OK, we're doing it. We're bringing back the golden age of the great American steakhouse; those heady days when 3-martini lunches were in, and cholesterol checks out.
Granted, this classic steakhouse recipe roundup is not your everyday kind of menu. It's a special occasion scenario, for sure. The perfect opportunity to go full Mad Men
. So break out the sequined dresses, the opera-length white gloves, and flashy costume jewelry; the crisp-collared fitted dress shirts, the straight ties, and tapered gray suits with notched lapels -- fedoras optional, but please do not forget the soft linen pocket squares! OK, now to some serious steakhouse staples.
We'll start with something from the bar. We offer a choice of gin martini or old fashioned cocktail. Then it's appetizer time. No choice there; it's shrimp cocktail all the way, folks. Next, we make way for steaks and side dishes -- sides being arguably the real stars of the steakhouse show. And for the wine list, may we suggest something in a rich, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon
The gin martini is the king of cocktails. And back in the day, it was the eponymous punch behind the staggering good time known as "the three-martini lunch." The big business deals emerged from the dimly lit, fake-leather booths pickled in gin. And the after-lunch naps were epic.
This was Don Draper's drink of choice, of course. It was a real oldie even in the 1950s. The original, 19th century version was simply water, sugar, bitters, and booze. Over time, the water became ice, the booze became whiskey, and the drink became an old fashioned.
For our purposes, this is the only steakhouse appetizer that counts. As Chef John recalls: "Before I knew much about food or dining out, I knew that if they brought shrimp cocktails to the table as an appetizer, we were eating at a 'fancy' restaurant. I'm sure I enjoyed the shrimp, but what I really loved was dipping the crackers in the spicy, horseradish-spiked cocktail sauce." And if you cannot abide shrimp cocktail, we will allow stuffed mushrooms
as a substitute, just this once.
The motto of our fantasy steakhouse is "go big." But also, "keep it simple" -- where this steak recipe is concerned, anyway. Olive oil, rosemary, and salt are all you need to highlight the big flavors of an enormous grilled porterhouse steak.
But you have options. Where the porterhouse gets it done with power and size, the filet mignon prefers elegance and grace. Here, filet mignon steaks are seasoned with balsamic vinegar and red wine reduction sauce.
Back in the steakhouse's heyday, Steak Diane was a staple on menus in fine-dining establishments. The tableside preparation typically featured the server igniting the cognac to the delight of all. In the 21st century, the open flames are optional.
The steak needs its potato. And while this menu will always make room for a simple Perfect Baked Potato
, Chef John's twice-baked potatoes do perfection one better. These cheesy, creamy potatoes with crispy tops are true show stoppers. Again, Chef John: "When entertaining guests on special occasions, don't forget that you're putting on a show with the food. And, when it comes to starchy side dishes, these potatoes are a great way to express flair for the dramatic."
There's a reason steakhouse fries are so good. As Chef John explains: "Any decent French fry needs to be twice fried. The first frying is done at a lower temperature, which softens the potato and prepares the starchy surface for the second frying's crispification
." Feel free to substitute Old Fashioned Onion Rings
if you prefer.
This classic steakhouse salad is making a real comeback. It's a wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with homemade blue cheese dressing. The cold, crisp lettuce provides texture and the rich, flavorful dressing does the rest.
Chef John calls creamed spinach the "king of the steakhouse side dishes." The key to success here is to drain as much liquid as possible from the sautéed spinach. Then it’s just a quick matter of mixing it with spices, lemon zest, and minced shallots in a little butter and cream on the stove.
And finally, all hail the Caesar. This was another tableside experience at the steakhouse. In an elaborate ceremony, the server would crack a fresh egg and squeeze a whole lemon to create the creamy Caesar dressing before a delighted audience. Now we're all a little squeamish about the whole raw egg thing. And this recipe replaces it with a little prepared mayo. But the anchovy remains! The garlic croutons that crown this classic salad are also wonderful.
Did you save room for Cheesecake?