Thursday, March 27, 2014

New York’s Old Soho and Soho Chicken Salad

Soho, 1970’s (photo from Soho Memory Project)

A few weeks ago I went to Red Hook, Brooklyn to visit a wonderful new restaurant called Grindhaus (*featured in my merguez film). In the quiet weekday streets,  ancient businesses stand cheek to jowl with new galleries and restaurants and remind me of the ‘vibe’ (how’s that for a throwback word?) of Soho back-in-the-day (sans the cast-iron fronts, of course).

(photo from Soho Memory Project)

Like the Soho of yore, Red Hook has a strong sense of community. Although prices are rising, it's still possible to live there without a trustfund. The restaurant works with a sausage maker down the block to store their meats – neighbors have big parties and everyone brings things they made to the event from food to art.  Grindhaus began because the owner found a giant sausage maker in a building basement and had a sausage party for hundreds of neighbors that was such a huge success that everyone urged her to open a restaurant. Hard to believe but that’s what Soho was once like.

Davidovitch photo, 1975 Soho –“raw space” on move-in day (photo from Soho Memory Project)

Years ago, when visiting a pal in California’s Marin County, I met a whole cadre of Soho expats who were reminiscing about 5000 sq. ft. Soho lofts that they rented for $65 a month. Whole buildings sold for $20G. Sadly, few could come up with even that tariff –– they were starving artists, after all (an investment that would be worth tens of millions today, canny artist Donald Judd kept his building that is now his museum). In the 60’s, there was always room for newly arrived artful types from all parts of the world to crash in these vast spaces . Parties went on from floor to floor for days with everyone bringing what they had as they wandered in and out.

David Armstrong photo of my lovely former neighbor, jewelry designer Maripol (left) at the Mudd Club, 1979

Whilst skipping down Soho’s memory lane, I came across a great blog, The Soho Memory Project , run by a lady named Yukie who grew up there in the 70’s (her father was an artist/pioneer). She doesn't just cover the familiar territory of the drug-fueled hijinks at the Mudd Club or the creative crucible that was The Kitchen or swoon over all the barely legal holes-in-the-wall selling local artist’s work for a few bucks that became grand galleries selling multi-million dollar works by some of the same no-longer-starving local artists.

Headline warning of Soho gentrification (photo from Soho Memory Project)

Crosby Street & Spring Street, 1978 (Photo by Thomas Struth from Soho Memory Project)

No, The Soho Memory Project is about the early Soho-ites and the great diversity of lives lived there from the 60’s through the 70’s when Soho ejected most of the 'pioneers' and was transformed into a playground for the rich.  Those $65 lofts now go for $20 million.  Starving artists had to move to the East Village then the Lower East Side then Williamsburg then Long Island City then Red Hook then Bushwick then Jersey City… and on and on it goes as each generation of starving artists finds their own big cheap place to do what they do only to be displaced and pushed to a new location as the moneyed class discover a new cool. Such is the way of New York. I think you’ll enjoy visiting the blog if you’ve spent any time there.  It's a great read with amazing photos.

It wasn’t just the similar Soho ‘vibe’ that brought me back when I visited Red Hook,  Grindhaus had a marvelous dish that rang a flavor bell for me.

Cappellacci pasta stuffed with merguez with chickpeas, fritters and purée at Grindhaus

Their beautifully seasoned pasta dish with a rich chickpea sauce** reminded me of a great favorite recipe from a famous Soho artist's kitchen –– a chicken dish with a smooth tahini cloak that I have enjoyed for eons (albeit slightly evolved from the original after decades of making it).

All of these memories coalesced when The Creative Cooking Crew asked for a perfect bite for the challenge this month. To me, a perfect bite is one that hits all the sense receptors.  This dish has a touch of sweet, savory (the demi-glace adds a brilliant dark rich note), sour, creamy, crunchy, spicy and cold.  It's a perfect bite. No wonder it’s been one of my favorites for so long. It would be a hit at a Soho soirée, then and now.  It wouldn't be out of place in Red Hook either –– perfect bites never go out of style.

