Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Ninety-Five: Tom's Big Dinners

by Tom Douglas

I really, really, need to read recipes in full - not just scan the pages. I did not realize until I started making the tomato confit (about one-thirty) that they slow roast for three hours, and are best after an overnight stay in the refrigerator. And here I thought I was getting a head start. Oh well. They chilled for about an hour.

I also did not note how much this recipe served as I jotted down the ingredients. As I was shopping I thought to myself this is going to feed an army - well a small one of eight anyway. I thought about making half of the recipe then decided against it; I had most of the ingredients in the cart already. This turned out to be a good thing. Practice makes perfect - as you will see in a photo below.

For the tomato confit you roast the tomatoes in olive oil, rosemary, thyme and garlic. I was surprised that he has you discard the garlic cloves along with the herb sprigs. Roasted garlic anyone? Spread on a baguette or tossed into some pasta sauce or something. My cloves did not go to waste. My sister arrived sooner than expected and was helping me prepare dinner, and she devoured those oh so tasty (so she said) cloves.

To make the beautiful spiral effect, you stuff, roll, and tie the flank steak.

I was so excited to use some of my fancy baker's twine I recently purchased - it comes in several different colors! Only to find out that this twine has not been tested for direct food contact. Great. Here I am already running behind and I have to go buy some string. Of course Safeway does not sell cooking twine or any other type, nor could the butcher (unfamiliar with this location) find any to give me as suggested by one of the checkers. Good thing there is a hardware store a couple blocks away - bingo - they had plenty.

This you will want to make for company it's so impressive looking. The tomato confit can be made up to five days ahead, the stuffing a day or two in advance, and the steak can be stuffed and tied early in the day and refrigerated.

Aside from the issues I had, this was fun, relatively easy, and pretty darn delicious.

Success meter (1-3): 3

The stuffing: onion, garlic, Kalamata olives, parsley, thyme, pine nuts and currants. I'm not a huge fan of pine nuts and they are ridiculously expensive (thirty-five dollars a pound!) next time I'll sub pecans or walnuts, or maybe leave them out all together.

I pounded the meat between to pieces of freezer paper. Even though I have a weighted meat pounder, my trusty rolling pin covered in plastic wrap made the job easier - and this was not all that easy to do. It took me like ten minutes to get it to what I thought was thin enough. Not as thin as the recipe recommended, but it worked for me.

I was not happy with the way my first attempt rolled so I re-rolled it; hence the bits of filling on the outside. Isn't the second one so much nicer looking?! Night and day. Once you get the hang of tying, it really is easy. I found this video extremely helpful on learning to tie a roast.

You brown the steaks in the roasting pan on all sides before placing in the oven to finish cooking.

The tomatoes definitely benefit from an overnight stay in the refrigerator. We had leftovers the next day and they were so much better. The recipe has you serve the confit at room temperature; I liked them best heated in the microwave - a soft, warm burst of deliciousness. I may have to make more just so I can try it over pasta with fresh goat cheese as recommended in the book.

Olive-Stuffed Flank Steak
Serves 6 to 8

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus about 2 tablespoons for
    cooking the steaks
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
¼ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
½ cup toasted pine nuts (oops – forgot to toast)
¼ cup currants
2 flank steaks, about 1¼ to 1½ pounds each
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cherry Tomato Confit

To make the stuffing, heat the 2 tablespoons oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, a few minutes more. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl. Stir in the olives, herbs, pine nuts, and currants. Set aside to cool.

To prepare the flank steaks for stuffing, place one of the steaks on a work surface, cover it loosely with a piece of plastic wrap, and use a meat pounder to pound the steak until about 1/3-inch thick. The surface area of the steak should increase by only about 25 percent. Then, use your knife to score the steak in a crisscross pattern, making 3 or 4 shallow cuts in each direction, not cutting all the way through. Turn the steak over to the un-scored side and spread half the stuffing evenly over the surface of the steak, then roll it up the long way, like a jelly roll. Using kitchen twine, tightly tie the steak in 5 or 6 places to keep it securely rolled up. Season the outside of the steak with salt and pepper. Repeat with the other steak and the other half of the stuffing.

To pan-sear and roast the steaks, preheat the oven to 400°F. Pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a roasting pan and place the pan over two burners over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put the steaks in the pan and sear them well on all sides, turning with tongs, until nicely browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the steaks to a plate (I skipped this). Discard any fat in the pan and scrape out and discard any burned bits that may have escaped from the stuffing (minimal in my case). Put the steaks back in the roasting pan, put the pan in the oven, and roast, uncovered, for 7 to 8 minutes. Turn the steaks over and continue to roast until the internal temperature of the steaks reads between120°F and 130°F on an instant-read thermometer, after 7 to 8 minutes more. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the steaks to rest for 5 to 8 minutes. Cut and remove the kitchen string, transfer the steaks to a cutting board, and use a sharp knife (a serrated knife works well) to cut them into slices ½ to ¾ inch thick. Arrange the slices on a platter and pour any pan juices that have collected over the top. Serve the steak with the cherry tomato confit.

Olive stuffing can be prepared a day or two ahead and store it, covered, in the refrigerator. Stuff and tie the steaks early in the day and store them, covered, in the refrigerator. Bring the steaks to room temperature about ½ hour before cooking.

Cherry Tomato Confit
Makes 2½ Cups

1½ pounds (3 half-pint baskets) cherry tomatoes, such as sweet 100,
        stems removed
1 cup olive oil
Three 3-inch fresh rosemary sprigs
6 fresh thyme sprigs
6 garlic cloves, peeled
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme.

Preheat the oven to 225°F.

Put the tomatoes in a baking pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Pour the oil over the tomatoes, add the herb sprigs and garlic cloves, and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast, uncovered, until the tomatoes are swollen and the skins are wrinkled, about 3 hours.

Remove the tomatoes from the oven, allow to cool, then pour into a small bowl. For the best flavor, cover and refrigerate overnight, bringing the confit back to room temperature when you are ready to serve.

When you are ready to serve, pour the tomatoes into a strainer set over a bowl, reserving both the tomatoes and the oil. Place the drained tomatoes in a small bowl, discarding the herb sprigs and garlic cloves. Add the vinegar, chopped thyme, and 1 tablespoon of the reserved oil (reserving the remaining oil for another use). Mix gently, being careful not to break up the tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The confit can be made up to 5 days ahead. Store, with the oil, covered and refrigerated. The flavor improves significantly after 1 day. Bring the confit to room temperature, drain off the oil, and season as described before serving.  

Tom’s Big Dinners/Tom Douglas   


  1. Yummmm!! That looks delicious!!!

  2. It looks wonderful....I'm glad I'm not the only one who neglects to read the recipe thoroughly!!!!!


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