08.04.11: dinner (or rather, engagement steak salad trumps engagement chicken)

Steak, Roasted Garlic, Caramelized Onion and Arugula Pasta Salad

When I lived in New Haven, the two apartments I lived in were above the oldest drug store in the city and the building was old and beautiful and made of brick. This meant that the laundry room–one washer and dryer for the four apartments–was in the basement, and the basement was straight out of a horror movie: cobwebs everywhere, stone walls, bare light bulbs that only worked occasionally, and a floor so dirty you’d sooner throw out a wayward sock or pair of underpants that happened to touch it rather than try to rescue it. I’m pretty sure there were spiders everywhere to boot, and so I’d scurry down there and load my laundry as quickly as I could and got the hell out of there.

In other words: I loathed it.

Steak, Roasted Garlic, Caramelized Onion and Arugula Pasta Salad

Michael knew this by the time we moved in together, of course. He knew that whenever I announced my intentions to do laundry I’d get around to it eventually that evening, but I’d usually drag my feet to do so. So it was weird when, a few weeks into our new cohabitation situation, we were finishing up dinner and lounging on the couch and the clock struck 7:30 and he started making these really unsubtle hints that I should go and do my laundry, even though we had just finished dinner and therefore I intended on spending a good half-hour on the couch before maybe thinking of going down there. I mean, I was in my rattiest pair of American Apparel running shorts and a tank top, and I was comfortable where I was, thank you very much. I gave him a dirty/confused look, but to shut him up and not act weird anymore I grabbed my laundry bag and started a load, muttering to myself as I trudged back up the stairs how much I hated that damn basement.

And then I opened the door and all of the lights were out and all of the candles were lit, and there he was, trying to get the song I had tossed out as a potential first-dance song choice to play on his laptop (fumbling a bit, of course) and then he asked me, and I said yes, and I had to change into something slightly more appropriate to head out in public so we could run to the package store down Orange Street to get some champagne.

The dinner we had enjoyed prior to all of this craziness? A slightly less elaborate version of what you see here, made with penne rather than elbows. It was really delicious and frankly, I was annoyed that Michael was trying to interrupt that by prodding me about my stupid laundry. In the long run, of course, it was totally worth it, but unfortunately not even the memory of the proposal ever warmed me up to that basement.

And engagement steak salad is much better than engagement chicken, for the record–to paraphrase Ron Swanson, cow always beats fowl.

Steak, Caramelized Onion and Roasted Garlic Salad over Arugula and Pasta

serves 2 with copious leftovers

  • 1 ribeye steak, preferably dry-aged in a refrigerator for one-two days prior to cooking
  • 2 heads garlic, excess paper peeled and tops sliced off
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled and sliced into rings
  • 1-2 cups arugula, washed and dried
  • 1 lb pasta, either elbows or penne
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Olive oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Mirin
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt
Roast the garlic: slather some olive oil on the open ends of the garlic heads, wrap in foil, and roast for about an hour in a 400-degree oven; once soft, remove and let cool. In the meantime, caramelize the onions: over medium-low heat, add a tablespoon each of olive oil and butter to a skillet, and then add sliced onions. Cook the onions until they get all brown and amazing; add more olive oil if you need to do so. This will take a good 40 minutes to an hour, so plan accordingly.
Michael made a pan sauce with some soy sauce, mirin, and balsamic vinegar once the onions were finished; this was done to taste and then removed from the heat until all of the components were ready to be added to the pasta. Speaking of which–the pasta should go on about 10 minutes before it all needs to come together, cooked to al dente, and then drained well and returned to the pot.
When cooking the steak, three to four minutes per side in the broiler will do well; when finished, removed from the broiler and let rest for at least five minutes before slicing against the grain.
Assembling the salad is easy: squeeze garlic cloves into the pasta and add the onions, steak, arugula and pan sauce and toss well to combine.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Tracy says:

    What a sweet story.

  2. Stacey says:

    Our laundry room is the exact same. Yikes. Recipe looks fantastic. Will have to try it.

  3. What a great tale! I am completely in agreement that cow beats fowl. It looks terrific!

  4. Love the sentimental story here. Not to mention the steak just looks and sounds amazing.

  5. Kirsten says:

    Cashier: Anything else?
    Ron Swanson: Nope. Just the crows and the beef.

  6. betty says:


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