Spiced Steak in Gravy

NPR has a really fascinating article about How Snobbery Helped Take The Spice Out Of European Cooking. Reading it, and then having a large chuck steak on hand, prompted me to do an experiment.

Marinade ingredients:

  • balsamic vinegar
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • lemon juice
  • dijon mustard
  • olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • salt
  • pepper

Just kind of mix all of that up in sufficient quantity that it covers the steak in whatever you’re keeping it in. If you don’t want to have to use a lot, plastic bags out of which you squeeze all the air work really well. If you stop here, when you cook the steak you’ll have delicious steak that mostly just tastes more like itself.

But I’d been reading.


I sautéed the steak all in one big piece, then let it rest for a few minutes while I dumped the rest of the marinade in the pan and added some flour to start making it gravy.

Gravy ingredients:

  • marinade
  • flour
  • water
  • coriander
  • cumin
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • garlic

As with any gravy, add more flour in comparison to water if you want it thicker, and add as much liquid as you want to end up with. I went light on the cinnamon and nutmeg and pretty heavy on the coriander and garlic. This is also when I made noodles, but I think it’d have been better over potatoes, and might do it that way next time.

While that’s going, slice the steak pretty thin and try not to eat too much of it straight off the cutting board. When everything in the gravy is combined and smooth, bring it up to a boil and then add in the steak. As soon as it’s back up to the temperature you want, take it off heat and serve over whatever carbohydrate you’re using.

You end up with this kind of rich, complex, spicy sauce that works really surprisingly well given that I’m not used to thinking those flavors necessarily go together. It was almost ridiculously delicious.

Chicken Caesar Salad & marinade tips

Today for lunch we had chicken caesar salad. It came from a bag, because bagged salad is easy and the perfect size for a meal salad for two people. Getting just lettuce is cheaper, but your time is also valuable, and prioritizing is important.

So the lettuce went in a big bowl, and I started the chicken. Lemon pepper chicken again, because we love it. It ends up

Mm, salad

Mm, salad.

tasting delicious, and you can just dump the whole thing in the pan so the chicken ends up with a little bit of sauce. About 2/3 of the way through cooking, I cut up the chicken with shears so that it’d be in little bite-sized chunks and even more thoroughly coated in seasoning. I cannot overstate how much I love lemon pepper chicken. When the chicken’s done, I put the dressing and croutons in the salad, put the lid on our giant plastic bowl, and shook vigorously to toss it. Divvy that up in two dishes, add some optional parmesan, and put the chicken on top.

A little more about marinades: my mom has much the same approach to cooking that I do, very casual and haphazard (as you might guess, neither of us are big bakers). So she just had basic principles for a marinade.

Basic marinade ingredients:

  • something sweet (honey, sugar, w/e)
  • something acidic (citrus juice, vinegar, soy sauce)
  • an oil (one that’s liquid at fridge temperatures)

The acidic thing is supposed to make the meat more tender, I think the sweet thing is supposed to balance that flavor-wise, and the oil is, like, the transfer medium to make the meat taste more like the stuff in the marinade. Or something. I’m not 100% on why it works, I just know it does. Generally you’re going to want more than just the basics – like, you could theoretically marinate the chicken in just honey, lemon juice, and vegetable oil, but it’d be really sad without the pepper in it, too.