Autumn begins this Saturday, Sept. 22. And its approach started me thinking about the widespread, still growing interest in cooking with the seasons.
I'm all for seasonality, and my chefs and I always love to feature the freshest local ingredients in dishes that feel appropriate to the time of year. But, seasons don't really stop and start on particular days. In some ways, they are artificial divisions, blending one into the next. In some places, like Los Angeles where I live, it sometimes seems like never-ending springtime or summer. Some of my friends in northern mountain communities talk about how they also experience only two real seasons: snow, and the muddy melt.
So, when I cook, I try to stay more carefully aware not only of the precise time of year and broader season but also what the weather is like right now, where I am. Many times, I wind up preparing dishes that seem not so much to represent one season as to straddle the new season and the one just past.
My recipe for Sauteed Rib-Eye Steaks with Dijon Mustard Sauce and Crispy Onions is a good example. Just a few weeks ago, I might have made a variation of this recipe on my outdoor grill -- slathering rib-eyes with a blend of mustards and searing them over an open fire. But now, without losing the very relaxed style of that preparation, I move its cooking indoors to produce a main course that seems appropriate as a casual yet special main course for early-autumn entertaining. You could, really, think of it as a perfect dish for Indian summer, the traditional term for the kind of fleeting summery heat wave that can suddenly occur after a period of frosty autumn weather.
Of course, to move those steaks indoors, I make a few adjustments to the recipe. First, I use boneless rib-eyes rather than bone-in steaks, to help them fit more easily together in a stovetop skillet and to ensure that they cook more evenly. The flavorful deposits that form in the skillet from the steak's juices during searing also give me the perfect opportunity to create a quick sauce for the steaks, deglazing the pan with some lemon juice or vinegar and then adding broth and reducing the liquid to a light coating consistency. As a finishing touch, I add some crispy onions that I quickly deep-fried before cooking the steaks; on an outdoor grill in summer, of course, I would have cut those same onions into slightly thicker slices and grilled them alongside the steaks.
The result is a dish you can be sure will seem appropriate regardless of what the weather is like on the particular autumn day you plan to serve it.
SAUTEED RIB-EYE STEAKS WITH DIJON MUSTARD SAUCE AND CRISPY ONIONS
Vegetable oil, for frying
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
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