My family has been weaning itself from red meat for years. We still love it, but the portions and frequency are less than they used to be. Still, when I started planning a Father’s Day menu for my husband and my dad, I thought it might be nice to bow to tradition by turning to the Batman and Robin of manly fare — steak and potatoes.
Happily, there are many ways these days to have your steak and eat it, too. For this menu, I was able to lower the fat and calorie count not only of the steak and potatoes, but of the equally sinful sauce — bearnaise. And, as ever, the flavor stays large.
We start with flank steak. Leaner and tougher than rib-eye (the traditionalist’s cut of choice), flank steak is nonetheless plenty juicy and delicious as long as you cook it to no more than medium-rare and slice it thinly and against the grain. And just a little of it — 4 ounces — can be surprisingly satisfying.
The satisfaction quotient leaps up pretty quickly, of course, when potatoes get into the act. In this case, I’m talking about russets, the king of starchy potatoes. I shred those bad boys, flatten them into a pancake, and crisp up the pancake in a nonstick skillet with just a little bit of olive oil. Then I transfer it to a sheet pan and finish it in the oven, which frees up the skillet for the steak.
While the steak is cooking and resting, you can go to work on my “bearnaise sauce.” The traditional version — made with egg yolks, lots of butter and tarragon — is a classic of French cuisine. In my version, tarragon is the only ingredient to survive. I start by making a reduction with white wine, white wine vinegar, minced shallots and dried tarragon. You can use all white wine if you have no vinegar or all vinegar if you prefer not to use white wine. If you have no shallots, just substitute finely-chopped onion.
This reduction is the acid base of the sauce, to which you will add my miraculous cheating ingredient — one-third-less-fat cream cheese — which somehow replaces both the egg yolks and the butter. Finish off the sauce with fresh tarragon, and there you have it, a wonderful bearnaise that is simultaneously rich and light.
One of the side benefits of the one-third-less-fat cream cheese is that the sauce it makes is virtually indestructible. A traditional bearnaise is temperamental; you always have to fret about the yolks curdling and the butter separating out to form a greasy slick. This sauce stays intact. By the way, don’t forget to add the resting juices from the steak to the sauce, as they make it even tastier.
Our steakhouse dinner wouldn’t be complete without some spinach on the side. I cooked it up with olive oil and garlic in the same pan as the potatoes and the steak. I’m telling you, Mom, this is almost a one-dish meal. When I had The Husband test drive the whole menu, he declared that it would make any day Father’s Day.