Soho Chinese Chicken Salad serves 2-4 (depending on size of chicken breast)

1 or 2 Chinese dried peppers(between 2-4" long)
2 T mild oil
2 chicken breasts, cubed
1 T D'Artagnan demi glace or Knorr chicken bouillon cube
2 T soy sauce
1 T sesame oil
2 T sesame paste
1 T rice vinegar
1 T sugar
2 T chopped scallion
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 t of ground coriander seed
pinch of sumac (optional)
Chinese cabbage, about 5 c sliced or chopped (reserve some unchopped for decoration)
small bunch coriander/cilantro, whole leaves or chopped (about 1 loose cup)
Sesame seeds for garnish

Sauté the pepper in the oil at medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant and remove. Salt and pepper the chicken. Sauté the chicken in the same oil. When cooked, toss in the demi glace or cube and combine. Remove the chicken and cool, reserving the oil.

In a blender, combine the reserved pepper oil, soy, sesame oil and paste and rice vinegar, sugar and scallion, garlic and spices. Blend. Taste. You may want to add more vinegar if you want more tang. If you like it spicy you can crumble the dried pepper you had toasted in the oil into the mix and blend. Toss the sauce with the chicken and whatever juices have accumulated with it.

This can all be done in advance and reserved.  The salad get's soggy once you blend it so you should wait till just before serving OR combine the sauce and the chicken and serve separately with the cabbage and coriander so it is combined on the plate or serve as a true 'bite',  the chicken individually placed in cabbage and enjoyed one bite at a time.

I line a bowl (or spoon) with cabbage leaves to serve and sprinkled with sesame seeds.  I love this with peppery papadams when I have them on hand.

** Grindhaus changes their menu all the time so this dish is not always available.

*sorry for another shameless plug but....

My first article is appearing in the magazine  SaudiAramcoWorld this month (it has great food history articles going back decades).   Mine's about chiliewith a fun video on merguez in NYC that I made with my friend, filmmaker Kathy Dougherty.  Do visit, won't you??

See the Creative Cooking Crew Pinterest Board HERE
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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Society's Darling ––The Colony Restaurant and Their Legendary Chicken Hash in a Bread Box and an ANNOUNCEMENT

Lee Radziwill and Truman Capote outside the Colony

From the Twenties through the Sixties, everyone who was anyone went to The Colony Restaurant in New York City to eat, drink –– see and be seen. Critic George Jean Nathan said the Colony was one of “civilization’s last strongholds in the department of cuisine.” Rian James in Dining In New York (1930) said the "Colony is the restaurant of the cosmopolite and the connoisseur; the rendezvous of the social register; the retreat of the Four Hundred." Later, columnist Aileen Mehle (aka Suzy Knickerbocker) declared, “the Colony was The Bastion. Sometimes you’d go for lunch and stay till dinner. It was fun, fun, fun—refined, polished, glamorous, giddy.”

Mrs. Gary Cooper at the Colony, 1944

What began as a speakeasy (with a private second floor that provided wealthy patrons with a safe haven to enjoy their mistresses’ company) became a sophisticated Café Society destination thanks to Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt crashing the naughty party and bringing some light into the room.  Soon, it was an international sensation – it even had a Van Cleef and Arpels concession to supply it's customers with baubles to make amends or to celebrate.

Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone at the Colony, 1940

There was a Colony 'crowd' that included Hollywood royalty Errol Flynn, Gary Cooper, and Joan Crawford as well as the real deal ––The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were great fans (as were assorted bankers, brokers, wheeler dealers and gangsters and socialites).

As night fell, Café Society had cocktails, ate their dinners and went to nightclubs and theatres. During the day, Café Society women began congregating in a few select restaurants in the afternoons without their husbands. The Colony was at the top of the list.

