In Celebrity Recipes, we tackle a favorite recipe from a beloved star, past or present.
I’m not even a huge horror fan, but I love Vincent Price. The actor became famous for movies like House Of Wax, The Fly, and The Raven, but his long, well-rounded life offered so much more than numerous scares on the screen. His melodious voice was a perfect fit for radio, for example, adding menace to tales like “Three Skeleton Key,” in which a lighthouse gets swarmed by a carpet of rats escaping from a sinking ship (It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever heard). I also love when he pops up in non-horror parts, like in biblical takes like The Ten Commandments, or as the hopelessly corrupt playboy Shelby in the noir classic Laura. Even in his later years, he showed up everywhere from portraying the villainous Egghead on Batman to the narrator in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video to the mad scientist in Edward Scissorhands, his final film role.
Aside from his impressive career, Price’s vast array of interests made him a true renaissance man: He was a novelist, an appreciator of fine art, and a gourmet, producing a number of cookbooks in his lifetime. (He even made a fish dinner in a dishwasher on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.) So naturally, Vincent Price has been on my short list for this column for quite a while: It just took a while to select which recipe. I hope he would approve of my ultimate choice; I decided to tackle Steak Diane, which involves the ambitious undertaking of flambé. I have to say that the high flames sprouting out of my stovetop pan were truly terrifying; Price would have loved it.
While Steak Diane has been around for several decades, it had a resurgence in the mid-20th-century with the stylized penchant for flambéed food (cherries jubilee was also a big hit around this time). Price’s Steak Diane—in which a seared steak and shallot dish is doused with brandy and set on fire—was published in the National Enquirer as well as his own A Treasury Of Great Recipes. It’s a simple dinner that—with only a few ingredients and a bit of considerable flourish—yields a dish that couldn’t be more delicious if a chef was setting your food on fire tableside.
The key here is to purchase a high quality tenderloin for the steaks. Pound them down to about 1/3-inch thick. Price’s original recipe uses two pans: a side dish for the shallot and Worcestershire sauce, and the main pan for the flambéed steak. We switched the order around: Pan-sear salt-and-peppered steaks for less than three minutes on both sides (you can use The Takeout’s handy thermometer-less guide to test for doneness) in some butter. Remove the steak and add the Worcestershire sauce and shallots to the pan, sauté for a few moments, and then add the brandy. Carefully light the sauce on fire and once the flames die down, pour the sauce over the steak. We added some roasted brussel sprouts on the side and then demolished the best weekday dinner any of us had had in awhile. (Naturally, the kids created a chorus of “This Food Is On Fire,” inspired by Alicia Keys.)
That said, that tablespoon of brandy goes a long way (certainly the flames were higher than I was expecting), so be very, very careful, using a long lighter or piece of spaghetti to light the pan. The flaming sauce also may splatter, causing a bit of a mess. As long as nothing else in your kitchen goes ablaze (although dramatic, the flames die down very quickly), Steak Diane makes a delicious quick meal or an impressive gourmet trick for a date night. I promise you these dinner theatrics are worth it. (Cue Vincent Price’s delightful, menacing, iconic laugh.)
- 4 6 oz. sirloin steaks, pounded to about 1/3-inch thickness between wax paper
- 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 4 Tbsp. fine chopped shallots
- 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp. brandy
- Salt and fresh ground pepper
In large skillet, heat six tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat (reserve the two remaining tablespoons of butter). When it begins to brown, add pounded steaks seasoned with salt and pepper and cook for under 3 minutes on both sides.
Remove the steaks and then add the finely chopped shallots to the pan sauce and cook until lightly browned. Add the two remaining tablespoons butter and Worcestershire sauce and swirl the sauce around. Then add brandy and light the sauce on the pan with a long lighter or lit piece of spaghetti. When the flames die down, pour the shallot sauce over the steaks and sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley.