Benton’s Prime Steakhouse

I scored a great deal on a gift certificate for Benton’s Prime Steakhouse from Restaurant.com, and the husband and I used our back-to-back birthday extravaganza this past weekend as an excuse to use it up!  I wanted to visit this summer, so we would have daylight late into the evening and enjoy the city views from the restaurant.  My sweet mother- and father-in-law offered to watch Baby E, and we headed to the Westin Crown Center for a date night out. 

I had read the menu at Benton’s previously and know they recently changed their name to Benton’s Prime (from simply Benton’s) to better reflect their offering of Prime steaks.  Given my Nebraska roots, I was also excited because the menu featured beef from Morgan Ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills, including Wagyu (Kobe) beef.  So I planned on eating some Nebraska beef!

First stop, free covered parking at the Westin Crown Center.  Perfect for temps anywhere between 7 and 107 degrees.  (After all, this IS Kansas City.)  When the elevator reached the 20th (and final) floor, we were stunned with our first city view.  Visitors to Benton’s bar will enjoy this view late into the night.

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Our table was on the restaurant’s South side, and we were surprised to find lovely views there as well.  In fact, the restaurant kitchen is in the center of the building extending to the West (covering only a portion of the West wall), so there are spectacular views from each direction.  Reservations should probably be made if you’re picky.  We made ours well in advance and thought it was the best, looking over the Liberty Memorial.

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Our first impressions were fantastic.  With fully-windowed walls, the restaurant is bright and airy, with simple furnishings.  Even better, the service was impeccable.  Every visitor to our table was charming and courteous, even the Water Boy.  First up was complimentary Prosecco (It is always good to be the birthday boy and girl…), and a basket of rolls offered with both honey butter and peppadew butter.  I barely got some of the honey butter…Brandon found it first.  I reviewed the wine list and after getting over my shock at being able to order a single glass of Opus One (Napa Valley, 2001), I decided to keep the $35 and order something more reasonable.  I selected a glass of Penfolds, “Thomas Hylands” (South Eastern Australia, 2008) to try something new and it was very good.  In fact, it was very, very good with my steak (until after the asparagus but that is my own fault).

We ordered the Flash Seared Crab Cake as our first course and found it perfectly meaty, served elegantly over pickled cucumber and pineapple, and topped with a togarashi-coconut sphere.  The sphere scared Brandon and he knocked it off of the crab cake.  It bounced, and that really was enough for him to see to decide he wouldn’t be trying it.  I broke it open and dipped a few bites in the lightly sweet and spicy creamy sauce.

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I was a little disappointed that the menu had changed since my first online perusal, and beef from Morgan Ranch did not appear to still be served.  If I am remembering correctly, most of the steaks were from Imperial Valley in California.  Not a bad thing, just sad for this Nebraska girl.  I didn’t ask our server, but should have.

Determined to actually order Prime beef, I skipped my usual filet (8 oz. at Benton’s) in favor of a 12 oz. Prime Sirloin Steak.  I came for flavor!  I ordered it medium, with a side of Butter Poached Asparagus.  It was cooked perfectly and seasoned even better.  This was one amazing steak.  I know it’s huge, but I ate it all.  I’m tough like that.  Given that the asparagus could have fed a family of 4, I left most of it behind.  They were crisp tender and went well with my steak, but a girl has to prioritize.

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Brandon ordered the 16 oz. Prime Kansas City Strip, and smartly selected the Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes, which were our favorite side.  Yukon Gold potatoes are just so creamy anyway, and I suspect a good deal of butter and cream (maybe even buttermilk?) was used in the creation of this dish.

