I miss Mad Men.
Like many other hip people of my generation, my love affair with the series stemmed from not only the engrossing character drama, but the showcasing of an era we never experienced: Mid-century America.
What is it about that particular time in history that we all adore so much? It undoubtedly isn’t the struggles faced by minorities and women, as we tend to look past their strife all too often while wearing those rose-colored glasses. Instead, there is a certain panache we associate with 1950s and ’60s culture, be it art and design, fashion, or just the attitudes held by the people. We romanticize this time because it represents a type of happiness to us. And what could be happier than the holdovers from post-prohibition Café Society, the well-to-do, worry free uptown Jet-Set?
Steak Diane is a dish straight from the Mad Men era. It was New York City that made this steak dish famous, as the city’s cafés (such as the Drake Hotel, 21 Club, and The Colony) had the biggest reputations for being the most continental. But Steak Diane gained such popularity that you could find the entrée on the menu at the most glamorous restaurants all over the country.
There was a gimmick to this dish. Typically, Steak Diane would be prepared tableside by a table captain. The captain would wheel a cart with a portable burner between the tables, pour a bit of brandy in the pan, and ignite it in a flaming display of caramelized glory. Grab yourself a Singapore Sling, and a partner to foxtrot with, and your trendy mid century evening would be complete.
This particular recipe for Steak Diane comes from The Whitehall Club in Chicago, a city famous for its (to borrow a word from Vincent) “superlative” meats and steaks. Situated inside the famed Whitehall Hotel, The Whitehall Club was, in the 1960s, well-respected for its French cuisine (today, you’ll find Italian and Chinese on the lauded menu). The Whitehall Club offered a bit of luxury and fine dining that the Prices regarded as “some of the most delicious food we’ve ever eaten anywhere.” A tip from the chef? Always use shallots in place of garlic or onion.
When we chose this recipe, we weren’t aware of its history. We had no idea about the flambé, as the recipe didn’t mention any alcohol or crazy pyrotechnics whatsoever. We just saw this one, thought, “Mmmm red meat,” and went for it. And honestly, we didn’t expect much beyond the typical steak-and-potatoes fare.
But, boy, oh boy, were we wrong. This dish is amazing! Steak Diane is amazing! The combination of butter, and salt, and steak, and caramelized shallots – it just, holy crap. In researching this recipe, I’ve found numerous variations, but I’m not sure I want to stray from this one from the Treasury. It really is that good. We paired the steak with fried potatoes (because, duh), and the meal was incredibly satisfying. However, we did skip the vintage cocktails in favor of calimochos, which were a great accompaniment.
So, here we go with Steak Diane from the The Whitehall Club, with Vincent’s added touch. And, although this recipe does not call for the dramatic flambé, feel free to add some brandy or cognac to the saucepan if you think you can safely handle the blaze.
Ingredients: sirloin steaks, butter, shallots, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, parsley
STEAK DIANE, serves 4
Usually in Chicago you are brought enormous, thick steaks that all but come to the table wearing the blue ribbon of the steer that they were part of. So for a change it was pleasant to be served a steak that had been pounded thin and was cooked quickly at the table in a chafing dish. The Whitehall Club’s maitre d’hôtel did the steaks and their sauce so deftly and rapidly, I couldn’t wait to get home and try it myself. It really does go 1-2-3, and tastes marvelous.
1. Put: 4 sirloin steaks, each about 6 ounces, between pieces of waxed paper and pound to 1/3-inch thickness.
2. Heat in small saucepan: 2 tablespoons butter.
3. Add: 4 tablespoons finely chopped shallots and cook until shallots are lightly browned. Add: 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce and heat to bubbling. Keep the sauce hot.
4. Heat in 12-inch skillet or chafing dish: 6 tablespoons butter. When it begins to brown, add steaks and cook for 3 minutes. Turn and cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until done to taste. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with salt and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper.
PRESENTATION: Spread the shallot sauce over the steaks and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Come back next time to see what horror Elbee cooks up from one of Mary and Vincent Price’s favorite recipes. And be sure to catch Elbee and Andrew on Vincent Price’s Laugh right here on OME!