Steak au Poivre with Cognac Pan Sauce

Steak au Poivre with Cognac Pan Sauce

I had some friends in from Boston this weekend and although that usually means drunk brunch, street festivals, and walking the Brooklyn Bridge, it also means a night in, cooking, and catching up over a few bottles of wine.  I really had my heart set on lamb, but Brooklyn Fare was fresh out.  No worries–we picked up some vegetables and I headed over to the local butcher where I picked up some grass-fed beef filets.  I only eat red meat once in a blue moon, so when I do, I like to “do it up” right.  The French–gourmonds, chemists, builders of towers Eifel–know how to “do it up” right.  A filet crusted with peppercorns, cooked medium-rare topped with a sweet and creamy cognac pan sauce; a side of asparagus with prosciutto, and some greens wilted in garlic and onion.  I tried to go a little too fancy with some crispy fried fennel fronds on top, but ended up burning most of them and setting off the smoke detector.

Dinner with a view of Downtown Brooklyn/Fort Greene/New York Harbor

Steak au Poivre:

1 1/2 inch thick beef filet
handful of lightly crushed peppercorns
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 ounce of cognac
6 ounces of heavy cream
Let the filet sit outside of the fridge for about 15 minutes before starting.  While letting your cast iron skillet screaming hot (we need a little Milliard action going), press the filet on each side into the crushed peppercorns.  Add the butter and oil to the pan and let them get to temperature.  Cook the filet 3-4 minutes on one side, flip, and an additional 3-4 minutes on the other, until medium rare.  Set the filet aside to rest and while the pan is still hot, turn off the burner and quickly pour the cognac into the pan and ignite the steam (YES, there will be a fireball.  YES, you should stand back a little bit.  It’s called flambé, which is French for fireball).  This should thouroughly deglaze the pan and now it’s time to start scraping vigorously to loosen up all the fond at the bottom of the pan.  Let the cognac reduce a bit, then slowly stir in the cream, whisking until thick.  Add salt to taste.  Pour pan sauce over filet and serve with a side of tinged eyebrows.  Or a side of asparagus with prosciutto, and some wilted greens – those aren’t hard.  Caramelize some red onions over low heat for 20 minutes, toss in some garlic and turn up to medium.  In about 5 minutes, toss in the greens and wilt.

Chocolate Almond Cheesecake With a Twist

Chocolate Almond Cheesecake With a Twist

What’s the twist?  It’s a low carb, high protein, nearly sugar free, ketogenic friendly, gluten free, low(er) fat cheesecake.  Wow, takes all the fun out of cheesecake, amiright?  Wrong, you’re all wrong!  This cheesecake was delicious!  What was even more delicious was the nutritional breakdown.  Per 275 kcal slice, this tasty treat had 6 g net carb, 22 g fat, 14 g protein, 2.8 g sugar (we’re talking the macro nutrient breakdown equivalent to eating an avocado, plus some extra protein).  Compare that to a slice of regular cheesecake at 500 kcal, 47 g carbs, 32 g fat, and 36 g of sugar (with the macro nutrient breakdown equivalent of a punch to the feelings). Plus, this thing tastes goooood.  Can a recipe that essentially starts, “make a chocolate cake, then crumble it into the crust of your cheesecake,” be anything but delicious?  The answer is yes, it can also be rich, moist, and low in carbs, sugar, and gluten.

I can’t believe it’s not gluttony

Chocolate Almond Cheesecake:

The Crust:

The crust of this cheesecake is essentially a modified version of the flourless chocolate cake (hey, I ain’t no recipe thief! Credit where credit is due).  I replaced the sugar with a sugar free sweetener and added the almond meal to fill in for the missing bulk of the sugar.  If you’re staying strictly keto, I would recommend a liquid sweetener over a powder (like Splenda) because the filler used often contains carbs that aren’t listed on the nutritional facts.

4 ounces baker’s chocolate
1/2 cup margarine
3/4 cup-equivalent sugar free sweetener
1/4 cup almond meal
3 eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Heat the oven to 375.  In a double boiler (or a pyrex bowl over a small pot of boiling water, because you don’t have a double boiler) melt the chocolate and the margarine until smooth.  Remove from the heat and in a separate bowl beat the eggs.  It’s very important that you let the chocolate cool a little bit before you mix in the eggs, otherwise you will actually cook the eggs in the chocolate and it will lump.  Once you’ve done that, mix in the almond meal, sweetener and cocoa powder.  It should be a little thicker than traditional cake batter, so glop it into a baking dish and bake it for 25 minutes.  After 25 minutes, turn the heat down to 200 and bake for another 10-15, to dry it out.  Now you have a chocolate cake.  But you don’t want a chocolate cake, you want a cheesecake crust.  When it’s dry and cool, go against your better instinct and crumble it all up and press that crumble into a pie dish–press it up the sides, and if it’s too crumbly just add some water.  You may not use all of the cake (I only used about 2/3, so you may want to start with just half for two reasons: 1) you can keep track of the amount of cake you use if you are strictly watching your macros, and 2) the leftover cake can actually be served as cake…instead of a pile of chocolate crumbs you have to eat with a spoon over the sink, I’m speaking from experience here.

