cut off excess dough; set tart shell aside.
In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, and salt; whisk in maple syrup. Add nuts and mix filling to combine. Place tart pan on rimmed baking sheet and pour in filling. Bake tart until filling is set and crust is slightly golden, 55–60 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Remove tart from pan before serving. (Herein lies the only problem with my quiche pan: The first piece was impossible to get out neatly. Ah well!)
1¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2–4 Tbsp ice water
Yields 1 single crust.
In large bowl using pastry blender, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter and cut in with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal, with just a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining.
Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp ice water and continue to work dough with pastry blender until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed with fingers. (If needed, add up to 2 Tbsp more ice water, 1 Tbsp at a time.) Do not overwork dough.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; form into a ¾"-thick disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.