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Profile: Personal Chef Stacy Conery

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    Stacy Conery
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    Stacy's dogs
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    Rib Eye Steak With Sautéed Vegetables, Sweet Potato Mash and Gorgonzola Cream Sauce
  • 4/20
    Rib Eye Steak With Sautéed Vegetables, Sweet Potato Mash and Gorgonzola Cream Sauce
  • 5/20
    Brush the steak with the olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.
  • 6/20
    Place the steak in the skillet, and cook it for exactly 30 seconds. Flip the steak over, and cook it on the other side for another 30 seconds.
  • 7/20
    Remove the steak from the skillet, and place it on a wire rack with a drip pan underneath.
  • 8/20
    Heat the butter in a medium-size skillet. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring constantly, until soft, about 1 minute.
  • 9/20
    Pour in the stock and cook, whisking frequently, until it thickens and reduces by half, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • 10/20
    Whisk in the heavy cream and simmer for 1 minute
  • 11/20
    Turn the heat off and stir in the cheese.
  • 12/20
    Add the bacon to the skillet and, using tongs, cook on medium-high heat on both sides until brown and crisp
  • 13/20
    Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
  • 14/20
    Saute garlic and onion, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes
  • 15/20
    Add the peppers and mushrooms and sauté, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • 16/20
    Stir in the corn and tomatoes and sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes.
  • 17/20
    Add the spinach and 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings. Sauté until the spinach has wilted.
  • 18/20
    Place the potatoes in a medium-size heavy pot and cover with water.
  • 19/20
    Add the butter, coconut milk and cream, and mash until smooth.
  • 20/20
    Stir in the honey and rosemary, and season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Text, photos and food cooked by Michal Martinek

Sep 15, 2015

Print this recipe

Stacy Conery is a very good cook. “I want to show you something before we start,” she said recently, bringing me to a wall in the hallway of her cozy home in Poway, a town located 23 miles north of San Diego.

She pointed at a framed photograph. In it, a black and white killer whale, the size of a moving van, was captured in all its colossal beauty, darting upward out of a wide pool. Next to its head, frozen mid-air and somersaulting many feet high above the water, was a human figure in a wetsuit.

“That’s me,” Stacy said, going on to describe a decade-long job as a dolphin and whale trainer at San Diego’s Sea World. She performed dazzling tricks with the mammals and learned to understand some of their language—a compilation of complex squeaks, squawks and clicks.

We moved to Stacy’s newly redone kitchen—a sleek oasis of stainless steel surfaces, practical cooking gadgets, a sizable cooking island and restaurant-size refrigerator—and talked about her bucolic childhood and how she launched her burgeoning culinary career.

She spent her formative years—between five and 12—on a ranch in Montana. Her parents moved there from San Diego with Stacy and her brother to lead a simpler, more sustainable life.

“I loved it,” she said. “I rode my horse to school every day, and there were only five kids total.” They raised rabbits, chickens, sheep, goats and pigs, and they hunted for pheasants, elk and deer. They built their own barn, too, using wood from their property. Her mother was a talented gardener who was big on canning, pickling and making jam.

“My father was a great and creative cook,” remembered Stacy. “He would make cream of wheat, pour it in a bread pan, let it firm up, and then slice it and pour syrup on top. Simple and delicious.”

A love for animal training aside—she also worked with elephants at the San Diego Zoo—Stacy’s lifelong curiosity about cooking led her to enroll in the San Diego Culinary Institute, where she trained to become a chef. She graduated several years ago and now has her hands full of exciting projects. She ticked them off: she bakes and decorates custom cakes, she cooks paleo and vegetarian meals and delivers them to clients, she serves as a personal chef to a teenage girl who suffers from celiac disease, and she teaches cooking.

But her ultimate goal is to move to Maui, Hawaii, and open an upscale bed and breakfast.

“It is my favorite place on earth,” said Stacy. “It feels like home to me. Plus, I need to be near water. I’m like a mermaid.”

Age 47 — Hometown San Diego native! — Where do you live? Poway—the city in the country — Occupation Culinary & Pastry Chef — Signature dish Prosciutto wrapped asparagus with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce — Who taught you how to cook? My French teacher Sam Geoffroy at the San Diego Culinary Institute — Favorite kitchen tool Garlic smasher — Always in your pantry Prosciutto and goat cheese — Go-to snack Prosciutto and goat cheese! — Favorite cuisine French — Do you diet? No. I eat REAL food—no refined sugar or processed food — Food addictions Sushi — Food allergies None — Food fad pet peeve Self-diagnosed gluten-free people, and vegans and vegetarians — Who’s your sous chef? My kids Hana and Chris — Drinking while cooking? Iced coffee — What’s for dinner tonight? Fresh caught tuna from my friend Captain Mike — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? No, but I've cried over creme anglaise — Best meal you ever had The Breakfast Saddlebag—scrambled eggs, potatoes, sausage, green chillies, and cheddar wrapped in a puffed pastry, and served on country gravy. I had it at Sykes Diner in Kalispell, Montana. Their cinnamon rolls were also more amazing than I could describe.