The ladies even brought their dogs with them when they lunched at the Colony and parked them in a special alcove. Designer Bill Blass said, “you’d see Yorkshires, poodles, dachshunds, boxers, pugs…. It was amazing how they got along—in some respect better than the ladies themselves. With silver bowls of food and water set before their perfumed muzzles, and satin cushions laid beneath their silken paws, “they’d sit there on a banquette, lined up obediently in a row like little soldiers….”

Colony Restaurant

In 2000, Amy Fine Collins wrote a delicious piece about the Colony in Vanity Fair, called The Colony Elite. In it, former fashion editor Babs Simpson remembered, “By 1934, I was already going—I don’t know where else one would go. There weren’t many men at lunch, except some very elegant homosexuals like Fulco di Verdura or Van Day Truex. Husbands either had lunch downtown or at their clubs. The restaurant was very attractive, light, airy, clean, and smart. It was a real window for fashion. Hattie Carnegie’s suits with the little collar were very popular for lunch, with Fulco’s jewelry. And the restaurant was silent—no music, nobody raising their voices. You’d see Kitty Miller, Elsie Woodward, Hattie Carnegie, Carmel Snow—the Colony was very handy to the [Harpers] Bazaar. Gene was very unobtrusive and gave those of us who worked there some kind of discount.”

Capote was one of the most popular men in the Colony crowd. He lunched “with New York’s grandes dames at New York’s grand restaurants, and he cried when The Colony, one of the four or five he considers worth the trouble of lifting fork to face, closed in 1971, depriving him evermore of his special back table under the TV set.”

Jackie O outside the Colony (it was said her marriage to Onassis was brokered at the Colony)

In Fine’s Vanity Fair article, Kitty Carlisle Hart reminisced, “In the old days in New York, your status depended on where you sat in the Colony restaurant. For a long time, when I first came to New York—this was in the 30s—I was shown to the back of the dining room. Then, as I grew in age and stature, I began to move forward until I reached the beginning enclave, where all the bigwigs who were the tops socially sat. The first time I got a table there, I said to my mother, ‘I’ve arrived!’. According to food critic Iles Brody’s calculations, it took being seated three times at one of the best tables to secure your position in café society.”

For seating, there was also the bar area which had been dark and gloomy until a bright, blue and white striped canvas-makeover by decorator Valentino (it was only meant to be a temporary fix and removable if it didn’t work, but it did –– it became a hot destination after the Duke of Windsor decided to remain there, announcing to Colony owner Gene Cavallero, “We’ll dine here, Gene. The bar has such a gay atmosphere!”

Colony owner Gene Cavallero in the kitchen

About the food, Fine quoted Babs Simpson again, “The thing about the Colony was that the food was sophisticated Wasp, and so was the clientele. The famous thing to order there was chicken hash, inside of a box of toasted bread. And soft-shell crabs, the best in town, no bigger than a 50-cent piece, the right size for one mouthful and two delicious cold soups, Senegalese and billi-bi. It was like the food in your own house, if you had a very good chef.”

In 1945, just as the world was belting hallelujahs in every language on the planet to celebrate the end of WWII,  Iles Brody brought out a book about NYC’s celebrated Colony Restaurant that included recipes for all the favorites, including that chicken hash in a bread box. It was a bit hard to find in the recipe section because it was listed as “Eggs Encore Colony”. Also, there was no recipe for the hash that went inside the bread box. No matter, for that I used the famous Plaza chicken hash as a base, combining it with a Colony recipe for “Chicken Sauté Archiduc” that has a similar richness (21 Club had a famous hash I’ve written about HERE that could also be used). Rich it is, creamy, decadent, crazy rich. This is the chicken hash you dream of. The irony of the boardinghouse feel of the word ‘hash’ is not lost on the sublime creaminess of this hash. The contrast of the crispy toast box is rather perfect.

If you are not café society when you sit down to enjoy it, you will feel like you are at the Duke’s table at the Colony when you take your first bite.

