The family gathered for a little Father’s Day/Mike’s birthday get together this past weekend. I’d planned a casual light meal for the evening that incorporated several of Mike’s favorites: steak and tomatoes.
The menu included Garden Style Gazpacho (like my usual Gazpacho Andaluz, but without going to the trouble of pressing the base through a strainer and served with the diced fresh vegetables already stirred back into the soup) and Grilled Flank Steak and Warm Mushroom Salad, Fresh Sliced Heirloom Tomatoes, a bit of baguette and brie and a nice local local wine.
I didn’t want to have to do too much work after the family got here, because when our granddaughter hits the door, it typically puts a serious crimp in her Nanny’s otherwise careful attention to slicing and dicing!
So, I marinated the flank steaks in vac-seal bags the night before using a steak rub I keep around, typically salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and sometimes cumin. To make it easier on myself at party time, I tossed them into a 135F sous vide water bath about 11 am on party day and left them there until practically time to eat, about 8 hours, then popped them out of the bags, patted them dry, and flopped them onto a hot, oiled grill just to give them a nice sear on the outside.
The sous vide method is the only way to get a cheaper, tougher cut of meat, such as a flank steak, to come out tender as filet mignon and still perfectly medium rare. And so it was. When I cut the meat and fanned it out onto the greens, I was rewarded with perfectly cooked steak: deep pink, flavorful, and tender.
Everybody enjoyed the Gazpacho and loved the flank steak and we had a lovely evening.
It wasn’t until the next morning that I realized that I had not ever sauteed the mushrooms and fennel to add to the salad. There the bag of chopped mushrooms, sliced fennel bulb, olive oil and herbs was, still marinating in my refrigerator. So I decided to turn them into soup, which turned into an accidental hit.
If necessity, as they say, was the mother, then absent-mindedness, apparently, was the father. But whatever the genesis, it’s good eats!
Mushroom, Fennel, and Sausage Soup*
1 pound Cremini mushrooms (baby bellas), cleaned and quartered
1/2 bulb fresh fennel, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil (divided use)
1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon black pepper (divided use)
1/2 pound Italian Sausage, sweet or hot, sliced
1/4 white onion, peeled and sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 can (14-ounces) fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon sundried tomato paste
1/4 cup sherry
1 quart chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (or to taste)
1. In a zip bag, marinate the mushrooms and fennel with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, Herbes, and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper. Refrigerate for 1 hour or up to overnight.
2. In a soup pot, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add the Italian sausage and cook for 3 or 4 minutes to give it some color.
3. Add the onions and garlic and continue to cook until they are translucent, about 2 or 3 minutes.
4. Deglaze the pan with the sherry.
5. Add the mushrooms and fennel and cook until soft, another 5 minutes or so.
6. Add the tomatoes, garlic and onion powders, remaining salt and pepper, tomato paste, and chicken broth and bring to a boil.
7. Reduce heat and simmer for another 20 minutes or so.
8. Serve hot.
*For a vegetarian option to this delicious soup, simply substitute one (14-ounce) can of soy beans, rinsed and drained, for the sausage and substitute mushroom or vegetable broth for the chicken broth.