My mother was a painter, my sister is a painter, but I paint with food.
My sister and I spent years in art lessons and her mastery is a testament to her lifetime of practice and natural talent. I, however, am never satisfied with my final products, and a lifetime of perceived failure has left me discouraged. I find the permanence of drying paint and fired clay to be terribly stressful.
An overlooked mistake, once set, sometimes cannot be corrected, and I have relegated many pieces to the trash over insignificant flaws. So many of my works have been destroyed by my pride that despite having produced likely a thousand individual pieces, maybe only five exist today.
Food is the perfect medium for me because it is meant to be destroyed. Any flaw I might find can be immediately whisked away by the fork before it has a chance to mock me, and on the occasion I create something I am truly proud of, a picture, a recipe, and a memory will preserve it.
This dish is a classic of Americana and a lunchroom and dinner table staple for generations, making it an unexpected choice for a fine dining application, but the cheek of it is the kind of subtle rebellion I relish, so I sketched and schemed to paint this homemaker meal in a new light.
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon beef base
2 teaspoons ketchup
1/3 cup minced white onion
¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
1 egg yolk
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup beef stock
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon cornstarch
6 large white mushrooms, sliced
Fresh parsley for garnish
Salt to taste
Cook your onions in 2 tablespoons of butter until soft and slightly browned and allow to cool completely.
Add the panko and egg yolk to the onions and stir to form a paste.
In a large mixing bowl thoroughly combine the ground beef, beef base, ketchup, black pepper and the onion/breadcrumb mixture.
Knead the mixture until the texture is homogeneous and smooth.
Form your steaks. I opted for smaller, patty-shaped portions for the sake of presentation, but any size or shape you desire will be fine so long as they are no more than ¼ pound each and no more than about 5 inches in diameter or they may break apart when cooking.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat and sear your steaks for 2 minutes on each side. Do not cook through yet or they will be overcooked when you serve.
Remove the steaks from the pan and allow to rest on a wire rack so the grease can drain away from them.
Reduce the heat to medium, add the rest of the butter and allow to melt, then fry the mushrooms until soft and slightly browned, and the pan is dry. This takes around 10 minutes.
Immediately drop the heat to low and deglaze the pan with your beef stock. If you prefer, you can deglaze with 1/3 cup white wine first to add some sweetness, then add 2/3 cup beef stock.
Whisk the cornstarch into the cream.
Kick the heat up to medium until the sauce comes to a boil, then drop the heat, add the cream and cornstarch mixture, and stir to combine.
Return your steaks to the sauce and continue cooking until the internal temperature of the steaks reaches 165 degrees. The time will vary depending on the size and shape of your steaks.
Turn off the heat and taste the sauce. The beef base in the steaks was salty enough to season my sauce, but you may need to add some salt.
Serve with mashed potatoes and roasted green vegetables, garnish with fresh parsley.
Note: I opted to roast the mushrooms whole instead of cooking them in the sauce so I could have more control of the presentation. If you would like to repeat this, cut the stem flush with the cap, toss your whole mushrooms in melted butter, season with salt and pepper, and roast cap side up in a 375-degree oven for about 20 minutes until browned and soft.