Rib Eye Steak With Sautéed Vegetables, Sweet Potato Mash and Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

Let’s not focus on your waistline or your coronary status for a moment. This exquisite dish is for all the unapologetic gourmands, dedicated hedonists, and comfort food lovers, who yearn for nothing more than to sit down to a seared hunk of juicy beef, accompanied by a lusciously buttery sweet potato mash and bacon-infused sautéed vegetables, and topped with a suicidally rich cheese sauce.

Completely unpretentious and very homey, it is nevertheless composed of four well-tuned, flawlessly seasoned, restaurant-quality components, each fantastic and satisfying on their own. In other words, if you’re pressed for time, you can just make the steak and the potato mash, or just the steak and the vegetables, and you wouldn’t be hungry or disappointed.

Stacy told me she cooks it about once a month and that it’s her favorite—classic American recipes she put a spin on and made her own. 

O

  1. Serves 2
  2. 1 18–22 ounce bone-in rib eye steak (1½ inches thick)
  3. Olive oil
  4. Salt
  5. Black pepper, freshly ground

1

Bring the meat to room temperature 1 hour before cooking.

2

Place a cast-iron skillet or a heavy, ovenproof pan in the oven, and preheat it to 475–500 degrees. Brush the steak with the olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.

3

Turn a stovetop burner on high heat, very carefully remove the preheated skillet from the oven, and place it on the burner. Place the steak in the skillet, and cook it for exactly 30 seconds. Flip the steak over, and cook it on the other side for another 30 seconds.

4

Transfer the skillet with the steak to the oven and cook for exactly 2 minutes. Carefully remove the skillet, flip the steak over, put it back in the oven, and cook for another 2 minutes. This timing cooks the steak medium-rare in the middle; cook each side a little longer in the oven if you prefer it more done.

5

Remove the steak from the skillet, and place it on a wire rack with a drip pan underneath. Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Reserve the juices from the drip pan for the Gorgonzola Cream Sauce (optional).

Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

O

  1. Serves 4
  2. 2 tablespoons clarified butter
  3. 2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
  4. 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  5. 2 cups beef stock
  6. ½ cup heavy cream
  7. 1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (about 5 ounces)
  8. Salt
  9. Black pepper, freshly ground
  10. 1 tablespoon chives, finely chopped

1

Heat the butter in a medium-size skillet. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring constantly, until soft, about 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for another 2 minutes. Pour in the stock and cook, whisking frequently, until it thickens and reduces by half, about 8–10 minutes.

2

Whisk in the heavy cream and simmer for 1 minute. If using, add the reserved drippings from cooking the steak. Turn the heat off and stir in the cheese. Mix well and let the cheese melt. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Serve poured over the steak, sprinkled with the chives.

Sautéed Vegetables With Bacon

O

  1. Serves 4
  2. 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  3. 5 slices bacon
  4. 2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
  5. ½ cup yellow onion, peeled, finely diced (about 1 small onion)
  6. 1 red bell pepper, destemmed, seeded, cut into ¼-inch strips
  7. 1 yellow bell pepper, destemmed, seeded, cut into ¼-inch strips
  8. 1 cup mushrooms, caps only, thinly sliced
  9. 1 cup fresh or frozen corn
  10. ¼ cup oil-packed sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  11. 2 cups packed fresh spinach
  12. Salt
  13. Black pepper, freshly ground

1

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet. Add the bacon and, using tongs, cook on medium-high heat on both sides until brown and crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Place another piece of paper towel on top of the bacon and let drain. Carefully pour the excess fat into a small bowl and wipe the skillet clean.

2

In the same skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved bacon drippings. Add garlic and onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the peppers and mushrooms and sauté, stirring frequently, for 2–3 minutes. Stir in the corn and tomatoes and sauté for another 1–2 minutes. Add the spinach and 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings. Sauté until the spinach has wilted.

3

Cut the bacon into small pieces and add to the mixture. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Sweet Potato Mash

O

  1. Serves 2–4
  2. 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  3. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  4. 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  5. ¼ cup heavy cream
  6. 1 tablespoon honey
  7. 1 tablespoon rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped
  8. Salt
  9. Black pepper, freshly ground
  10. Fresh parsley to garnish (optional)

1

Place the potatoes in a medium-size heavy pot and cover with water. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium and simmer until tender, about 10–12 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

2

Add the butter, coconut milk and cream, and mash until smooth. Stir in the honey and rosemary, and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley.

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