Don’t be a caveman.
Oh don’t worry, Paleo folks. This isn’t going to be a rant against your people — quite the opposite, in fact. Humanity is extremely good at adaptation. If we are confronted with a problem, we do our best to solve it. We live all over the globe, from balmy tropics to harsh snowy climes. When exposed to sunlight, our skin darkens to protect itself. We have developed procedures and medicine, like LASIK and insulin, that allow us to overcome flaws in our genetics that would cripple us otherwise. So why do we have such a hard time temporarily adapting ourselves to accommodate the health needs of others?
I’m talking about food allergies and special diets. Lucky moms of allergy-free kids whine about not being able to send PB&J in the brown bag every day. Food professionals whine about having to make substitutions for every gluten-fearing diner that they feed. And for home cooks, a game of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is not about race relations; instead, it’s about what you’ll feed the vegetarian. I admit to being guilty of all these sins at one point or another.
But I feel remorse. Like I already said, don’t be a caveman. Whether you’re a mom trying to raise your little minions up right, a chef trying to give your diners an excellent culinary experience, or an entertainer dead set on showing everyone a good time, there is one ideal that connects it all: manners. The reason “manners” exist is to make people feel more comfortable. If you consider yourself the kind of person who has good manners, by extension, you should be doing everything in your power to bring comfort to everyone you come into contact with.
“How do you do this?” you ask? Maybe don’t plan to make a meal focused on beef if there are vegetarians on the guest list. Not being a vegetarian, maybe I shouldn’t speak for them. But if I were a vegetarian and came to a dinner party where everyone else got a big slab of gorgeous protein on the center of the plate and I just got a lot more of whatever the side dish was, I think I’d be pissed.
My advice: try to embrace whatever you have to work with. Instead of making something unnaturally gluten-free or using vegan “cheese,” make something that’s awesome without having to pretend it’s something else. My hardship to overcome for this dinner: a friend who eats neither gluten nor cow dairy. Challenge accepted.
Let’s make sturdy grits (1:3 grits to water ratio instead of 1:4, and cooked for 30 minutes instead of 5). Then add in some sheep’s milk cheese.
Grease a cast iron corn pan (or 8″ cake pan).
Put the grits in the mold. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours.
Let’s turn them out. Aw, so cute. You could just pop these under the broiler if you’d like, but I put them on the grill.
Let’s make goaty pimiento cheese. It’s basically my standard pimiento cheese with half fresh goat and half goat gouda in place of the cheddar and colby. I also left out the lemon juice.
Let’s halve and roast baby potatoes to put the pimiento cheese on.
Then let’s top them with kale microgreens, for color, texture and fun. App? Check. No gluten, no cow dairy, yet delicious with nothing to apologize for.
I promise we’ll eventually get back to the steak. But first, let’s make roasted veggie salsa to go with it. Small tomatoes, tomatillos, onions, garlic and jalapeno get tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted at 400 til they look like this:
That goes in a blender, then into a squeeze bottle for later.
The oiled, salted beast makes initial contact with a hot grill. It’s pretty easy. 5/5/10/5. Five on first side/ five more on the same side, on the diagonal, to make grill marks/ ten on the other side/ five turned upright on the bone.
It started to rain, so the grilling pics got worse and worse, but you get the idea. I also grilled some shrimp and threw the corn-shaped grits on the grill for a couple of minutes as well, but I didn’t want to get my camera wet, so … my apologies. C’est la vie.
So it’s time for a green post-fire marinade. Two bunches of parsley/ 2 bunches scallions/ 1 bunch thyme/ quarter cup of sugar/ half a cup of olive oil/ salt go in the blender. Half the mix goes on the steak (with a little foil tent) for 10 minutes. The rest goes in a squeeze bottle.
Cut the filet from the bone. Cut the strip from the bone.
Slice each side.
Place the steak back against the bone and admire your work.
Have Spider-man help set the table. This is important.
Squeeze some of the green sauce on the plate, followed by some of the roasted salsa. Top with the grilled grits, steak and shrimp. Gluten free, cow’s milk free, but you’d never know that was what I had to do. It’s just delicious.
Food is always better if you love it for what it is. If you have vegetarians at your table, make something you enjoy that’s already vegetarian. It’s not hard, as long as you mind your manners.