The Cheesecake:

15 g chocolate whey protein powder
5 oz reduced fat cream cheese
8 oz fat free Greek yogurt
4 Tbsp almond butter (mine had ground flaxseed, it’s ok, don’t freak out)
3/4 cup-equivalent sugar free sweetener
2 egg whites

Whip the egg whites and the sweetener.  Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk until fluffy.  Add this to the inside of the crust you’ve already prepared, and put the whole thing in the oven.  You did set the oven back to 300, right?  Don’t you just hate recipes that forget to tell you to do that until the end?  Bake at 300 for 15 minutes, then cool and refrigerate.  You can eat it warm–I did–but if you let it cool through, it sets really nicely.  Makes 8 avocados slices.  For some extra bang, when you serve it, don’t rattle off all those healthy adjectives above until they are stuffing their faces with it – and that one friend who declined because they “never eat that kind of thing, too heavy!”  Well that person gets to watch you all enjoy it guilt-free.

Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Cauliflower

Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Cauliflower

Want to come over tonight?  I'm thinking diet food! :-)

Receiving that text is probably not your idea of an invitation to an exciting weeknight dinner.  But this isn’t a celery sticks and water kind of diet (sorry celery apologetics) this is a tasty diet!  I have friends that will humor me, but I wasn’t about to serve bacon and eggs to my dinner guest, I have a reputation to maintain here, and had hard-boiled all my eggs.  Here’s a great meal idea I came up with that is not only within the parameters of my ketogenic diet (no carbohydrates), but also within everyone’s parameters for cheese-love (plus I promised cheesecake, but that’s for another day).  Chicken breast stuffed with bacon, cheddar, and spinach (pigs in a blanket, a blanket of chicken) and a side of roasted cauliflower.

Careful dear, your bacon is showing

Stuffed Chicken Breast:

2 slices of bacon
2 large chicken breasts
3 cups of spinach
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
tsp olive oil
butcher’s twine

Cook your bacon crispy and keep the rendered fat.  In the baconed skillet (it’s a culinary term), wilt the spinach–if you used a leaner bacon like turkey, feel free to add some olive oil to the skillet.  Crumble the bacon into the wilted spinach and stir in the grated cheddar cheese–set this aside, it will be the stuffing.  Heat the oven to 350.  Butterfly the chicken breasts and brown them in the aforementioned baconed cast iron skillet in a bit of olive oil, then remove from the heat.  Using your better judgement, or your calloused bear hands, stuff the breasts with the spinach mixture and use some butcher’s twine to keep everything snug.  Put the breasts back in the skillet, cover with foil, mark it with a “B” and put it in the oven for baby and me.  15 minutes should do the trick–but baby doesn’t get stuffed chicken, baby gets smushed peas.

Roasted Cauliflower:

1 head of cauliflower
1/2 cup of olive oil

Set oven to 350.  Break the cauliflower into small florets, coat in olive oil and place in a single layer in a baking dish.  Sprinkle with spices and bake while debating the differences between roast and bake.  Upset the houseguests, apologize, remind them that you were right all along (like always)–should take about 15 minutes.

Keto pizza and mock n’ cheese

Keto pizza and mock n’ cheese

Every once in a while I will go on a ketogenic diet for a few weeks.  This, is one of those weeks.  It’s interesting to read up on, can be a bit complicated, but is essentially a diet high in protein and fat, and very low in carbohydrates.  It’s always been fun for me to challenge myself to come up with “keto” versions of meals that I enjoy while on a more traditional diet (I have an a strange idea of fun, yes).  Because it was Friday night, and because I usually have greasy takeout on Fridays, I wanted something that could compare with my usual (pu pu platter for two, for one…and an orange chicken…and a scallion pancake…and a bucket for all this gluttonous shame…and a diet coke).  Pizza and mac n’ cheese – two things that would otherwise be forbidden on this diet due to the crust and the pasta.  My solution, replace the crust and pasta with a very “keto” friendly vegetable, cauliflower.  I present to you, a 12g net carb Friday night treat.

So cheesy


1cup of riced cauliflower
3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese
1 egg
finely chopped garlic
oregano and crushed red peppers

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Rice the cauliflower with a cheese grater, mix in a little less than the 3/4 cup of the cheese, the beaten egg, spices, and garlic (as a general rule of cooking, put garlic in everything).  Spread the mixture on a cookie sheet (I used parchment paper and put it on a baking stone in the oven) so that it looks like a pizza crust, obviously.  Bake that sucker for 15 minutes, and feel free to give it a brush of olive oil to help it brown.  Pull it out, throw on the rest of the cheese and the pepperonis and bake for another 3-5 minutes.  Easy a’cheesy a’pizza pie (say it in a thick Italian accent or your pizza will burn).

Mock n’ cheese (as cheesy as the name, yum):

1 head of cauliflower
1 cup of milk
3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup of cheddar cheese
1/2 cup of cream cheese
1/4 cup of dijon mustard
1 tsp ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grate the cheese.  Break the cauliflower into small florets and boil for 5 minutes.  In a separate saucepan heat the milk and stir in the cheeses, the mustard, and the pepper, but put aside a bit of the cheddar.  Eat some of the cheese before putting it back in the fridge.  Drain and pat dry the cauliflower, put it in a baking dish, and top with the rest of the cheddar cheese.  Pull a chair up to the oven window and sit watching the cheese bubble, drooling, for 5-10 minutes.