Racing Rachael: High Steaks

I was starting to think that either Rachael has a lot of 30-minute chicken meals or that I'm addicted to cooking chicken. So, for the next few weeks...NO chicken.

Two things intrigued me about the entrée recipe: the placement of the salad in relation to the meat and the creation of a dressing that contains ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire. I've eaten many a salad beside my steak or even under my steak, but never atop of a steak. What is this all about? Does the placement of the lettuce result in a more enjoyable experience? Or does hiding the meat under some greens make you feel like you're eating a healthier meal? And will this dressing taste like licking a burger? Ultimately, the only question that matters is that of taste. How did this one measure up?

The food: Sliced Steaks with Sweet and Spicy Salad on Top and Summer Corn Fettuccine. Since flat iron steaks (aka top blade steaks) were not available the day that I was at the store, I replaced them with ribeyes. Seasoned simply with olive oil, salt and pepper, the steak itself was nothing out of the ordinary. On the other hand, the arugula and romaine salad, dressed with garlic, ketchup, grainy Dijon, Worcestershire and white balsamic vinegar, was like homemade steak sauce with a crunch. Paired with the tender steak, the salad was an unexpectedly pleasant and flavorful addition to the meal. I would say, however, that I found the dressing-to-greens ratio to be a bit off, resulting in an overdressed salad.

Rachael states that pasta is inspired by one of her favorite summertime favorites: corn chowder. Flavored with bacon, fresh corn, white wine, shallots and thyme, it certainly conjures up memories of slurping down hearty New England chowder. But, that flavor doesn't come without some heavy hitters, in this case six strips of smoky bacon and one cup of cream. I found the pasta to be in need of a little kick, so next go-round I would have a heavier hand with the cayenne.

Also, it's worth noting that the recipe states that the pasta serves four to six, but unless you're serving this as an entrée or to some burly Italian men, you'll end up with enough leftovers to feed an army. I'd say eight side portions is more accurate.

The time: 39 minutes, not including corn-shucking time.

The verdict: Call me a traditionalist, but I would forgo the unique presentation in favor of a bed of greens topped with slices of perfectly grilled beef. As instructed, I made my dressing in the bowl and then tossed the greens into it. I'd prefer to dress the greens lightly and serve the remaining dressing on the side to avoid overkill.

The pasta is a welcome change from the usual starchy sides. And, really, how can anything with bacon be bad? This would also make a hearty entrée as written, or by adding a little diced chicken.

Ways to beat the clock: Using frozen corn would save both the time shucking and removing the corn from the cob, without sacrificing too much flavor. Also, as I've mentioned before, I loathe the food processor, which in this recipe is completely unnecessary. An immersion blender makes quick and neat work of pureeing the corn into the cream.

Happy (speedy) cooking!

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Carrie Applegate Jaeger