Sunday, July 02, 2006
World Cup Saturday
This past Saturday was a drinking, eating and football viewing extravaganza. I mean, the World Cup only comes around once every four years. A Saturday of quarter final matches is more than a good excuse to watch TV all day and start drinking before noon.
I always cheer for England. I spent my third year of college in London where I gained a lifelong appreciation for good beer, Indian food and David Beckham. Beckham is known in the U.S., but in Europe he’s a superstar. That is because every British person I have ever met loves their football. Children idolize footballers and adults watch soap operas like Footballers’ Wives, a hilariously melodramatic serial about the sports footballers engage in off the field. There have even been multiple reports in the news about the plight of German brewers who can’t produce beer quickly enough to satisfy the “great thirst” of the English fans who have come to support their team. Of course, Germany is full of fans from all over the globe, but the blame for the beer shortage is placed squarely on the English.
We decided to honor the legendary zeal of the English fans with our version of an English breakfast washed down with some lovely imported Boddington’s. The day started off well, indeed. Then England’s leading striker, Rooney, got a red card, requiring him to sit out the remainder of the match. Beckham had already exited early due to injury. Despite such setbacks, the English had a better showing than their opponents, Portugal. After the ninety minute game and 30 minutes of overtime, the score held at 0-0. They went on to penalty kicks which are a terrible way to decide a match. So much of it comes down to luck; but on the other hand, both teams did have two whole hours to put the ball in the net. Heartbreakingly, England utterly flubbed the penalty kicks and lost to Portugal. In the words of espn.com’s English football columnist, Michael Davies, their performance was “absolute pants,” or in other words, quite poor.
In my experience, an English breakfast requires grilled tomatoes. After that, you can play with any combination of eggs, meat, toast and baked beans that you fancy.
The 3:00pm game was Brazil versus France. France has been looking quite good, but Brazil is, well, Brazil. Our beer buzz had worn off by now, so Mike whipped up our own riff on the caipirinha, the Brazilian cocktail made with lime, sugar and cachaca. We didn’t have any cachaca on hand, so we used aged rum. It was a pleasingly sweet and tart afternoon sipper.
1 whole lime, cut into wedges
2 1/2 oz. simple syrup (sugar dissolved in an equal amount of water)
3 oz. aged rum
Fill two rocks glasses just less than halfway with ice. Squeeze the juice of each lime wedge into a cocktail shaker and toss in the squeezed wedges as well. Mash the limes with the handle end of a wooden spoon, extracting all the juice and oils from the skin. Add the simple syrup and rum. Shake well and strain into the rocks glasses.
The Brazil-France game was far less frustrating than the England game even though only one goal was scored. France eliminated Brazil from the tournament and decided our evening meal. We had actually shopped strategically so we would have ingredients on hand for a Brazilian or a French supper depending on which team won the match. We take these World Cup Dinners very seriously. For the French victory, we made skirt steak with shallots, served with roasted portabello mushrooms and baby greens salad. This meal took us no more than thirty minutes to prepare which was a good thing since we were ready to break into the Cotes du Rhône that awaited us.
I found this recipe on epicurious.com, but it originally comes from The Café Boulud Cookbook. Before we got working on the steak, we sprayed our portabello mushroom caps with olive oil, seasoned them with salt, pepper and fresh thyme and put them under the broiler that we had set to low. These can cook undisturbed for about 20 minutes while you prepare the steak. Just remember to flip them once halfway through. Cooking a skirt or hanger steak, as the recipe specifies, is simple as long as you don’t overcook it. Skirt steak is usually a bit thicker, so we increased the cooking time a bit. Don’t worry about what the recipe says when cooking a steak. Use your senses to figure out when it is done the way you like it.
Season the steak with salt and pepper and place it in a skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high heat. Allow the meat to sear without moving it for about 3 minutes. Take a look, and if it is not too dark allow it to cook for about 2 minutes more. Turn the steak and cook for 2 minutes on the other side. Watch closely and feel the thickest part of the steak with your finger to test for doneness. If you want it medium rare like we do, the meat should give easily when you press it, but still spring back. We cut into ours with a knife to be certain. We want the meat to be just turning from blue-red to light red in the center. That is when we take it out of the skillet and let it rest covered with foil. After about ten minutes, Mike cuts it into thin slices, against the grain.
The sauce takes about 4 minutes to prepare. I added both butter and olive oil to the pan, then sautéed the shallots for 2 minutes. Then I added the vinegar and wine. Both cook down very quickly, so you may want to turn the heat off and finish cooking the wine with the residual heat in the pan so it does not evaporate entirely. You finish the sauce with a bit more butter, and that’s it. Arrange the slices of steak over a portabello cap, drizzle the shallot sauce all over and sprinkle with parsley. It makes a very nice, light bistro-style meal.
Now, the World Cup is an all-European tournament. Mike and I will be watching Tuesday’s Germany versus Italy match in the airport lounge, as we are off to Seattle for Mike’s sister’s wedding. So, we will not be able to do another World Cup Dinner, but we definitely have plans to honor the winner when we return home. On the bright side, I will be blogging from the wedding as well as from Denver where I am headed for a business trip right after Seattle. Denver is a great restaurant town where I’ll be eating out every night, and I promise you a recap of our Washington adventure including the rehearsal dinner/cookout that I will have a hand in preparing.
at 7:41 PM