Eggs Encore Colony

“Take a square loaf of regular (small) sandwich bread, and cut off a piece three and a half inched wide. Trim the crust. Now make an incision in the piece of bread with a very sharp knife, following the shape of the bread, about an inch from the edges. Smear a little olive oil over it, and place the bread-brick into the oven to brown. Remove the part you marked with you knife, make a bed of chicken hash and place poached egg in hollow, sprinkle with grated Parmesan, put back in oven for a minute to form a gratin, serve.”

As you may see, bread is larger these days so 2” is plenty.

Plaza Chicken Hash from Truman Capote

4 c finely diced cooked chicken (white meat only)
1 ½ c heavy cream
1 c cream sauce
2 t salt
1/8 t white pepper
¼ c dry sherry
½ c hollandaise

Mix chicken, cream, cream sauce and seasonings in a heavy skillet. Cook over moderate heat, stirring often for about10 minutes. When moisture is slightly reduced, place skillet in a moderate over (350F) and bake for 30 minutes. Stir in sherry and return to over for 10 minutes. Lightly fold in hollandaise sauce and serve at once.

Chicken Saute Archiduc

Cut a fowl into pieces and brown quickly in butter. Add an onion already cooked in butter and complete the cooking.

Remove the chicken pieces and keep them hot. Add a small glass of brandy to the onion; reduce this sauce, the pour in a little cream and a little velouté. Rub this sauce through a sieve and reduce till it has a stiff consistency. Take from the fire and add 1 ½ oz of butter, the juice of one-quarter lemon, one tablespoon of Madeira wine, heat for a minute and pour over the fowl.

Colony Restaurant Chicken Hash in a Box (my interpretation) for 4

2 c cooked diced chicken (cooked as lightly as possible)
¾ c heavy cream
½ c velouté (*see recipe)
1T brandy
1T Madeira (I used Rare Wine Company’s 1982 Barbeito Bual)
pinch of mace
salt and pepper to taste
2 t to 1T lemon juice (to taste)
1 egg yolk
4 slices of bread, about 2” thick
2 T olive oil
4 poached eggs
2 T grated Parmesan cheese

Put the cream and velouté in the pan. Stir to thicken somewhat. Add the brandy and madeira. Add the chicken and season to taste. Cook at low heat in the sauce. When warmed, add the lemon and egg yolk. Do not over heat or it will curdle. Keep a few tablespoons of sauce to the side.

Heat the oven to 400º. Trim the crust from the bread. Now make an incision in the piece of bread with a very sharp knife, following the shape of the bread, about an inch from the edges. Paint the toasts with olive oil and place the bread-bricks into the oven to brown very lightly (it will brown further under the broiler - it will burn if it is browned too much now).  Depending on the type of bread you use, this could take 5 to 10 minutes –– whole grains take much longer than white.  Remove the part you marked with your knife –– leave some bread at the bottom so the hash is contained.

Turn on the broiler. Put the hash in the toast hollows, leaving indentations that you fill with poached eggs and spoon the reserved sauce over the eggs.  Place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with Parmesan.  Brown under the broiler for a few minutes till slightly browned and bubbling and serve.


1 T butter
1 ½ T flour
¾ c stock

Melt the butter and stir in the flour. Cook for a moment then add the stock slowly, stirring all the while. Let it bubble for a few minutes then remove from the heat.

I have just published my first article on chilies for SaudiAramcoWorld with a fun video on merguez in NYC.  Do visit, won't you??

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Hot dog history and Bacon-Wrapped Duck Hot Dogs, Stuffed with Cheese

What’s Cooking in America  looked back to the ‘rosy fingered dawn’ of sausage history and discovered a line in Homer’s Odyssey  "As when a man besides a great fire has filled a sausage with fat and blood and turns it this way and that and is very eager to get it quickly roasted.”  The Roman Emperor Gaius (1st century AD) thought he discovered the links we love when he noticed intestines swelling in a cooked pig and announced, "I have discovered something of great importance". Who can argue with an emperor, but he was off by a long shot –– there had been sausages for 1000 years or more by the time he made that pronouncement.  By the Middle Ages you could find sausage recipes in cookbooks all over Europe and in the Middle East.

