Hey hey, Chris here!
To this point, I have mostly provided kitchen and proofreading expertise here at Cooking and Yelling. However, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I decided to give Ali a break from the hustle and bustle of the blogging life and share the story of our steak dinner on a college budget. This installment also includes our first guest appearance, as Ali’s roommate Kati joined us for dinner!
(To my fellow budget-bound gentlemen, don’t be afraid to bookmark this post for future “Imma treat my girl tonight” moments.)
When I was growing up, my dad did his best to instill in me the value of the simple things in life: puddle jumping on a rainy day, fishing in the sun with good friends, The Princess Bride, etc. But perhaps the simplest, most basic appreciation he passed on to me has become one of my greatest pleasures. Two words. Red. Meat. The bloodier the better. In fact, the love we have for beef is only rivaled by my dependence on potatoes.
As I left home and went to college, I got good news and bad news. The good news was that I’d be so lucky as to meet a beautiful lady who loved meat as much as, if not even more than I do. The bad news: there are precious little funds and even less time to spend treating myself and that lady to a nice dinner in. Then, one day when Ali and I were trying to decide what meals to make the next week, my mind wandered back to something my dad introduced me to when I was young.
It’s called cubed steak, and it looks like this. If you’re familiar with it, you know it’s salvation for lovers of inexpensive beef. It’s sort of like ground beef, but is actually a whole piece of steak like sirloin, cut real thin and tenderized before it’s packaged. So it’s cheap like ground beef but doesn’t taste greasy. Cooked right, it can be the perfect substitute for a fancier cut of beef.
Long story short, Ali and I decided it would be the perfect centerpiece for our high class steak dinner. After a trip to Aldi, Ali’s fave grocery store, we came away with enough steak, potatoes, and asparagus for three people for less than twenty bucks. (Shout out moms everywhere for teaching us kids about bargain hunting.)
What’s a steak dinner without potatoes? I tossed about two pounds of potatoes in a pot of boiling water and left them in there with the lid on for 25 minutes. While they were boiling, we got some bacon out (I know, just when you thought this couldn’t get any better) and I fried a couple pieces for later. Ali took three more pieces of bacon and made little bundles out of asparagus. She put those on a baking sheet with some salt, pepper, olive oil, and fresh garlic and tossed them in the oven for 25 minutes at 350° F. Meanwhile, the three of us finished our pre-dinner bottle of pink moscato (Ali’s choice) and I seasoned the steaks with some salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
With the wine flowing and Awaken, My Love on blast, it would have been easy for anyone to forget the pot of boiling spuds. But we are not just anyone, and with no plan B, this mission was one we could not afford to fail.
I moved the potatoes out of the water and into a bowl to mash, skin on. I like my taters chunky though, so I totally get if you wanna peel yours first. Remember those couple slices of bacon from earlier? Their time has finally come. I chopped those up and mixed them into the potatoes along with a generous portion of butter (almost half a stick), a splash of half and half, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic to taste. Full disclosure, I am 100% drooling just thinking about that bowl of perfection.
As our side dishes were coming down the home stretch, it was time to get the steaks taken care of. The thing about cube steaks is that they are super thin so they cook real quick. If you like your meat somewhere around medium rare like Ali and I, you only need to cook ’em about a minute or so on each side. I like to keep the pan on high heat to get a good sear. I drizzled a little olive oil in the pan, then seared the meat for a hot second, and boom. Done. Break out the dinnertime bottle of moscato.
There you have it! A quick, easy meal that’s not only delicious, but even a little romantic. Pay no attention to Ali’s wine-mom glass; the table is a safe place.
Until next time, happy Valentine’s Day.