When it comes to entertaining, I tend to go a little overboard. I spend days pouring through recipes trying to find the perfect menu for whoever is coming over. So when it came time to host one of my favorite couples for a thank you dinner, I knew I couldn’t just serve them some pasta and call it quits. No, they needed something that would put some meat on their bones.

Steak and potatoes were the natural choice.<

Now I am not a big steak and potatoes kind of girl. I tend to avoid it, particularly when cooking. To be honest, I have never cooked a steak 100% by myself. I have assisted. I have put the steak in the pan and then left it for my husband to monitor. Yet I haven’t been brave enough to cook the steak from beginning to end. Why this irrational fear of cooking red meat? No idea. Probably stems from my fear of burning things.

>Not this time. I was determined. I had a goal and people to impress.

Somehow I didn’t set the kitchen on fire and I managed to time everything so perfectly that dinner was ready to serve 10 minutes after our guests walked through the door! I don’t know how I pulled it off, but me and my little polka dot apron made it through to the other side.

Grilled Balsamic and Garlic Flank Steak (from Food & Wine’s 2011 Annual Cookbook)

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove
1/2 tsp thyme leaves
One 2 1/2 pound flank steak
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a blender combine the vinegar, oil, garlic, and thyme; puree until smooth. In a large glass or ceramic dish, pour the marinade over the steak. Let stand for 5 minutes (I let it sit in the marinade for about 30 minutes since it really intensifies the balsamic flavor).

Preheat a grill pan. Season the steak with salt and pepper. Grill over moderately high heat, searing on both sides to lock in the flavors. Cook an additional 8 minutes per side or until medium (I went a little more medium rare as that’s my preference for flank steak). Transfer the steak to a board and let stand for 10 minutes. Slice the steak, transfer to plates (I recommend serving the slices on top of a bed of arugula), and serve.

Herbed New Potatoes (from Food & Wine’s 2011 Annual Cookbook)

5 pounds small red new potatoes, scrubbed
6 rosemary sprigs
6 thyme sprigs
4 garlic cloves, smashed
Kosher salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Add half of the rosemary, thyme, and garlic and season generously with salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and pat dry. Discard the herbs and garlic.

Am I the only one who never knew to boil potatoes before baking them? It was a revelation beyond words. These potatoes ROCK. I even ate the massive amount piled on my plate after promising that I wouldn’t eat them all and would give the remainder to one of our guests. (I know, I am a terrible hostess. Emily Post was rolling in her grave that night)

Cut the potatoes in half and transfer to a large bowl. Add the oil and crushed red pepper. Tear the remaining rosemary and thyme into 1-inch pieces and  add them to the bowl along with the remaining garlic. Season with salt and toss. Arrange the potatoes cut side down on 2 large rimmed baking sheets, add any herbs, garlic, and oil left in the bowl. Roast 25 minutes, until the potatoes are golden and crisp, shifting the pans halfway through. Discard the garlic and herbs. Transfer the potatoes to a platter, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

P.S. This is just Part One. Dessert to follow! Stay tuned…