Classic Scalloped Potatoes

Most people add cheese to scalloped potatoes as a matter of course, though purists will claim that real scalloped potatoes are baked in a white sauce. It should go without saying that I belong to the purist school. I make a blond roux with butter, add enough whole milk or a mixture of whole milk and heavy cream to make a somewhat thin sauce, which I season with salt and white pepper. I then parboil red (waxy) potatoes, peel and slice thinly, layer them in a glass or porcelain baking dish, spooning the sauce between the layers. This is baked in a medium-high oven (350 or so) until the potatoes are tender through and the top somewhat browned.

Steak for Two

Back in the 1950s and ’60s, the country was overrun with cosmopolitan, “Continental-style” restaurants of that combined high style with leather banquettes, white-linen table cloths and dishes of American and European influences, many of them involving a bit of theater and dramatic preparation. One of the dishes often found on the menus along with Crab Imperial and Chicken Cordon Bleu was Steak Diane, a retro-glamorous dish combining Escoffier’s Sauce Diane, a sauce poivrade with cream, served with venison (Diana, you’ll remember, was goddess of the hunt), and simple steak au poivre, a timeless recipe for filet mignon. Steak Diane is not in the classical cannon, but has tons of cachet nonetheless, and in the day was usually served flambé, as were Cherries Jubilee, Bananas Foster, and Crêpe Suzette. Steak Diane is a wonderful dish to serve at an intimate dinner for two. Sure, it’s expensive, but indulging on a special occasion is completely justified, and it’s easy enough that even you Bobby Flay wannabes can handle it.

Slice a 12-oz. filet of beef into two medallions, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper (use plenty), dust with flour and sauté in butter for only a minute or so on each side. Set the meat aside on a warm plate. Add another pat of butter to the pan, a cup of sliced mushrooms, two finely-diced shallots, and a crushed and minced clove of garlic. When the mushrooms are cooked through, deglaze pan with a little sherry or cognac. (Note: this is the point for flambé; ensure the liquid is hot and use one of those fireplace lighters. Don’t do this in the bedroom.) Mix in a couple of teaspoons of Dijon mustard, about a half cup beef stock and an equal amount of heavy cream. Reduce, adding more cream if necessary. To serve, spoon over the beef medallions and top with chopped scallions and parsley.