My wife and I lead busy lives and, when we come home from work and deal with an energetic almost nine year old, we’re often exhausted when the subject of “What’s for dinner?” comes up. Last night we succumbed to laziness and went to a Japanese restaurant – sitting on bamboo mats, slurping tea and eating sushi. It was very tasty but, truth be told, we probably eat out too much. So, early yesterday evening, I decided a home cooked meal was in order. But what to make?
Examining the contents of our fridge, I noticed we still has a pound of ground turkey left over from making chili and an unopened package of button mushrooms and asparagus sitting forgotten in the vegetable crisper. Then I had an idea. If I can make chili with ground turkey, why not Salisbury steak? There must be a recipe for it somewhere on the Interwebs. Sure enough, there was.
Getting a glass bowl out of the cabinet, I mixed the turkey with panko breadcrumbs, minced garlic, salt, pepper, Worcestershire Sauce, ground mustard, some onion and garlic powder and an egg. Then, after I formed four oval shaped patties, I let then rest on the counter while I scrubbed some potatoes and placed them in a pot of water to boil. Then I trimmed the asparagus, cleaned them, arranged the spears on a baking sheet, sprinkled on some sea salt and then drizzled them with olive oil.
Heating up a stainless steel pan, I poured in some canola oil and then, just before it started smoking, placed the turkey patties in and seared them for about four minutes on each side. Then I took them out of the pan, covered them with some aluminum foil and set about making the sauce. After slicing up the mushrooms and an onion in quarter inch slices, I poured some olive oil into the pan and a dollop of butter and, when the butter started foaming, threw in the ‘shrooms and onion and cooked them slowly on low heat for several minutes. Then I added two tablespoons of flour, mixed everything into a roux, added two cups of chicken broth, a bit of salt and pepper, more Worcestershire Sauce, heated the sauce up to a healthy simmer and the then put the turkey patties in for twenty minutes, covering the pan and making sure to flip the patties once every five minutes.
As the “steaks” were cooking I popped open a beer, drained the potatoes whist reserving some of the liquid, and then mashed them up with a bit of milk, butter, pepper, effluence of potato and garlic powder. Then, when my wife arrived home from work, I slid the tray of asparagus into the oven to roast.
“Smells good,” my wife said after giving me a kiss. “What’s for dinner?”
“Turkey Salisbury Steak – I think.”
“You’ve never made that before.”
“I felt like experimenting,” I said. “I just hope Natalie likes it.” My daughter can be a notoriously picky eater.
As my wife pulled Natalie away from her Minecraft obsession to wash her hands, I plated dinner – making sure each turkey patty was smothered in sauce and then, in a nod to my waiter days, carried all three plates into the dining room and then deposited them on the table.
“Voila,” I said.
“What is it?” Natalie said, sniffing her meal suspiciously.
“Turkey Salisbury steak. “
“it’s like a turkey burger,” I said. “Just with a brown sauce. And there’s mashed potatoes. I know you like those.”
Being a kid, Natalie started in on the potatoes first, nibbled on an asparagus spear and then, as I watched with bated breath, took a forkful of my creation and put it tentatively into her mouth.
“What do you think?” I asked. Natalie made no reply but ate another bite – then another and another.
“It’s really good, Steve,” my wife said. “Where’d you get the recipe?”
“The Culinary Institute of You Tube.”
Eating my warm food and drinking my cold beer, I watched in amazement as my daughter cleaned her plate. Then, after pushing her plate away she said, “That was the best dinner ever.”
“I’m glad you liked it, dear,” I said, shocked into submission by words I never thought I’d hear come out of my daughter’s mouth.
“Could you make this every day, Daddy?”
“Well,” my wife said, “We’ll certainly add it to the menu. “
“It’s the best food ever,” Natalie said.
“Good job, Dad,” my wife said.
“You’re very welcome.”
A while later, as my wife and I did the dishes, I said. “Well, that was a first.”
“I can’t believe she said it was ‘the best ever,’” my wife said. “Can you believe it?”
“After everything I’ve cooked over the years, it turns out Turkey Salisbury Steak was the big winner.”
“There’s no knowing with her.”
“I loved TV dinners with Salisbury Steak when I was a kid,” I said, “You remember them? The ones with the little apple cobbler for dessert?”
“My mom never made those,” my wife said. “She cooked everything from scratch.”
“Considering all the salt and preservatives in those things, she probably did you a favor. No need to embalm you before you’re dead.”
Ah, yes, the 1970’s – when parents fed food to their kids that would get child services sicced on their asses today. But back then we didn’t have the panoply of world cuisines that are now just an app click away. Then again, parents smoked in cars with the windows rolled up while their children cavorted unsecured in the back seat back then too – much less heard of Thai or Vietnamese cuisine. But my father, who was always the more adventurous gourmand of the family, once blew his whole paycheck taking us to Beni Hana in Manhattan for a strange thing called hibachi. I still remember the cook flipping shrimp tails into his chef’s cap and setting the grill on fire to my toddler brother’s delight while my grandmother’s looked on with barely disguised horror. It was new and different, and I loved it. To this day, I always like going to a hibachi place on Father’s Day because of that happy memory. This time, however, I’m old enough to guzzle a few Sapporo’s too.
After giving Natalie an apple for balanced nutrition, we sat down and watched an episode of the Simpsons – my daughter’s new fave. Chuckling, I remembered when that show was considered sort of risqué but now, compared to all the crap that’s out there, it’s almost wholesome family entertainment. Then, after half an hour, I noticed my daughter nodding off, carried her up the stairs, watched her brush her teeth and get into her jammies, and then performed our nighty tuck in ritual of burying her under the covers, selecting her stuffed animal companions for the night, the bestowing of kisses and “I love yous” and then, finally, turning off the light.
“She asleep?” my wife asked, sitting up in bed, reading.
“Out like a light.”
“Good, she has roller skating lessons tomorrow morning.”
After performing my nightly ablutions, I slipped under the covers too – noticing my wife was wearing her black negligee. Oh boy.
“That was a really good dinner, hon,” she said. “Now turn off the light.”
“Are you ready for the best ever?” I said once our room was dark save for the illumination of the moon.
“I’ll manage somehow.”
Then, as the autumn wind rustled the leaves of the oak tree outside our bedroom window, my wife and I enjoyed our dessert course.