It seems meat has been cooked in intestines and stomachs and such for eons – it’s a great way to cook seasoned meat, a method that keeps the beautiful flavor in one place.

The seasonings for sausages of all varieties are similar and haven’t really changed that much in hundreds of years. Of course, the introduction of chili peppers added paprika and cayenne to the sausage mix for many classic sausages. Otherwise, the same sweet spices and herbs show up all over Western cuisine’s sausage recipes (the Chinese, among others, use different spices).

And what about hot dogs? I read that the first 'frankfurter’ was born in Frankfurt in 1852 – it was also know as the “dachshund sausage” thanks to the butcher’s pet.

Hot dogs NYC 1906

Hot dogs came to America in the 1860’s, served from German immigrant pushcarts on New York’s Bowery with milk rolls and sauerkraut. The hot dog bun was born in 1880’s St. Louis, created to protect customer’s hands from burning sausage–– they were named ‘red-hots” and the original rolls were crisp, not soft. Nathan’s on Coney Island started selling hot dogs in 1916 and still serves the hot dog it made famous (they made more than 435,000,000 of them last year). 16 billion hot dogs are eaten every year in the USA.

Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile, 1936

According to How It's Made, baseball parks helped to introduce hot dogs to the rest of country beginning in 1893 with the St. Louis Browns.

I have now stuffed quite a few sausages on my own but have never gotten around to making hot dogs. The meat ingredients of hot dogs can vary wildly but the hot dog flavor comes from a classic mix of spices. Whether beef, pork, chicken, turkey or duck, they taste like hot dogs because they have a specific mix of mustard, sugar, coriander, salt, pepper, garlic and paprika—many have mace and marjoram as well. They also have a preservative or 'cure' in the mix.

A few weeks ago I saw a very bad photograph of a very good idea –– a hotdog stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon. I have been dreaming about the combination ever since. I thought for fun I would glam it up a bit.

I went to D’Artagnan and got spectacular duck hot dogs and D’Artagnan applewood smoked bacon – I LOVE their bacon and won’t eat anything else now (the smoke is divine). Added to that Irish Cheddar to stuff it and toasted maple-rye buns to hold it (I got the recipe online a few years ago and don't know whose it is but it's a delicious bun). Who says a hot dog has to be dull or bad? This is a rich nosh to be sure, but you will not regret the calories.  I think this could be great grilled as well -- when the weather improves!

Hot Dogs –– Bacon Wrapped & Cheese Stuffed based on a Michael Symon recipe for 6 (but easily changed to more or less)

Peanut or Vegetable Oil for frying
6 D'Artagnan Duck Hot Dogs
6 slices Irish cheddar (cut in half)
6 slices of D'Artagnan Applewood smoked Bacon
12 Toothpicks
6 Hot Dog Buns

Preheat your oil to 350 degrees –– OR–– heat grill.

In the meantime, split the hot dogs in half lengthwise, not cutting them all the way through. Overlap two halves of Cheddar cheese down the length of the hot dog then put them back together. Lay out a slice of bacon. At one end of the hot dog, secure the end of the piece of bacon with a toothpick. Wrap the bacon around the entire hot dog, securing the other end with another toothpick. Repeat with the remaining hot dogs.

Fry in oil till the bacon is brown and crisp –– OR –– grill till brown and crisp.  Remove toothpicks and serve on rolls with mustard, fried onions, relish –– whatever you like.

Rye and White Sandwich Buns (makes 7-8)

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast*
1/3 cup warm water
1 tablespoons maple syrup
1½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cups scalded milk
3/4 c rye flour
1 3/4 to 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 T butter melted

Place yeast in a large bowl. Add water and stir to dissolve. Stir in syrup and let sit until yeast begins to foam, about 5 minutes. Add salt, oil, scalded milk and rye flour.  Blend

Add remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Let rest for 15 minutes. Turn dough onto a floured board and knead for 10 to 15 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic. Turn into a greased bowl and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.* If you want to let it rise slowly, only add 1/4 t yeast and rise overnight in fridge.  Let come to room temp for 2 hours the next day.

