As you see, the promised return to the good life has delivered, with a thorough trip to not one but two grocery stores, I am fully prepared to cook up a storm, and not think, quite as much, about the budget.
That said, you will benefit greatly from buying the best steak you can afford. I ended up with two tiny, but exceptional, fillets; deciding that when faced with 4 oz. of tender perfection vs. 10 oz. of chewy toughness, the tiny specimen will always win out.
I owe my friend Lauren, once again, for the trick to incredibly easy, perfectly steamed artichokes, which were a grassy green foil to the bright flavors of the bearnaise sauce. In fact, I highly recommend dipping the artichokes, steak, and possibly your fingers into this sexy cousin to Hollendaise--until you feel yourself floating away on a cloud of butterfat. What a way to go.
Steaks and Artichokes with Bearnaise Sauce
for the Bearnaise*:
3-4 Tbsp Tarragon vinegar
3-4 Tbsp dry white wine
1 small shallot, minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves
freshly ground pepper
2 large egg yolks
.75 stick butter, melted
Put the vinegar, wine, shallot, a pinch each of salt and pepper, and half of the tarragon into a small saucepan. Bring to a low boil and simmer until reduced by half. Set aside to cool slightly.
Place the egg yolks in a blender, add the lukewarm shallot mixture and pulse to blend. With the blender running, slowly pour the hot butter through the opening in the lid. Add the remaining tarragon and pulse one or two more times. Add more wine if the sauce is too thick, but it should be just right.
Set sauce aside while you cook the steaks and artichokes. When it comes time to serve, pour a Tbsp of very hot water into the sauce and blend for 15 seconds.
*Ina Garten gave me the wonderful idea of blizting this in the blender, as well as the hot water revival trick. Many thanks, Ms. Ina.
for the artichokes:
2 large artichokes
large ziploc bag
Yes, those are the ingredients, it's that easy. When you are dipping your chokes into a rich sauce there is little need for any other flavoring. Trim the stem end of each artichoke and remove any tough, beat up leaves from the bottom. Wash under cool water, letting the water really penetrate the tight green heads. With some water on them, place the artichokes in the ziploc bag and zip closed. With some sharp scissors, snip 3-4 holes in the bag, then microwave for 11 minutes. Let stand to cool, and be careful of the steam when removing from the bag.
for the steaks:
2 beef filets, at least 1 inch thick
freshly ground pepper
Sprinkle steaks liberally with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil over high heat until it just starts to smoke. Add steaks and sear for 1 minute per side. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for another 8 minutes, for a gorgeously rare center. Remove to a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Let sit at least 5 minutes, but 10 is better.
Serve steaks with bearnaise sauce drizzled over, and the remaining sauce in ramekins for dipping. Dip the verdant artichoke leaves in one by one, scoop out the prickly choke and dip the heart in as well. If you have someone in the house that is worried about an artichoke and a tiny steak being enough food, some crisp roasted potatoes do quite nicely. Now, go float away on that butterfat, sweet friends, and treat yourself to something decadent.