January 26, 2012

Whiskey Steak with Roasted Mushroom and Asparagus

All photos by Holliday

I wanted to challenge myself last night and try to make a complete meal from scratch.  Since I live alone I am constantly on the lookout for meals that can be tailored down to serve one without many leftovers.  I am burnt out on chicken so I headed out to the store to find a small steak to cook up and a small bunch of asparagus.  Well, there really isn't such thing around these parts - most food is sold in portions for at the very least two people... two people with mammoth appetites.  Maybe I just never noticed it before, but a small packet of sirloin steak (1 lb) is enough to make 4 single meals out of.  And since the meat was on sale for about $4/lb I went for it.  My initial plan was to buy a single small steak at the butchers, but the packaged 2-pack (of the same cut) was a better price - don't as me why, I just grabbed the smallest packet before I got cornered by the expansive family of 5 following me around the store.

I made quick work of the rest of my store trip, grabbing asparagus, green onion, active dry yeast and a bottle of beer.  On my drive back across the bridge I started putting together what I wanted to make.  I knew I wanted to do a seared steak with a pan sauce and a side of asparagus, but as for how to make those things interesting and make a bread was giving my work-weary brain a headache.  So I put those thoughts aside until after my workout.

Once I finished getting my butt kicked, my head had cleared and I knew what I wanted to make: classic focaccia, roasted asparagus and mushrooms and a pan seared steak with - wait for it - a whiskey pan sauce.  Why whiskey?  I think the question should be why not whiskey?  It has good zing to it and there are many whiskey based BBQ recipes out there so why wouldn't it work as a pan sauce?  Before launching into my steak I needed to get the focaccia and veggies out of the way and into the oven.

The name "focaccia" is derived from the Latin word panis focacius with the root word focous meaning center or fireplace.  That little fact has nothing to do with cooking (other then the early bread was baked in the ashes of a fireplace), but it is fun to learn about the food you are making.  Anyways, focaccia is a quick and easy bread to make and is highly customizable, but is usually made with oregano, thyme, garlic and pepper.  The following is a very basic recipe that can be tweaked for different flavors, for example, I like it with black olives, crushed red pepper, dried cilantro and cheddar jack cheese for a Mexican flare.

Basic Focaccia (5 servings)

  • 1 cup 2 tbls all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp white sugar
  • 1-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp each: garlic powder, thyme, oregano
  • 1/4 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1-1/4 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup 1 tbl 1 tsp warm water
  • 2-1/2 tsp olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese, shredded 

  1. Mix flour, salt, sugar, yeast and seasonings in a large bowl.  Mix in vegetable oil and water by hand.
  2. When dough is fully mixed, knead on a lightly flowered surface until smooth and elastic.
  3. Coat bowl with olive oil and turn dough ball to coat.  Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for about 20-30 minutes.
  4. When ready, punch dough down and transfer to a lightly oiled baking sheet.  Form into a rectangle (or circle) with 1/2 inch thickness.  Sprinkle with oil and parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake in 450 degree preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until golden but not brown.

While my dough is rising I turn my attention to the vegetable dish.  It too will be baked in the oven at 450 degrees, so that makes my dinner a little less complicated.  I had planned on just baking asparagus in some garlic and olive oil, but saw that I had some extra mushrooms that needed to be used up so I decided to throw them in too.  While I was at the store I had picked up some fresh rosemary to use with chicken, but figured that it could be used as a nice seasoning with my veggies.

Chopped up my asparagus and mushrooms and took a moment to admire how pretty they looked in my blue bowl.  Fresh vegetables are the best, and they always look so good!  I then minced my rosemary and tossed the veggies with it, garlic, pepper and a tiny splash of olive oil.  At this point my fingers smell like fresh bread and rosemary... doesn't get much better then that.  

I am done prepping my veggies way before it is time to get the focaccia ready so I turn to the meat.  I know this is going to be a basic seared steak with a pan sauce so there isn't really that much to get ready so I pull out my vacuum sealer and get the extra steaks sealed up for a future dinner.  As I said before, a 2 pack of steak can make 4 meals for me.  I cut each steak in half and freeze them individually.  This way it keeps me from making too much and then having to deal with left-over, but also allows me to pull two or three packs out at a time if I'm cooking for more people.  Genius!  

By now my oven is preheated and I'm ready to put my focaccia and veggies in.  I have about 15-20 minutes before they are done so I kick it into high gear and start cooking the meat.  Two reasons sirloin is a great cut to cook with are: 1. The economical price 2. Comes from the upper forward part of the rear hip which makes it lean.

I season my steak with a little salt and pepper and drop it (gently) into my fry pan.  I have my oil heated to almost smoking and the flame on high.  The high heat will essentially create a flavor rich exterior while leaving the meat itself juicy.  Three minutes on each side and a quick sear to the exposed edges and I turn the heat to medium and let the meat finish cooking to medium (it should be rare at this point).  As I flip periodically I am happy to see a nice fond forming under the steak.  I am getting excited!

After about three more minutes per side and I move the steak to a plate and cover it with tinfoil to rest.  This allows the meat to finish cooking and for the juices that have withdrawn to the center of the steak to relax back into the outer portions keeping the meat tender.  Now for the pan sauce.  I deglaze the pan with some Pendleton whiskey (just shy of a shots worth) and scrape up all the little bits with a wooden spoon before adding garlic and chopped green onion.

My kitchen is now smelling like a tangy BBQ sauce.  Once the garlic has turned blonde (not brown since that means it will be bitter) I add a splash of beef broth and let my sauce reduce until my bread and veggies are ready.  It seems like forever, but everything is ready to be served up.  My fococcia is a perfect color and my veggies are roasted to perfection.  I plate everything up and the last thing that goes on is my sauce.  It is a wonderful brown color with shocks of green and white.  I can't wait to dig in!

It is heaven.  I have never had a steak taste so good in my life.  It is a perfect medium with a crisp exterior and the sauce just adds to the burst of flavor in each bite.  The sauce is rich and sweet and tangy and the green onions add the perfect balance of crispness to it.  It is easy to make a tough sirloin and I am so happy that I did not fall into that hole.  The asparagus and mushrooms are flavorful and earthy with a woody aftertaste that is perfect with the steak.  My fococcia bread has just the right amount of spice to make it interesting while being the perfect neutral part of my meal.  I found myself sopping up every last bit of sauce at the end with the bread.  

I can't wait to make this again for someone special.  It is not an every day (or week) meal, but boy will it be something to plan for and enjoy as a special treat once in a while.  

Enjoy!  I know I did. :)


  1. I think the whole meal looks terrific. I love mushrooms & asparagus together.

    1. The rosemary added such a nice flavor to the veggies. And the meal was so much fun to make! Only took about an hour start to finish. :)

  2. Cooking for one is a real challenge sometimes, especially if I'm hungry for a pot roast or a casserole. This is my idea of a perfect meal.