Grease baking sheet or line with parchment paper. Set aside.

Divide dough into 7-8 equal-sized pieces. Shape into hamburger or hot dog-style buns  and p. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Preheat 400ºF.

Brush tops of buns with butter; bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Yield: 7-8 buns.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Café Society and Ever-So-Chic Steak Diane

Gary Cooper and soon-to-be–wife at NY Restaurant, 1933

I looked into the history of the expression ‘Café Society’ and discovered some rather contradictory information.

The Women with Paulette Goddard, Joan Crawford, Roz Russell and Norma Shearer

The first thing I read was that Clare Boothe Luce  (who wrote The Women) had minted 'Café Society'; then another source said that writer and early Gourmet contributor Lucius Beebe was the first to use it; yet another announced that Lucius Beebe had popularized it but that he had gotten it from society columnist Maury Paul (who also coined the expression 'The Old Guard').

Whoever was responsible for first using it, Café Society came to mean ‘beautiful people’ swilling money, status and cocktails as they gathered in NYC, Paris, London or Los Angeles.

Errol and sister Rosemary Flynn with Randolph Burke, La Conga, 1939

Members of the Café Society were rich, famous or both and they dazzled a dull gray world. By all accounts, they had a heck of a time drinking, dining and dancing the nights away at posh watering holes all around the world.

Clark Gable and Slim Keith at El Morocco

In New York, they circulated at places like El Morocco, 21 Club, the Colony and The Stork Club beginning during prohibition (I'll be writing more about the legendary Colony soon). Café Society really flourished after prohibition ended.

In Stork Club : America's Most Famous Nightspot and the Lost World of Cafe Society, author Ralph Blumenthal quoted Lucius Beebe about the Stork Club in NYC:

 “ To millions and millions of people all over the world, the Stork symbolizes and epitomizes the deluxe upholstery of quintessentially urban existence. It means fame; it means wealth; it means an elegant way of life among celebrated folk. The Stork is the dream of suburbia, a shrine of sophistication in the minds of countless thousands who have never seen it, the fabric and pattern of legend.”

Gary Cooper and his wife Rocky with Ernest Hemingway, 1950

The party went on from the 20’s to the 60’s as the term 'Jet Set' took over and the tone changed.

While it lasted, they drank well and ate well too.

One of the iconic dishes of 50's and 60's Cafe Society was Steak Diane.

Stork Club Radio Show, 1946 Dorothy Lamour (2nd left)

21 Club did then and still does make Steak Diane at table-side if you ask and they aren't too busy. The Stork Club made an interesting version with a slice of onion and tomato that was a favorite of Bob Hope's sarong-wearing gal-pal Dorothy Lamour.

Gary Merrill, Bette Davis, Celeste Holmes in All About Eve

Steak Diane at the Stork Club was popular with other stars; according to Walter Winchell, "The Gray Merrills (Bette-than-ever Davis) devouring 'Steak Diane' at Herman Billingsberg's” (The Stork Club was owned by Sherman Billingsley, Davis’ husband was Gary Merrill – Winchell liked playing with names).

Burgess Meredith, Paulette Goddard, Merle Oberon

Steak Diane had a long run. In his Vanity Fair article, Ladies who Lunched, Bob Colacello remembered being at the restaurant Quo Vadis in the 70’s “with Andy [Warhol] and Paulette Goddard, the movie actress who had been married to Charlie Chaplin, the actor Burgess Meredith, and the German novelist Erich Maria Remarque. Sitting on the opposite banquette was Goddard’s old friend Carroll de Portago, who was with the man who would soon be her fourth husband, retailing tycoon Milton Petrie. As she sliced the septuagenarian’s steak Diane and fed it to him in tiny pieces, Goddard whispered, “That’s the man Carroll’s going to marry. He makes $30 million a day just sitting there.” Andy asked, “How do you do that?” Paulette said, “Interest.”

Seems that Steak Diane was one of the “it” dishes of the Mad Men world of 50’s New York until the 70’s when the older crowd still ordered it. The version I remember was made with filet – little brown circlets of meat in a brown sauce. That’s not how it started. The original was made with a thin slice of sirloin –– trimmed, pounded thinner still and cooked at the table (sometimes a thick, 12-14 oz. steak was sliced in half and pounded providing 2 portions).

A great article in 1953 NYT gave the recipe from 3 famous restaurants of the day –– the Colony, the Sherry Netherland and the Drake Hotel. According to all accounts, the dish originated at The Drake with maître d’hotel Mr. Nino (the Drake was demolished in 2007, the Colony long gone –– only the Sherry-Netherland remains).

Dorothy Kilgallen

Columnist Dorothy Kilgallen said "Tops in town –– Steak Diane as whipped up by the peerless Nino at the Drake Room...." and,  'hostess-with-the-mostest' “Perle Mesta's banquets in Luxembourg feature Steak Diane as the piece de resistance. She wheedled the recipe from Nino of the Drake Hotel."

A 1967 NYT’s article celebrating Nino’s 25th anniversary at the Drake (1942-1967) revealed “ One of Mr. Nino’s best-known culinary achievements is “Steak Diane”, a dish named after a reigning lady of the European demimonde in the nineteen twenties. It is prepared at the diner’s table and its main ingredient is a sirloin steak, flattened, and dressed with a sauce of lemon, butter, Worcestershire sauce, chives and powdered mustard.” His NYT’s obituary said Nino created the dish with Luigi Quaglino at the Plage Restaurant in Ostend, Belgium.

NYT, 1953

There are similarities in the recipes in the NYT’s article on Steak Diane –– butter and chives are in all of the versions. The Colony’s version is the simplest with only butter and Worcestershire and the Sherry-Netherland the most complex. It has sherry and brandy–– that’s how I remember the dish. It was set on fire –– I remember seeing it as a nipper when my parents took me out to a classy joint in Chicago (why they bothered I’ll never know – but I did LOVE the fire, little pyro that I was/am). 21 Club adds cream, wine, brandy, beef broth and A-1 Sauce to the mix.

I used a great old 1910 Barbeito Sercial Madeira from Rare Wine Company for magnificent flavor and got a beautiful Strip Steak from D’Artagnan that’s pasture raised and beautifully marbled. It’s the perfect meat for doing this dish.  You take a great steak, trim it and pound it to a melting texture and cook it for just a moment. The result is gorgeous –– buttery steak with a flash of fire and a super sauce in 5 minutes, how can it fail? If you like more meat, you can do 2 slices each.  If you  don't want to be authentic, leave the steak whole –– the sauce is great and works on the full steak, just cook it a bit longer. My recipe is a combination of all the great versions of the 50's.

Steak Diane for 2

1-2 Strip Steak from D’Artagnan, about 12 oz each*
4 T butter
2 T madeira (I used a 1910 Barbeito Sercial from Rare Wine Company - but they have a great Charleston Sercial at a great price )
2 T cognac
2 T veal demi-glace from D'Artagnan
1 t dried mustard
1 t lemon juice
a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce
a few chives, whole and chopped

Trim the steak and slice in half.  Pound  each to thin them a bit - about 1/2 an inch.
Salt and pepper them.

Put 2 T of the butter in the pan and sauté the steaks quickly till just brown.  Remove and keep warm.
Deglaze the pan with the alcohol.  Add the demi-glace and mustard and stir.  Add the lemon and Worcestershire and stir. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter causing the sauce to emulsify.  Put back on the heat for a moment if necessary.   Plate the steaks and pour the sauce over the steaks, sprinkle with chives and serve.

*If you are doubling the meat you may want to make more sauce –– it's so good you want to make sure to have plenty.  Once you trim the steak you will have 8-10 oz of meat.

New York Times, 1953

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