This is, I admit, a flagrant violation of my stated “don’t make meat the center of the meal” rule. Not only is meat the center of this meal, it’s steak, the most expensive meat. But as you’ll notice, the entire meal is still under $3, and the plate is equally balanced with inexpensive salad and potatoes. This makes a terrific company dish, as well as a great introduction to eating on a budget for those with steakhouse tastes. (It’s not true steak au poivre because I didn’t use cognac, but if you have some on hand, feel free to make it authentic.)
Sauce recipe adapted from Alton Brown. 2 servings.
• 2 lbs. small waxy potatoes (Yukon Golds and red ones are fine), cut in quarters: $1.16
• 1/2 cup beef broth: 3 cents
• 1 T butter: 6 cents
• 1/3 cup heavy cream: 30 cents
• 3 large garlic cloves, minced: 3 cents
• 1 tsp whole peppercorns: 2 cents
• Approx. 2 T olive oil, one for potatoes and one for salad dressing: 12 cents
• 1 T vinegar of your choice, for salad dressing (balsamic is my favorite): 5 cents
• Parsley, for garnish: 10 cents
• 1/4 head lettuce, washed, leaves torn: 25 cents
• Salt & pepper to taste: 2 cents
TOTAL: $5.40/2 = $2.70/serving
First off, if you’re not using the best-quality steak, here’s a secret: Let it sit out on a plate, heavily salted at room temperature, for one hour for every inch of thickness. When you’re ready to use, just rinse the salt off and pat it dry. It’s a quick-‘n’-dirty way to replicate the dry-aging technique they use at steakhouses, and it really makes a difference in the flavor.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Toss the potato quarters with olive oil, the garlic, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes to an hour, turning the pieces over once or twice so they don’t burn.
When the potatoes are close to finished, start making the steak sauce. Coarsely crush the peppercorns in a mortar and pestle or in a bag with a rolling pin.
Season the steaks lightly with salt and press the peppercorns evenly into both sides. (It may seem like an alarming amount of pepper, but the cream tempers it enough that it’s not the least bit spicy.)
Melt butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.
Remove steaks and put on a broiler pan. If the potatoes aren’t quite done, tent the steaks with foil. As soon as the potatoes are out of the oven, broil the steaks for 3-4 minutes per side, depending on thickness. Let rest for at least 5 minutes, tented with foil.
Meanwhile, reduce heat under the cast-iron skillet to medium. Deglaze the pan with the beef broth, scraping up any browned bits. Simmer for a few minutes, then add the cream.
Simmer for about 5-6 minutes or until thickened, stirring often. Season to taste.
When the potatoes are done, toss them in a bowl with the parsley and cover with foil to keep warm.
Shake the oil and vinegar together, add salt and pepper to taste, and toss with the lettuce.
To serve, pour the sauce over the steak on a plate with the salad and potatoes.