By Kathi Dameron
“Oopah!” the crowd roared as flames danced over the food.Imagine good friends, fabulous food and entertainment that magically transport you to a foreign land.
I had always assumed that Saganaki, the flaming cheese appetizer that was dramatically doused with brandy and set afire in a show-stopping spectacular tableside display, originated in Greece. However, while vacationing in Greece in the 1980’s, I learned that Saganaki was not a dish to be found on the menus because it is not a dish that originated in Greece at all. But rather Saganaki is claimed to have originated in my hometown.
Dining in the restaurants of Chicago’s Greek town during my younger years left a searing impression on my fondness for theatrics in food and entertainment.
As springtime 2007 approaches, my imagination is ignited by visions of flaming entrées lighting up serene, moonlit dinners under the swaying canopy of backyard trees. With or without the reflecting ripples from a backyard swimming pool, a Tallahassee spring garden setting is perfect for staging a dazzling evening.
Reaching into my culinary archives, I plucked an old favorite flaming recipe that I use to prepare often for special dinners. For a unique spring supper, the ease and elegance of Steak Diane delivers the sizzle and romance that will leave your guests singing complimentary “oohs” and “aahs” to you.
Steak Diane is fine vintage cuisine fare. I’m not exactly sure when this dish originated. My research suggested that Steak Diane was an American invention of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, when the French-inspired menus of Julia Child and the Kennedy White House was contributing a rich and saucy consciousness to our nation’s culinary landscape. Before and during that same time, many of the nation’s finest restaurants were well known for presenting food with flamboyant staging.Executive Chef Michael Lomonaco of New York’s fabled “21”restaurant painted an appetizing description of the Steak Diane entrée and glamorous era in the “21” Cookbook. Lomonaco writes, “At 21 Steak Diane is traditionally prepared tableside by the captains or Maitre Walter Weiss. The beef sizzling in a large copper pan with brandy flaming and sauce bubbling, makes a wonderful show reminiscent of the days when Humphrey Bogart and friends would bound in at midnight following the newest opening on Broadway.”
But you don’t need to travel to New York, Chicago or Athens, Greece! You can create a fabulous flaming Steak Diane right at home.
Beef tenderloin medallions, 1 per person pounded to ¼ inch thin
1-Tablespoon ButterSea Salt, to taste
Fresh ground Black Pepper, to taste
Greek seasoning blend, to taste
1 cup fresh Mushrooms, sliced
Garlic, to taste
Shallots, to taste
lemon juice, to taste
¼ cup cognac or brandy
2 Tablespoons sherry
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
¼ cup reduced beef or veal stock
¼ cup cream
2 Tablespoons Green onions, chopped
Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat.Season beef with sea salt, pepper and Greek seasoning.Add 2 steaks at a time and sear no more than two minutes per side.Transfer steaks to a heated platter in the oven.Repeat steps 1-4 for additional steaks.
Meanwhile, sauté mushrooms, garlic and shallots for about 2 minutes in butter, a dash of favorite seasonings and a squeeze of lemon. Lower the heat, take the pan off of the stove and add cognac or brandy. Return pan to the burner and cook over low heat. Add sherry and Dijon mustard. Add beef or veal stock and cook for another minute.
Add cream and bring to a near boil. Remove from heat and add chopped green onions, parsley and chives. Sauce the beef medallions. If you are comfortable flaming food, it can be done in the kitchen or tableside. Cautiously tilt the pan with the sauce and steak, pour a bit more brandy into the front edge of the pan, and light with a match.When cooking with flames, please be careful! If you are uncomfortable with igniting the food, you can completely skip the fire part.
The dish is equally delicious with out the dramatic flame.
Serve with a classic Caesar salad, rustic bruschetta, vintage aged red wine, a rapturous dessert and a dash of artistic expression for a timeless and great tasting dinner with or without the pyrotechnics.
Kathi Dameron is a former caterer and event designer. Kathi grants occasional requests to teach cooking classes. She owns Kathi Dameron and Associates and can be contacted at email@example.com
(c) Kathi Dameron 2007