Fillet steak with creamed spinach and crispy onions Photo: William Meppem
My brother and his family live in the US, and not in one of the fancy parts with movie stars and Korean tacos, or 24-hour nightlife and Michelin-starred sushi. They live in the Midwest, where every business flies the Stars and Stripes and a lot of people get tattoos of eagles.
The Midwest is often scorned as a wasteland of reactionary politics, strip malls and corn, but I think it's one of the most fascinating parts of the world I've visited. In the Midwest, culture isn't something you visit in a museum. It's in the music you listen to, the football team you won't stop loving, and the steakhouse you've been eating at weekly for the last 25 years. The last time I visited we ate at my brother's local steakhouse, and it's one of the most vivid memories of anywhere I've eaten, proving one of the great truths in cooking: that food doesn't have to be fancy to be good.
Fillet steak with creamed spinach and crispy onions
Strawberries and cream millefeuille. Photo: William Meppem
The creamy, cheesy spinach is part sauce and part side dish for the steak. Top off with crispy onion for texture - a great meal.
• 1 bunch spinach
• 1 large onion, cut into very thin slices
• 3 cups milk
• 50g butter
• 1 small onion, finely chopped
• 1¾ cups plain flour
• 1/2 cup cream
• ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
• 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
• salt and white pepper, to season
• 4 fillet steaks, about 275g each
• 2-3 cups vegetable oil, for deep frying
Blanch the spinach in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain well and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Combine the sliced onion and 2 cups milk in a separate bowl and allow to stand for 30 minutes.
Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium and fry the chopped onion until translucent. Add ¼ cup of flour and stir to combine. Add remaining milk and the cream a little at a time, stirring until a thick sauce forms.
Stir through the spinach, nutmeg and parmesan cheese and season to taste. Set aside.
Heat your oven to 200°C. Season the steaks well on each side and heat 1 tbsp of the vegetable oil in an ovenproof frying pan until very hot. Sear the steaks until well browned and place them into the oven for just 5 minutes or until cooked to your liking. Rest well.
While the steaks are resting, heat the remaining oil in a small saucepan to 180°C. Remove the onions from the milk and toss them in the flour to coat them. Fry the onions in batches in the oil until well-browned, then remove, drain and season with salt and pepper.
Place a big spoonful of the spinach on a warmed plate and place a steak on top. Top with a big pile of crispy onions and serve.
Strawberries and cream millefeuille
This dessert turns a few strawberries, jam and cream into something that looks as if it came straight out of a patisserie.
• 3 sheets puff pastry
• 300ml thickened cream
• 1 tsp caster sugar
• 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
• 1/2 cup good-quality strawberry jam
• 1 cup finely chopped strawberries
• ¼ cup icing sugar, to serve
Heat oven to 200°C. With a round cookie cutter, cut 4 large circles from each sheet of puff pastry. Place circles on a baking tray, prick the circles with a fork and place another baking tray on top to stop the pastry rising too much. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown, then allow to cool. Whip the cream with the caster sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Transfer to a piping bag and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Spread all of the circles on one side with jam. Pipe enough cream over the jam to completely cover 8 of the circles and scatter over the chopped strawberries. Stack two on top of each other and then place the remaining circle jam-down on top to cap the millefeuilles. Repeat to create four stacks. Dust liberally with icing sugar and serve.
Don't rely on cooking times for steaks in recipes, as there are too many variables - flame size, pan type, steak cut etc. Press the steak with your fingers. The firmer it is, the more well done it will be.