In our cooking series Quickies, we invite chefs, bartenders, and other personalities in the world of food and drink who are serious hustlers to share their tips and tricks for preparing quick, creative after-work meals. Every dish featured in Quickies takes under 30 minutes to make, but without sacrificing any deliciousness—these are tried-and-tested recipes for the super-busy who also happen to have impeccable taste.
After receiving a chemical and biomolecular engineering degree, chef Katie Button left the science lab for a food lab: namely, Ferran Adrià's world famous elBulli.
"I started working in the lab at NIA (National Institute for Aging), and that's where I started focusing more on the brain, but I ultimately quit before I even started. It was a good decision," she says. After her seven-month stage at the temple to molecular cuisine so early on in her career in 2009, Button moved to Asheville, North Carolina to open up her now highly-acclaimed Spanish tapas restaurant, Cúrate, and later, Nightbell. The busy chef has since racked up a variety of accolades including becoming one of Food & Wine Magazine's Best New Chefs in 2015. Most recently, she just published her first cookbook, Cúrate: Authentic Spanish Food from an American Kitchen.
For her Workaholics dish, Button went all in and made an entire meal: a juicy rib-eye with blue cheese dressing, roasted potatoes, and an artichoke salad with yogurt and sweet potato chips. But this isn't brain surgery. It's dinner. For even the most novice cook, it will take little more than 30 minutes. And for Button, this is a weekly meal. "When you've been on your feet all day, protein sounds really good at the end of the shift. This meal will make you feel pretty good."
She starts with the roasted potatoes, a dish that even the worst cook will perfect. "The potatoes are really simple and something that I do on a regular basis at home at a super high temperature. I love that you can put them in the oven, forget about them, set a timer, and 20 minutes later, you're putting dinner on the table." After cranking the oven to 450° F, Button cuts up the potatoes, douses them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and puts them straight into the oven. "They kind of have that same texture and feel and idea as a fried potato, crunchy on the outside and super creamy on the inside," she says as she moves on to the rib-eye.
But who really has the time (or the money) to show up to some fancy steakhouse like Keen's and eat the dry-aged Porterhouse like a Tammany Hall politician? Besides, steak is always better eaten in the privacy of your own home, especially when blue cheese sauce is involved.
"I love this sauce because it's not super cheesy—the beef stock, shallot, cream, and sherry wine keep it from becoming an overpowering cheese bomb."
For Button, this magical concoction is a rich, umami sauce that makes almost anything taste better. Plus, it's impossible to break, she adds, "because of the way that you add the different components into it helps to stabilize it." In other words, "it's impossible to mess it up." After quickly whisking the sauce, she places it on the back burner and moves on to the rib-eye.
After generously seasoning the meat, Button cranks up the heat under a cast-iron skillet to a Lucifer-approved level, adds oil, and sears the rib-eye for five minutes on both sides. "This technique gives it that lovely caramelization but keeps it tender on the inside."
Nothing good in life can be fully enjoyed without some R&R at some point, so Button lets the steaks rest for ten minutes while she moves on to salad, one of her secret obsessions. "My typical rule, when I throw a salad together, is to make sure there's something crunchy in there, something from the dairy world—because cheese and salads are best friends, a vinaigrette, and some other type of vegetable and a fruit." Inspired by a salad on the spring menu at Cúrate, Button uses canned artichokes (instead of the fresh ones used at the restaurant) sweet potato chips (instead of fried sunchokes), and tart yogurt for an element of surprise.
A few chips for garnish go on top of the final product, and its time to pull those roasted potatoes from the oven. She cuts up the rib-eye and pours the blue cheese sauce on top like there's no tomorrow. Perfectly crispy roasted potatoes, tender rib-eye, and a salad that would make the Kardashian sisters reconsider their own leafy choices—if this is what normal Sunday dinner looks like for Button, we want in.
She takes a bite. "I'm not saving the human population these days compared to my previous life in the science lab, but I'm making their lives a little easier by feeding them. I do often think about the connection between your food and your brain, and I think there is some major relationship between good food and happiness, but I don't know." We think it might start with this steak.
Katie Button's brand new cookbook, Cúrate: Authentic Spanish Food from an American Kitchen, is available via Flatiron Books.