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Dessert was also complimentary (perhaps because of the importance of our birthdays in the culinary world) and there were many good choices on the menu.  We debated the Crème Brulee Trio (three seasonal flavors) and I was excited to see the Mascarpone Cheese Cake (with vanilla and rose scented Anglaise and cherry compote), as well as Baba au Rum (Light raisin studded cake, soaked with rum, served with berries, and finished with a Meyer lemon sabayon sauce), which I’ve never seen anywhere except on the Barefoot Contessa.  But, we were sold on the Bananas Foster on Vanilla Bean Ice Cream for two after watching it prepared at other tables on its traveling station.  Just like the White Chocolate Bread Pudding at Hereford House, which is flambéed tableside with a shot of rum, the restaurant only needs to sell one to get every table to order.  The masses were right…the Bananas Foster was amazing.  In preparing it, the server used a heavy hand with the nutmeg and cinnamon and I really like how it turned out…spicy and rich.  The perfect end to an amazing meal.

We couldn’t help but steal a few more views in each window prior to departing.

Union Station…

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Due North…

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Northeast…

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And then out.  What a great date.  Why don’t we visit Crown Center (and Benton’s Prime) more often?

Borrowed Banana Bread Pancakes

My friend Carla introduced me to the most fantastic food blog ever.  The blogger, Jessica, posts fantastic recipes and bright, lovely photos.  And she is witty and fun…the kind of girl you wish lived next door (and brought you food day in and day out).  Anyhow, for Brandon’s birthday breakfast, I made Whole Wheat Brown Sugar Banana Bread Pancakes using the recipe on her blog How Sweet Eats

They were absolutely amazing and quite possibly better than banana bread itself.  I loved them.  Brandon’s parents loved them.  Baby E loved them.  We didn’t even think you needed the Vanilla Maple Glaze — they’re perfect with just butter. 

She asks that readers post their photos of her recipes to her Facebook page, but mine is really ugly.  They smelled so fantastic that I didn’t take the time to plate them nicely and get a good photo.  I needed to eat the pancakes NOW!  But here they are below.

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Blueberry Balsamic Sauce over Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Dinner last night was driven by grocery stores sales on fresh blueberries and pork tenderloin.  The tenderloin is tasty but lean and at a good price any time of year.  And the blueberries were a steal at 99 cents a pint.  I also washed 2 additional pints, patted them dry, and froze them on a sheet tray, later transferring them to freezer containers.  I’ll be enjoying blueberries and whipped cream into the fall.

Below is the recipe for the sauce, which I drizzled over oven roasted pork tenderloin and a plain green salad.  I finished the dish with a sprinkling of my Trader Joes Himalayan Pink Salt Crystals, mostly because I’ve been sprinkling them on everything.  (If you had pink salt, you would too.)  Midway through my meal, I poured even more sauce on, determined to get as much of it into my stomach as possible.  We even caught the baby eating her sauce with a spoon.  Not a bad idea.

Blueberry Balsamic Sauce
1 dry pint blueberries, washed
1 tsp balsamic vinegar (to taste)
1 TBSP granulated sugar (to taste)
1/2 TBSP butter (optional)

In a medium saucepan, cook blueberries, balsamic vinegar, and sugar over low-medium heat for 10-15 minutes until saucy. Add additional balsamic or sugar to taste. Just prior to serving, stir in the butter for a nice glossy finish.

Berries Cooking!

 

Oven Roasted Pork Tenderloin
1 pork tenderloin (approximately 1 lb)
Salt and pepper
1-2 TBSP grapeseed or olive oil

Pat tenderloin dry with paper towel and season lightly on all sides with salt and pepper. Add oil to pan heated to medium-high. (Pan should be coated, plus a little extra oil). Sear tenderloin (I cut mine in half.) 2 minutes per side, until golden brown. (You’ll need sturdy tongs and splatter shield…watch out for the oil!)

In a 350 degree (F) oven, roast tenderloin on a sheet pan until a meat thermometer placed lengthwise in the center of thickest part of the tenderloin reads 140 degrees. Remove from oven and tent meat tightly with aluminum foil for 10 minutes. The pork will continue to cook while it rests.

Cut pork into 1/2-inch slices on the bias.

Blueberry Balsamic Sauce on Pork Tenderloin

Blueberry Balsamic Sauce on Baby

Pro Series Class 9: Final Dinner Class

This post is part of a 9-part series related to my completion of the Pro Series 1 professional culinary arts course at The Culinary Center of Kansas City with Chef Richard McPeake. This course changed my cooking world! An introductory post can be found here.

