Easy Weeknight Meals Made Special

Steak with a side of seared asparagus over a bed of smashed potatoes topped with a pan sauce made from red wine, broth, worchestire sauce and Dijon mustard make for a fancy week night meal.  

There are nights during the week where you don't know what to eat and yet you want the meal to be a  step up from take-out.  I had one of those nights this past week where I needed to have a nice meal to share with a friend who was visiting, but I had no idea what to make.  Thank goodness I have a wonderful food market in my hometown of Collingswood, NJ.  McFarlan's to the rescue!  I popped into the market after work just in the nick of time before they were closing. A quick perusal through the store and butcher's case and I spied steak pinwheels (steaks stuffed with cheese and spinach, rolled and tied into a pinwheel shape), a bunch of hearty early season asparagus, a couple of Yukon Gold potatoes, and a bottle of worchestire sauce; suddenly I knew what I was having for dinner.  Something hearty, quick to make, and would be appropriately impressive for my dinner guest.  Plus it was enough food for the two of us to eat twice!   We feasted on seared pinwheel steaks with a red wine and dijon mustard reduction sauce; pan seared asparagus; smashed Yukon Gold potatoes with olive oil and season salt.

As we move towards Spring with the warm winds blowing in (when it's not followed by freak snow storms) and the evening light lasting past 5:45 pm, my dining palate wants to move towards lighter fare.  Spring vegetables like asparagus and spring peas; lemony infused dishes; lighter vegetable soups.  While I still crave my comfort foods it's nice to find ways to lighten those carb-heavy meals to you feel a tad more virtuous.

To round out this sort of special weeknight meal, I'm also sharing a low-fat lemon curd you can make to dress up a plain box cake mix, or to pour over ice-cream, ricotta cheese, or your favorite pound cake or lady fingers.

Directions - some of which are just general directions, others are more detailed.  To cook asparagus and the potatoes, it's a matter of either roasting the asparagus in an oven preheated to 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-12 minutes or you can sear the asparagus in the pan in which you'll also sear and cook the steaks.  There's really no need for a complicated recipe for the side dishes. The recipe for the dinner was made in 1 pan and 1 pot.  This meal will feed 2-3 people easily.  The steak pin wheels are large and the asparagus is plenty for 4 servings.  I used 3 medium sized potatoes, but if you want more, just add in another potato.

BOIL:  Start the potatoes first, as these will take the longest.  In a pot add chunks of  3 or 4 medium sized Yukon Gold Potatoes to a 3-4 quart sauce pot and cover with cold water.  Add in a generous pinch of Kosher Salt and bring the water to a boil.  Reduce the heat down to a simmer and cook the potatoes until they are knife tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain and season to taste with salt, pepper, olive oil and a pinch of seasonings of your preference - such as ground garlic, ground onion and paprika.  Then lightly smash the potatoes with a potato masher or a large fork.  Cover and set aside.

SEAR:  Clean the asparagus and snap off the bottoms which tends to be tough and woody.  Use an oven-safe pan such as cast iron or stainless steel.  Drizzle in a tablespoon of olive oil and heat it to medium high. You sear the asparagus in the olive oil once the pan is hot, over medium high heat; cook the asparagus until it's lightly charred.  Then you remove the asparagus and set it aside.  Season lightly with a drizzle of olive oil, Kosher or Sea Salt and a few Grinds of Black Pepper.  You'll use the same pan to cook the steaks.


Pin Wheel Steaks with Red Wine Dijon Reduction Sauce Ingredients:
  • 2 Steak Pinwheels - seasoned with a pinch of salt and generous grind of black pepper
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil - divided
  • 1 Small Onion - cut in half and then cut into half moon slices
  • 1/2 Cup Chicken or Beef Broth or Stock - low sodium
  • 1/4 Cup Dry Red Wine or 2 Tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Worchestire sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 450 Degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Season steaks on both sides with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
  3. Pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil into an oven-safe pan such as cast iron or stainless steel and heat to medium high heat, just until the oil begins to shimmer but not quite to smoking point.  Add in the steaks to sear.  Sear over medium high heat for 4 minutes then carefully turn over and sear the other side, for 3 minutes more.  Remove steaks from the pan, place onto a shallow dish and cover lightly with foil and set aside.  
  4. In the same pan, add in the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the onion slices.  Using tongs or a spatula, scrape up some of the browned bits, aka, the fond, in the pan and saute the onions until they are translucent - about 3-4 minutes.  Add in the red wine or balsamic vinegar and scrape up any bits that are still sticking to the pan.  Reduce the wine or vinegar down to a scant tablespoon.
  5. Next add in the broth/stock and worchestire sauce, stirring the liquids to combine.  Reduce the mixture down a bit, for about 3 minutes.  Then whisk in the tablespoon of Dijon mustard, whisking to combine all the ingredients.  The mustard will help tighten and thicken the sauce.
  6. Take the steaks and any juices that have accumulated in the dish and add them to the pan.  Place the steaks and the pan sauce into the preheated oven and cook for 5-8minutes.  5 minutes for medium rare; 6-7 for medium and 8-9 for well-done.
  7. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and serve the half of a pinwheel steak (or a full steak for a heartier eater) over a bed of smashed Yukon Gold Potatoes, top with the sauteed onions and the pan reduction sauce and serve the asparagus on the side.  Season to taste with salt and pepper as needed.  
A white-box cake mix enhanced with lemon zest and juice
and glazed with a luscious low-fat lemon curd.
Low-Fat Lemon Curd - from 1000 Low-Fat Recipes by Terry Blonder Grolson
  • 3 Egg Yolks - separate from whites and reserve whites to use for cocktails, meringues or marshmallows! 
  • Zest of 1 lemon - finely zested with a micro plane
  • 2/3 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
  • 2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
  • 3/4 Cup Cold Water
  1. Place the egg yolks into a medium heat safe bowl. Set aside
  2. Use a medium sauce pot, add the lemon zest, sugar and lemon juice and stir to combine. In a small measuring cup, make a slurry with the cornstarch and cold water, then add the slurry to the sugar and lemon mixture.
  3. Place the sauce pot over medium-high heat and whisk the mixture until the sugar is dissolved. 
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 minute. Don't let the mixture come to a rolling boil - it should only bubble slightly.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat.
  6. Temper the eggs by ladling in 1/3 of the lemon sugar mixture to the eggs, a bit a at a time so the eggs don't cook or curdle. Whisk the eggs as you add in the hot liquid. Do this in 2 or 3 batches. 
  7. Once the eggs are tempered, pour the egg mixture into the hot lemon sugar mixture and put the pot back onto the heat. Stir the mixture constantly until it is thickened - it should coat the back of a spoon.
  8. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture into a bowl; cover and chill. The lemon curd mixture will thicken as it cools.
  9. Mixture will hold for up to 1 week in a tightly covered container.  Serve with pound cake, angel food cake or lady fingers, or drizzle over yogurt or low-fat ricotta cheese. 


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