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Weekend Recipe: Pan-Seared Steaks with Port Wine Sauce

Steak dinners are always a crowd pleaser, especially when the steaks are cooked perfectly. America's Test Kitchen recommends using a thermometer to get them just right.

Make the sauce base ahead of time, as it can take more than 30 minutes to prepare. You can store the rest and use it as a demi glace for sauces, soups, and stews.

Pan-Seared Steaks with Port Wine Sauce
Serves 4

Image courtesy of Cook's Illustrated

Steaks
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 boneless strip or rib-eye steaks, 1 to 1 1/4 inches thick (about 8 ounces each) (see note)
Table salt and ground black pepper

Port Sauce
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup ruby port
1/4 cup Sauce Base (1/2 of recipe)
1/4 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Table salt and ground black pepper

Sauce Base
1 small onion, roughly, chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, halved
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 ounces ground beef
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups red wine
4 cups beef broth
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 packages unflavored powdered gelatin (5 teaspoons)

For the sauce base: Process onion, carrot, mushrooms, and garlic in food processor into 1/8-inch pieces, 10 to 12 one-second pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until simmering; add beef and tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until beef is well browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add vegetable mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until any released moisture has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Add wine and bring to simmer, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Add beef broth, thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns; bring to boil. Reduce heat and gently boil, occasionally scraping bottom and sides of pot, skimming fat from surface, until reduced to 2 cups, 20 to 25 minutes.

Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer set over small saucepan, pressing on solids with rubber spatula to extra as much liquid as possible (you should have about 1 cup stock). Sprinkle gelatin over stock and stir to dissolve. Place saucepan over medium-high heat and bring stock to boil. Gently boil, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1/2 cup, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm. (Leftovers can be frozen for up to a month.)

For the steaks: Heat oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Meanwhile, pat steaks dry with paper towels and season both sides with salt and pepper. Lay steaks in pan, leaving ¼ inch between them. Cook, not moving steaks, until well browned, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, flip steaks and continue to cook until instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 120 degrees for rare to medium-rare, 3 to 7 minutes. Remove steaks to platter and tent loosely with foil while preparing herb sauce.

For the port sauce: Return now-empty skillet to medium-low heat; add shallot and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add wine and bring to simmer, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Add 1/4 cup Sauce Base, vinegar, and any accumulated juices from steak; return to simmer and cook until slightly reduced, about 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in fresh thyme, and butter; season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon sauce over steaks and serve immediately.


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