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Morton’s Moves Past Steak Fare

Morton’s newest cookbook goes beyond recipes for steaks. In fact, there really is something for everyone.

“Morton’s has a dual personality,— said Tylor Field, the steakhouse’s vice president of wine and spirits and co-author of “Morton’s the Cookbook,— on shelves last week.

As a bar destination, Morton’s features food and drink that is fun and light-hearted. As a restaurant destination, the steakhouse draws patrons looking for a great steak, with bottles of red wine flowing, he said. The cookbook, subtitled “100 Steakhouse Recipes for Every Kitchen,— tries to capture both of these feelings, offering more than a dozen steak recipes, as well as dishes from all over the culinary spectrum.

One of the reasons that this cookbook stands out is the combination of easy-to-make, four-ingredient recipes along with others that are aimed at more seasoned chefs.

In the former category, I tried making the New York strip steak and beefsteak tomato salad. Though it’s hard to qualify this as a salad — more a sandwich sans the bread — it really was easy to make and delicious; it made me crave August, when I will remake this with fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes instead of store-bought ones.

The baked onions with gruyere were amazingly simple to make with items that I already had at home, although it was just a bit time-consuming. The plated dish tasted just like a classic French onion soup and would make a fantastic first course for a nice sit-down dinner.

Another highlight of the book is the menus that it offers for different types of parties and events. With some modifications for the budget and guest list, the Summertime Grill Menu — consisting of gazpacho, Morton’s Two-Fisted Bacon Cheeseburger, Asian slaw, blue-cheese french fries, double chocolate mousse and port sangria — was set to grace my Memorial Day barbecue.

The photos in the book are also really good at letting you know what you’re in for and definitely make your mouth water, which is one of the reasons that D.L. Hughley’s favorite macaroni and cheese is soon going to be on my dining room table.

I like to think of myself as a pretty decent cook, but when you get to stuffing meats into other meats and creating Wellingtons, you start to lose me (and my precious time), but it just goes to show that there are “Recipes for Every Kitchen,— as the title suggests.

“The cookbook is more than just the menu,— Field said. It includes “items that have been tested or previously on the menu— and offers a great range of options. “This cookbook is meant to be more experiential— than your typical cookbook, he said.

The drinks really do win as “best supporting actor— in this cookbook, as nearly every entree, appetizer and salad comes with well-thought-out and explained beverage recommendations. The first chapter of the book, “Cocktails,— includes 17 wide-ranging recipes that feature nearly every kind of liquor and flavor combination, both sweet and savory.

Field — with the help of master mixologist Francesco Lafranconi — devised the cocktails, which include some of the steakhouse’s famous Mortinis, as well as everything from Bloody Marys to caipirinhas.

Many of the cocktails mention pairings, including a very-simple-to-make key lime margarita, which the book says “tastes great with any dish that is high in citrus, such as ceviche—; a fruity port sangria that is supposed to complement rich foods such as blue cheese; and a sazerac, which is made with smoky rye whiskey and should stand up to “spicy, full-flavored foods.—

For a good beverage and food pair, Field said the most important thing is to create balance. “You don’t want [the spirits] to overpower the dish, but at the same time, you don’t want the dish to overpower the drink, or there isn’t a marriage,— he said. The key, Field advised, is to either blend flavors, like a rich red wine with lots of tannins to cut the fat of a steak, or you can contrast flavors, like a plum sweet wine with spicy food.

“We think vodka is just the thing to drink with steak and we especially like it with steak tartar,— says the introduction to the recipe for iced vodka with sirloin garnish, and yes, the cocktail (or glorified shot) is served with raw beef. “The icy cold vodka never masks the flavor of the seasoned meat and cuts through the fat like a sleek knife.—

Some of the recipes offer unique tricks, such as creating an ice bucket to keep your vodka bottle cold; however, some of the tricks involve going out and buying fancy equipment. Two of the cocktails require a whip cream canister charged with a nitrous oxide cream charger and another calls for elderflower liqueur, which could be hard to find.

The final added bonus of the book comes from the “celebrity clips— sprinkled throughout. They are often-hilarious looks into what the Hollywood elite like to order and, in some cases, where the inside-the-Beltway celebs insist on sitting. At the Connecticut Avenue location, for instance, Larry King “likes— to dine at booth 10, where a painting of him hangs directly overhead, and orders the Morton’s Chopped Salad, “chopped fine,— along with breaded swordfish, which is no longer on the menu but is in the cookbook.

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