Plankstek-aye matey it’s steak on a plank.
Yesterday was another day lacking inspiration. Or no, I was just walking around in a cloud of happy, thoroughly enjoying my new back. Per, my friend and chiropractor of moderate fame, set me to rights after several months of agony. See, I made the mistake of spending December in S. Korea sleeping on a wooden plank disguised as a bed. Waking morning after morning with all four limbs dead asleep, with no one to hear my screams as I tried to extricate myself from the torture by rocking back and forth until I flopped to the floor like a limp, gasping fish, waiting for life to pulse back into my limbs. If you have never had an adjustment I think you should. It’s like oil on your bike chain, a foot massage after a long day in 6″ heels, sex after a long drought… In any case I was so busy skipping through the day everything else went on hold including remembering to eat.
Grasping at my last shred of discipline I eventually got down to business. It was about time I include a Swedish classic. Swedish meatballs nah, too wintery. Herring, too complicated. Plankstek! Given that in my experience plankstek is only found at restaurants and not made at home, I figured I would just write up a brief history and throw in a couple of restaurant reviews.
Researching food on an empty stomach is like going to the grocery store when your hungry. Everything ends up in your basket. With all the photos of plankstek staring me in the face my research lasted a total of 5 mins. There was no other choice. I MUST HAVE! I knew there was no way in hell The Man was going to bike the 8 something km, in the dark, against the sea wind to our favorite plankstek restaurant. I can barely get him to bike to the corner. Leaving my blog for another day, I threw myself on my bike, armed with a grocery list and headed for the store. Damn it I may not have a plank of wood to serve my steak on, but I am going to have a steak and it’s going to include all the things that make a plankstek so insanely yummy.
Plankstek-translation steak on a plank. Basically it’s a steak on a piece of wood surrounded by duchess potatoes, accompanied by a grilled tomato, and bacon wrapped asparagus served with an unhealthy helping of béarnaise sauce.
It is a very popular dish, among Swedish steak lovers. However, I discovered it is not a Swedish dish, rather it was born in Hungaria. But, as it is so popular and has been a part of the Swedish kitchen experience longer than I have been alive I still consider it Swedish, if nothing else an honorary Swedish dish.
It is important to remember that you need to deal with each of the separate components in a certain order. First take your steaks out of the fridge and season them. Leave them out so they will reach room temp. Then start the duchess potatoes. While the potatoes boil prepare the bacon, steam the asparagus and lightly grill the tomatoes in the bacon grease. After the duchess potato is assembled you will put it in a baking form with the tomatoes and asparagus on top and bake until golden brown. While the potatoes bake it’s time to get cracking on the béarnaise sauce. You can buy the instant version, if you are short on patience or find it too difficult. Béarnaise sauce does requires finesse. When the Béarnaise sauce is finished it’s time to grill the steaks.
I prefer entrecote. It is nicely marbled with fat which makes for a tender result. However, you can substitute this with pork steak, chicken breast or any other type of beef steak.
Season the steak, I use Lawry’s season salt. Set aside and allow to reach room temp. This will prevent a tough, chewy result. The last thing you will do is grill your steak.
Get your frying pan good and hot. Preferably a cast iron pan, teflon will cook your steak in it’s own sweat giving it a boiled texture. No oils or butter. Just a clean pan. Lay your steaks in the pan with a bit of space between them. Cook them for 2-3 min. depending on how thick the steak is. DO NOT move them or sneak a peek. This will also make your steak chewy. Lower the heat a bit then flip your steak and let it cook 2-3 min. more, depending on if you prefer rare, medium rare, or well done. DO NOT lift it up and look at it. DO NOT flip it over again. This will definitely give you a chewy steak. See notes below.
Note: You can tell how well done your steak is by pressing on the top of it. If it bounces back easily it is rare, the more resistence you get the more well done it is.
Note: Flipping your steak back and forth is like double cooking your steak. Once you turn it over the surface cools. If you flip it back it will cook through the already cooked part yet again before the heat reaches the middle of your steak. This makes the fibers tighten thus eee ahhhh chewy.
Note: They are heavy, but Cast iron pans are on my favorite list. It is really easy to clean and is very versatile, you can use them for pasta sauces, steaks… The more they are used the better they get. It is important to know cast iron should not be cleaned with dish soap. It ruins the surface and leaves a soapy flavor. While the pan is still hot just rinse it under hot water while giving it a go over with a scrub brush. You don’t need to be worried about bacteria etc. If your pan loses it’s non-stick surface then heat it up and rub with cooking oil. It can take awhile to get this surface back, may need to repeat several times. This is why I don’t let anyone near my cast iron pans.
This is adapted for the homemade plankstek. Most people don’t have a wooden oven plank just laying around, thus we will use a baking form instead.
Note: You can buy wood planks made for just this. I wouldn’t use any old wood plank, you have no idea what kind of chemicals it might have been treated with.
4-5 large potatoes peeled and quartered
2 egg yolks
5-6 TBS butter
1/2 cup of half and half or 1/4 milk and a 1/4 whipped cream combined
Salt and pepper to taste
Veggies and bacon
3 spears of asparagus steamed
1 slice of bacon for each plate
Basically Duchess potatoes are mashed potatoes with egg yolks. Quarter your potatoes and boil until soft. During this time fry your bacon, 1 strip for each plate. Steam your asparagus and lightly grill the tomatoes face down in the bacon grease. Set aside.
When the potatoes are done boiling. Add the remaining ingredients careful not to add to much cream.They should be rather stiff. Mash them smooth!
You can spread them evenly in a baking form and fluff the top with a fork. Alternatively you can also use a baking spritzer to make little rosettes in the baking pan.
Roll the asparagus up in the bacon. Place the tomatoes and the asparagus on top of the potatoes and bake in the oven on 425F/220C for about 20 min. or until golden brown on top.
Note: If you were doing this for real you would spritzer the potatoes around the edges of the wooden plank, leaving a whole for the steak. The tomato and asparagus would be placed in the corner. Then it would be baked in the oven. I believe the steak would be added to the plate after the baking. Otherwise it would dry out.
While your potatoes are baking in the oven it’s time to do the sauce. This is not necessarily that easy to make. It requires patience and finesse. If you don’t follow every step to a T you will more than likely end up with scrambled egg yolks and vinegar rather than a sauce. All of the ingredients need to be room temperature before you begin! Otherwise use an instant version.
4 egg yolks
8-10 TBS butter
1 shallot chopped fine
Pinch of Cayenne pepper
4 TBS white vinegar
4 TBS white wine
3 TBS dried tarragon/dragon
The key is not to let your pan get to hot. You will need two sauce pans. You will need one for the water bath and one for the sauce. Thus the sauce pan for the water bath needs to be slightly larger.
Heat the water. DON’T let it boil or simmer, but keep it hot. Insert the other sauce pan in to the pan with the water letting the bottom touch the surface. It’s ok if it’s on a slant. Add the egg yolks then slowly add the vinegar and wine while constantly whisking. Slowly add small chunks of the butter a little at a time. Don’t stop whisking. When you have finished adding the butter, hopefully your sauce is thick and creamy, add the onions, tarragon and cayenne pepper. Salt to taste. If it tastes too vinegary add more butter.
Put to the side and start your steaks. By the this point everything should be ready to be placed on your plate. Serve it up like you would a steak and mash potatoes with a bit of salad on the side, for good health.