A lighter take on classic steakhouse fare for Dad

Associated Press
In this image taken on May 20, 2013, a Father's Day steakhouse dinner is shown served on a plate in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
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My family has been weaning itself from red meat for years. We still love it, but the portions and frequency are less than they used to be. Still, when I started planning a Father's Day menu for my husband and my dad, I thought it might be nice to bow to tradition by turning to the Batman and Robin of manly fare — steak and potatoes.

Happily, there are many ways these days to have your steak and eat it, too. For this menu, I was able to lower the fat and calorie count not only of the steak and potatoes, but of the equally sinful sauce — bearnaise. And, as ever, the flavor stays large.

We start with flank steak. Leaner and tougher than rib-eye (the traditionalist's cut of choice), flank steak is nonetheless plenty juicy and delicious as long as you cook it to no more than medium-rare and slice it thinly and against the grain. And just a little of it — 4 ounces — can be surprisingly satisfying.

The satisfaction quotient leaps up pretty quickly, of course, when potatoes get into the act. In this case, I'm talking about russets, the king of starchy potatoes. I shred those bad boys, flatten them into a pancake, and crisp up the pancake in a nonstick skillet with just a little bit of olive oil. Then I transfer it to a sheet pan and finish it in the oven, which frees up the skillet for the steak.

While the steak is cooking and resting, you can go to work on my "bearnaise sauce." The traditional version — made with egg yolks, lots of butter and tarragon — is a classic of French cuisine. In my version, tarragon is the only ingredient to survive. I start by making a reduction with white wine, white wine vinegar, minced shallots and dried tarragon. You can use all white wine if you have no vinegar or all vinegar if you prefer not to use white wine. If you have no shallots, just substitute finely-chopped onion.

This reduction is the acid base of the sauce, to which you will add my miraculous cheating ingredient — one-third-less-fat cream cheese — which somehow replaces both the egg yolks and the butter. Finish off the sauce with fresh tarragon, and there you have it, a wonderful bearnaise that is simultaneously rich and light.

One of the side benefits of the one-third-less-fat cream cheese is that the sauce it makes is virtually indestructible. A traditional bearnaise is temperamental; you always have to fret about the yolks curdling and the butter separating out to form a greasy slick. This sauce stays intact. By the way, don't forget to add the resting juices from the steak to the sauce, as they make it even tastier.

Our steakhouse dinner wouldn't be complete without some spinach on the side. I cooked it up with olive oil and garlic in the same pan as the potatoes and the steak. I'm telling you, Mom, this is almost a one-dish meal! When I had The Husband test drive the whole menu, he declared that it would make any day Father's Day.

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FATHER'S DAY STEAKHOUSE DINNER

Start to finish: 1 hour

Servings: 6

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated, preferably using the grating disk of a food processor

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 medium shallot, minced

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons dry white wine

2 teaspoons dried tarragon

6 ounces 1/3-less fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)

1 1/2 pounds flank steak, trimmed of any visible fat

1 1/2 pounds baby spinach leaves

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon

Heat the oven to 350 F.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the grated potatoes, pressing them down with a spatula, then reduce the heat to medium and cook until golden brown on the bottom, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. Set a large dinner plate over the skillet, then invert to transfer the potatoes, browned side up, onto the plate.

Return the skillet to the heat and add another 1/2 tablespoon of oil. Slide the potatoes back into the skillet, browned side up. Cook until golden brown on the second side, about another 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a sheet pan and place in the oven to keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium-high, combine the shallot, vinegar, white wine, tarragon, a hefty pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cook gently until reduced to about 1 tablespoon. Add the cream cheese, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking each until incorporated. Whisk in 2 tablespoons water, then set aside.

Wipe out the skillet, add 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil and heat it over medium-high. Pat the steak dry, sprinkle it on both sides with salt and pepper, then add it to the skillet. Cook the steak to desired doneness, 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium rare, then transfer it to a platter, cover it loosely with foil and let it rest for 5 minutes.

While the steak is resting, add a tablespoon of the oil to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium. Add the spinach in 4 batches, adding more as each batch cooks down slightly. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil after the first 2 batches of spinach. Cook until the spinach is just wilted, then add the garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another minute, then keep warm on low heat.

Remove the potato pancake from the oven and cut it into 6 wedges. Slice the steak thinly at an angle against the grain. Add the juices from the resting steak to the sauce along with the fresh tarragon, and additional water, if necessary, to reach the desired consistency. Warm the sauce over medium heat just until hot.

Transfer a potato wedge, a mound of spinach and some of the steak to each of 6 serving plates. Drizzle the sauce over each portion of steak and serve immediately.

Nutrition information per serving: 470 calories; 190 calories from fat (40 percent of total calories); 21 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 65 mg cholesterol; 38 g carbohydrate; 7 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 33 g protein; 660 mg sodium.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals" and has written three cookbooks, including "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners."

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