Eight ingredients. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a weeknight feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.
In this recipe, harissa—a spicy, smoky North African sauce made from dried chiles and roasted red peppers—adds a twist to the easy weeknight luxury of pan-seared steak. A simple side of roasted eggplant with garlicky yogurt sauce makes a great seasonal complement for early fall.
On paper, the spice factor of harissa poses a bit of a hurdle when it comes to choosing a wine to open. Conventional wisdom says spicy food calls for wines with low alcohol and tannins. But sommelier Jill Gubesch, who built a wine list for the hot-pepper-inflected cuisine of Mexico at Chicago’s Topolobampo, said otherwise in a Q&A earlier this year; with some dishes, she prefers pulling out Zinfandels and Cabernets that share flavor characteristics with certain chile peppers.
When it came to pairing wines with this particular dish, we found much to like. A Tempranillo from Rioja had good acidity that lined up with the squeeze of lemon juice added to finish the steak. A Tannat-based Madiran from France had a rustic edge that pushed and pulled for dominance with the spicy harissa (in a good way). But a Greek red wine made from the native Xinomavro grape edged out the others, holding its firm structure and becoming a touch more elegant alongside the steak.
Pair with a Xinomavro from Greece, such as Boutari Naoussa 2007 (89 points, $17)
Total time: 25 minutes
Approximate food cost: $35
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. In a shallow baking dish or bowl, coat the hanger steak with the harissa sauce. Let the steak marinate while you prepare the eggplant.
2. Slice the eggplant into 1/4-inch rounds and toss with cooking oil and salt to taste. Spread the rounds in a single layer onto baking sheets and roast the eggplant in the oven until browned slightly, around 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and reserve.
3. Combine the yogurt, garlic and parsley in a small bowl and reserve.
4. In a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan, heat two tablespoons of cooking oil over medium-high heat. Season each side of the steak with salt, add the steak to the pan and cook until medium rare, around 4 to 5 minutes a side. Remove the steak to a cutting board and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Squeeze the juice from the lemon over the resting steak and slice across the grain. Serve immediately with the roasted eggplant and yogurt sauce. Serves 4.
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