The finale of the Pro Series 1 class was a dinner party, catered by the 15 students (minus my teammate Libby who was on a tropical vacation, not that any of us were jealous…), with the help of Chef Richard, and our helpers Chef Larry and Chef Max, and those awesome ladies that washed all our dishes! We received the menu and recipes in advance, but did not know what we would be assigned to cook. Each team named a captain (I must have fidgeted just wrong, because my team picked me) and that person drew to see what our dishes would be. I was also responsible for working with Chef throughout the night to coordinate our items and ask questions, since only the captains were allowed to speak to him. Before class, Kathran and I said the only thing we DIDN’T want to draw was the blackened tilapia, because neither of us had made anything like it. So I fished into the bowl of paper slips and drew…the Blackened Tilapia and the Bananas Foster. (I’ll let you know now, the tilapia was not difficult at all and was, in Team 3’s humble opinion, the star of the show.) It was one busy, and occasionally frantic, 90 minutes but we successfully prepared a buffet for 48. And because our guests paid to join us, I suppose that would make us professional chefs now, wouldn’t it?

Our Menu

Spring Greens with Roasted Shallot Balsamic Vinaigrette

Blackened Tilapia with Balsamic Tomatoes

Poached Chicken Breast with Sauce Bercy

Grilled Pork Medallions with Sweet Mustard Aioli

Orzo Pilaf with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

Grilled Seasoned Vegetable Array with Basil Butter

Bananas Foster, served with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Three-quarters of Table 3 (Kathran, Chef Richard, Stacy, & Amanda)

After all that, my jacket is still clean!

Pro Series Class 8: “Small” or Pan Sauces

This post is part of a 9-part series related to my completion of the Pro Series 1 professional culinary arts course at The Culinary Center of Kansas City with Chef Richard McPeake. This course changed my cooking world! An introductory post can be found here.

I loved week 8 of our Pro Series 1 class, and Chef told us that it is offered periodically as its own course. Knowing how to prepare the Mother Sauces is great, but the chances of you doing them on a weeknight with an almost-two-year-old clinging to your leg is slim. Pan sauces can be done every night. They’re quick. They don’t require perfection. They’re amazingly yummy. And, they’re perfect for dinner parties. In fact, you’re likely already doing some version of them on your own (I suppose melting Velveeta almost counts…).

It goes like this. Cook your seasoned meat product in a pan. Don’t burn it. Transfer meat to a plate. Get the pan off the heat so it doesn’t burn (see a trend?). Don’t clean the pan. Throw it back on the heat, and deglaze the pan by adding stock or wine to lift off all that yummy stuff. (Look! Your pan is already half clean for dishwashing!) Thicken your sauce (add a slurry of water/cornstarch or water/flour, reduce it, or add something creamy like sour cream or greek yogurt). Serve your fancy sauce and try to remain humble.

Weeknight Dinner Trick – Buy pork or turkey tenderloin and trim on the bias into 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices. Trim all the fat off of each slice (easier than off of the whole tenderloin and you won’t mistakenly shave off a bunch of meat and start griping about rising food prices). Triple-wrap 2 slices with plastic wrap and pound gently with the flat side of a mallet or a rolling pin (I use the bottom of a stainless steel spoon rest) until thin. Warning: This will make noise and everyone will stare at you. You can freeze these in packs of 2-4 for a quick weeknight dinner. They thaw very quickly and cook in only minutes per side.

Dinner Party Trick – Cook pork or turkey scallopini in advance and keep it warm in the oven while you prepare your sauce. Once the sauce is prepared, platter the meat in a neat little row and drizzle the sauce across the center just before serving. Warning: Do not try this with chicken or your chicken will dry out in the oven and you will be really really mad.

And of course, our dishes for the night:

Chicken al Bercy (white wine herb sauce)

Turkey Scaloppini with Smitane Sauce

Pork Cutlets with Fresh Portabella Marsala Wine Sauce

Apples with Brandy Butter Sauce (half-eaten…oops!)