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My favourite dish

When it comes to dinner, I’m a firm believer in ceremony. No grazing at the kitchen counter, no chowing down in front of the TV, no reading at the table. Even if dinner’s just a cheese and mushroom omelet, we always have wine.

I always want dinner to be special (the mushrooms in my omelet will be earthy portobellos, the cheese a full-flavoured gruyere). To create special moments at the table, I have gone to extremes. I have cut my homemade French fries before dashing off to work, and let them soak all day to get rid of excess starch (this was back in the reckless years before I threw away my deep fryer). I have rolled out my own fettucine (“a combination of skin and silk,” as my friend Jane likes to say) and left it to dry on the backs of the dining room chairs. (It didn’t taste any better than a good Italian brand, but it certainly looked impressive.)

More recently, I invested a whole day—and a whole bottle of Barolo—in the creation of an Italian pot roast that I thought would amaze our guests. As they drove up with their flowers and chocolates, I lifted the lid of the Dutch oven, expecting to find the most juicy pot roast ever. There sat a shriveled knob of gristle that had spewed copious quantities of fat into my lovingly tended gravy. It’s for just such moments that the food gods invented pizza.

I’ve finally seen the light: the best things I cook are the simplest, made with care, good ingredients and the right background music (this time of year, I like Messiah). My favourite main dish, for just the two of us or half a dozen friends, is a flank steak recipe that I found almost 20 years ago in Bon Appetit Light & Easy. I’ve found other good ways to dress up the humble flank steak, but my husband swears that none of them come anywhere close to the tried and true. You make it like this:

MUSTARD-COATED GRILLED FLANK STEAK

2/3 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons whipping cream or yogurt

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns

2 flank steaks, 1 1/4 lb each

Mix first 6 ingredients and smear on both sides of steaks. Marinate for at least 6 hours or up to 2 days. Broil about 6 minutes per side, or until it looks brown and crispy at the edges. Slice diagonally.

A few days from now, we’ll be in New York, feasting on dinners by chefs of the moment. Those guys know what to do with a bottle of Barolo! But when we get home, we’ll be hungry for a mustard-grilled flank steak. There’ll be roasted Yukon gold potatoes on the side, and whatever green vegetable catches my eye, tossed in olive oil and garlic. Nothing to excite the Michelin people. But as far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing better for the soul.

Posted by Rona

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