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What to Serve with Steak: Grilling Side Dishes

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Side dishes with steak may be little more than an afterthought, but man cannot live on beef alone. Learn some easy grilling side dishes to serve with steak.

The perfectly aged steak, tender and fragrant and still fresh off the grill, hits your plate with an appetizing sizzle. Knife and fork at the ready, you prepare to make your first juicy cut…but wait! Something’s missing. Where’s the potato? The vegetable?

Yes, we know what some of you are saying: “Who needs veggies? This bad boy is all I need.” But remember what your mom (and your doctor) taught you about eating a balanced meal? Plus, the king of the plate deserves a wingman—something to showcase and complement its awesome flavor and make it look and taste better than it already does. It needs a side dish.

Side Dishes with Steak

When deciding what to serve with steak, remember to keep it simple. The steak is the star. A side dish should serve as a backdrop for the steak, not steal the show with overly spicy or complex flavors. Complementary flavors and textures include creamy (cheese, white sauces), acidic (lemon, tomato), “green” (salad, vegetables) and crunchy (crisp greens, fried potatoes). There are many others, but you get the picture.

Sometimes—especially if your meal includes a large steak like a T-bone or porterhouse—all you need is a salad. The crisp lettuce and acidic salad dressing give your plate variety in taste and texture, and you’re getting solid nutrition without a bunch of carbs to weigh you down and keep you from finishing that glorious cut of beef.

Caesar Salad

A Caesar salad is the go-to favorite for many a steak lover. The romaine lettuce provides the requisite crisp green contrast (and is more nutritious than the standard iceberg lettuce), the croutons lend extra crunch, the dressing adds a double shot of acidic lemon and tangy mustard, and Parmesan cheese and anchovies finish it off with a punch of umami.

Wedge Salad

This is, hands down, the classic steakhouse salad. With a base of crisp iceberg lettuce, there are no pretentions of being “healthy”, but it is quintessentially simple. In fact, no recipe is even needed:

  1. Cut a head of iceberg lettuce into quarters, leaving the root end intact so the leaves stay together.
  2. Top it off with the best, chunkiest blue cheese dressing you can buy (or make your own if you’re feeling cheffy).
  3. Sprinkle crisp, crumbled bacon over the top…and more crumbled blue cheese, if your dressing isn’t chunky enough).

That’s it! Your steak has now been properly complemented. Of course, the meat-and-potatoes crowd will disagree; a meal just isn’t a meal without those comforting carbs, especially if the steak is a sensibly petite filet mignon. If that’s the case, consider these steakhouse classics:

Steak-frites

You may have seen “steak frites” on a menu and assumed that they are special fries cut a certain way and meant to be eaten with steak, but this is not so. Frites is simply the French word for “fries”, and steak-frites—steak with fries—is practically the national dish of Belgium. (Yes, “french fries” are from Belgium, where French is one of the national languages.) This is not to say you should serve just any old fries with that great steak; rather than buying the pre-cut American-style fries at the supermarket, get out the bag of potatoes that’s been lying around the pantry, fire up the deep fryer and make some real Belgian fries.

Loaded Baked Potato

It doesn’t get more classically American than this. Each diner gets a large baked potato split open and stuffed with sour cream, chives, shredded cheese and crumbled bacon. Done. All you need to decide is whether or not to eat the skins (with more toppings, of course).

Macaroni and Cheese

Another classic—but don’t you dare serve your steak with the kids’ favorite from a box. Homemade mac and cheese is so good, especially made with real Wisconsin cheese and baked in a casserole. But if you really don’t want to invest the time, you can find gourmet-quality mac and cheese and other casseroles and side dishes online.

Creamed Spinach

One of the most popular side dishes with steak is a deviation from the carb-based favorites, although the cream sauce makes this vegetable decidedly decadent. Its “green” flavor and creamy sauce make it the perfect accompaniment to any steak, which is why this dish is found on nearly every steakhouse menu. This version is based on the one found at a high-end steakhouse.

Mac & Cheese

Grilling Side Dishes

If you’re grilling your steak, why not grill the side dish at the same time? Many a steak has been ruined because the grillmaster was busy in the kitchen tending to a side dish. Grilling side dishes keeps your focus on one spot—the grill—and saves energy, too.

Grilled Tomato Halves

Another steakhouse classic side dish, this is a must when tomatoes are at their peak in the summer. Start with red ripe beefsteak tomatoes, cut in half crosswise. Add a generous amount of minced garlic (4 or 5 cloves) to 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Preheat grill for high heat. Season cut sides of tomatoes with steak seasoning, brush with garlic-oil mixture and place on grill cut-side-down, for 3 to 5 minutes. Turn tomatoes cut-side-up, top with remaining garlic-oil mixture, and cook another 3 minutes with grill covered. Remove to plate and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves and Parmesan cheese to taste.

Vegetable Kebabs

You won’t find these on many menus, but they’re very easy and a great side dish for steak. Simply cut a jumbo yellow onion into wedges, cut a green and/or red bell pepper into chunks, and cut crimini mushrooms (aka “baby bellas”) in halves. Thread them, along with whole cherry tomatoes, onto flat metal skewers and grill on high heat, turning and brushing with the above garlic-oil mixture occasionally, while your steaks cook. Sprinkle with steak seasoning and serve a skewer or two with each steak.

Grilled Romaine Hearts

Though the prospect of hot lettuce may seem a bit weird to many people, we’re seeing these on more and more restaurant menus every day. This is fast becoming the new wedge salad…and it just doesn’t get any easier. Just slice romaine hearts (whole heads of romaine minus the outer dark green leaves) in half lengthwise, leaving root end intact so leaves stay together. Preheat grill for high heat and prepare garlic-oil mixture as above. Brush cut sides of romaine with garlic-oil mixture and grill cut-side-down for about 3 minutes, or until lettuce is lightly charred. Remove to plate and sprinkle with steak seasoning.

What to Drink with Steak

This one’s easy: red wine or hearty beer. It’s really just a matter of what you like, although society has gravitated toward certain styles over centuries of grueling research.

Besides simple personal choice, you may want to tailor your beverage selection to the relative ethnicity of your menu. The grilled tomato halves, for example, could be considered Italian or southern French in nature, so a Barolo or Chianti (Italian) or a Rhône or Bordeaux (French) might be in order. If you’re whipping up a tangy chimichurri sauce for your steak, go with its Argentinian playmate, malbec. And if you’re enjoying the Belgian classic steak-frites, nothing goes better with a steak and mountain of fries than a Belgian dubbel or Trappist ale. But here are the classic choices:

Red Wines

Cabernet sauvignon, Bordeaux, malbec, Barolo, Chianti, tempranillo, Rioja

Beers

Bock, brown ale, amber ale, dubbel, porter

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