Saturday, 18 August 2012

Porterhouse Steak, Braised Fennel and Mustard Rollini

We take our weekly stroll to the butchers' and pick up a beautiful Porterhouse steak, which we plan to sear for 90 seconds each side and split between us. Enjoying the beautiful sunshine and pottering about the house, we leave the main grocery shop until Sunday. When I come to cook our lovely steaks, I find none of the accompaniments I'd usually use, not even potatoes! I still crave that sticky, carby counterpoint to the steak, so I take some inspiration from a 'nursery classic', and also try out a new kind of pasta hanging around the cupboard.

At the bottom of the vegetable drawer sits one folorn fennel, left 'til all of the easily-prepared vegetables are already eaten. I flick through Nigel's recipe books but find he's not really a fan of fennel, dedicating it a mere two paragraphs in his massive British vegetable compendium. However, there's plenty of ideas in those few sentences, one of which is exactly the way my dad prepares chicory. I give it a go, and it's absolutely amazing.

  • a large fennel
  • 250g rollini, or other shaped pasta
  • 4-6 tbsp crème fraiche
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • a seriously good steak, or two

Cut any discoloured parts from the fennel and slice off the toughest part of the root, but leaving most of the base intact so that the sheaves still hang together. Cut into large lengthwise wedges; a small fennel could be quartered, a large fennel cut into sixths or eighths. In a frying pan large enough that all the fennel can lie flat, melt a couple tbsp of butter and a little glug of olive oil. Add the fennel wedges and stir around gently until coated in fat. Set the heat to low, cover the pan and braise for 20-30 minutes, turning once or twice. You want the fennel to be gently caramelised where it touches the pan, but not burnt, and for the trapped steam to cook the vegetable through.

10 minutes before the fennel is done, set your pasta to cook in plenty of boiling water. Meanwhile, pan-fry the steak; 90 seconds each side will give a lovely rareness, but of course feel free to alter depending on your taste and the steak's thickness. Set aside to rest. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and return it to the pan, along with the crème fraiche and mustard; warm through over a low heat, stirring so that it doesn't stick. Taste and season, then serve with the steak and braised fennel.

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