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Restaurant Favorites Can Be Resurrected with Copycat Recipes

The Philadelphia Eagles weren’t the only ones that loved the Super Bowl. A conversation among friends around the party food table produced a tip to reduce fat and calories; revived memories of departed restaurants and resulted in the resurrection of recipes reminiscent of the aforementioned eateries. It was a pleasant night for all, including the Super Bowl LII champions.

First, a friend asked everyone to try her cheese ball. Turns out, she was testing us to see if we detected anything different. When the taste test turned up nothing new, she let us in on a secret. Greek cream cheese instead of the regular kind was used in the tasty appetizer. The consensus was overwhelmingly positive. Besides its delicious taste, Greek cream cheese has four times more protein and 50% less fat than the plain variety. Other positive facts include less sodium, cholesterol and calories. I’ll definitely pick up a bar the next time I make a cheese ball, dip or other dish requiring cream cheese.

The conversation soon turned to everyone’s favorite restaurant dishes from the past. Some of the restaurants relocated; others shut their doors forever. Many of the restaurants and their signature dishes were once located in Jackson. My mouth watered as friends discussed Bennigan’s famous Monte Cristo Sandwich; Shoney’s breakfast bar, hot fudge sundae, and strawberry pie, and Steak and Ale’s filet mignon and stuffed baked potatoes. Ironically, all three were among the first restaurants I visited upon moving to Jackson years ago. It’s sad they're now gone and most likely won’t return.

One of my favorite restaurant dishes of the past is Western Sizzlin’s sirloin tips. Before you judge me, let me explain. At one time, the steakhouse chain was one of only a handful of restaurants located near me. When meeting friends for a meal, I always ordered the sirloin tips. It’s a delicious dish composed of marinated, grilled steak bites, caramelized onions and crispy strips of bell peppers. By ordering “just a bite” of juicy steak and sauteed vegetables, I didn’t feel guilty about the health consequences or overwhelmed by a large piece of meat.

It’s easy to be a restaurant snob, defined as someone who doesn’t admit dining anyplace other than fine dining establishments. However, I believe you miss out on some food treasures when you do this.

For example, party talk veered onto everyone’s favorite Cracker Barrel dishes. Obviously I’ve been missing out by not sampling the down-home restaurant’s “crispy” pancakes and other breakfast dishes; chicken and dumplings; country fried steak and gravy; baked apples and potatoes, both the hash brown and baked varieties.

On Monday, a friend emailed me a copycat version of my favorite sirloin tips dish. I received similar recipes of Steak and Ale’s marinade and Bennigan’s Monte Cristo Sandwich. If you’d like these two, drop me an email and I’ll share them. In the meantime, pull out the cast-iron skillet and get ready for a light steak dinner you’ll never forget. Who cares if it’s not from a five-star steakhouse? It’s still delicious!

Steakhouse Sirloin Tips, Peppers, and Onions

3 pounds sirloin steak

1/3 cup Teriyaki or other marinade sauce

1/4 cup light brown sugar

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan

2 tablespoons Italian seasoning or your favorite seasoning

2-3 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons steak seasoning

1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin pieces

1 green bell pepper, sliced into thin pieces

1 large sweet onion, cut into small wedges

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Turn oven to broil on low. Cut the rinsed and dried sirloin steak into 1-inch pieces. In a separate bowl, whisk together teriyaki sauce or other marinade sauce, brown sugar, olive oil, Italian or other seasoning, minced garlic and red pepper flakes. Place into a plastic storage bag, toss to coat pieces, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Following this step, remove the sirloin tips from the marinade. Do not reuse the marinade.

Add enough olive oil to a large cast iron or heavy skillet to lightly coat the surface and heat over medium-high heat. Add the sirloin tips. Cook for 5-7 minutes until browned or to preferred level of doneness. Season with one teaspoon of the steak seasoning; stirring to coat pieces. Move meat to a platter to rest.

Add a teaspoon or two of olive oil to the skillet and add the prepared vegetables. Season with remaining teaspoon of steak seasoning and add black pepper to taste. If vegetables start to stick, add additional olive oil. Cook for 5-6 minutes while scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Cook until caramelized and crisp tender.

Add the sirloin beef tips back to the skillet, stir to combine with vegetables and place under the oven broiler for a few minutes until heated and slightly crispy, being careful not to burn. Remove from oven, let stand for a few minutes and serve.

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