How to transport a steak dinner?
September 16, 2019 9:48 AM   Subscribe

How does a lone person grill a steak dinner and transport to a nursing home? (Snowflake details under the fold)

I am going last minute down to the states to take care of a friend's (Friend A) sick dogs while she is away for the weekend. In the meantime we also have a 70+ friend (Friend B) who is in nursing home/rehab after a six week hospital stay. Friend A told Friend B that I am coming, and as I often cook for folks while there, she should decide what I should make for her. To up the challenge, Friend B said a steak dinner would be delightful (I have made these at both friends' homes in the past).

I am a bit unhappy with the way this has all unfolded - I am not a dog person and taking care of sick ones is definitely something I'm doing as a big favour for Friend A (not to mention I have to rent a car and drive a few hours to get there). Friend A volunteered me to cook without asking me first. I would not have volunteered myself because the way we have made dinners work in the past is Friend A helps clean up, lay the table or transport, etc. And I *certainly* would not have volunteered a steak dinner to bring to an institution (about 15 minute drive away). Just imagining pulling it together while dealing with sickly dogs is depressing me a bit.

But the deed is done, and I will accept any and all advice on the best way to pull this off. I am thinking of doing one large steak that can rest and will hold heat while being transported, and then slicing and serving at the home (there is a small "family room" with a table that can be used when relatives visit). I would make potato packets which have been a hit before and would definitely hold heat and travel. I need to add some sort of vegetable (she will eat them if I make them for her, and I feel a need to get nutrition into her). Her not-useful husband will likely meet me there.

Specific requests: vegetable, how to manage using an outdoor grill, transporting the food, dealing with dogs (probably need to be let out one more time just before I leave), etc. I know I could say I won't do this at all, but the poor woman is now looking forward to a steak dinner after so much institutional food, I feel an obligation to try.
posted by obliquity of the ecliptic to Food & Drink (19 answers total)
I would use a decent-quality cooler to transport. They hold heat as well as cold, after all. Probably undercook the steak a touch so that it doesn't turn all grey in transport.

For the veggies, there's no shame in buying a prepared dish from a nice nearby supermarket. It will still be yoinks better than institutional food, and it sounds like she's focused on the steak, anyway.
posted by praemunire at 9:59 AM on September 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Does it HAVE to be you who cooks it? Could it be a really delicious restaurant meal you pick up on the way to the nursing home?

Your plate just sounds so full. You're already crossing international borders to do these favors, if I read it correctly.
posted by dywypi at 10:00 AM on September 16, 2019 [27 favorites]

1. Light grill.
2. Take care of dogs' indoor needs while letting steak come up to room temp. Season heavily with salt & pepper. Toss a large bunch of asparagus in a gallon ziploc bag with copious salt and olive oil. Make potato packets.
3. Let dogs out, put steak and asparagus on grill.
4. Bring dogs in, clean up inside.
5. Take steak and asparagus off grill, wrap separately in foil, throw in insulated lunch box.
6. Turn off grill, let steak "rest" on the ride, it will all be great.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:01 AM on September 16, 2019 [7 favorites]

(I feel complelled to add, though it is probably obvious to any cook, the steak and asparagus will likely be done at different times, but either one can handle a couple of minutes of over or under cooking without being ruined, in case the dogs steal your attention away from the grill at times.)
posted by Rock Steady at 10:08 AM on September 16, 2019

You can mix carrots in with the grilled potato packets and cover both your potatoes and veggies in one convenient dish.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:14 AM on September 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Honestly, I would reinterpret your mandate as involving room temperature steak strips (salad, sandwiches, burritos), or something like cube steak that's good cooked well-done. Otherwise you're going to make yourself miserable.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:14 AM on September 16, 2019 [5 favorites]

I think your plan for cooking a large steak that will hold the heat is good. You want it to rest for around ten minutes anyway. Just wrap it in foil and stick it in a small cooler as Rock Steady suggests.

There's nothing wrong with a room-temperature vegetable dish. Toss some asparagus with a vinaigrette or something. A green salad also would work. And just skip the potatoes and buy some nice bread from whatever local bakery is available. That way you don't have to worry about cooking anything at the last minute except the steak.
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 10:54 AM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Why does it have to be done on a grill? Just cook two steaks indoors, package each one in an aluminum take-away container with potatoes and broccoli, and drop it off. You don't have to stay and you certainly don't need to bust out the outdoor grill, which you then have to clean? No thank you.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:57 AM on September 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

"Hey A, I'm finding myself feeling overwhelmed and need your help. If you can prep everything and leave it in the fridge for me along with instructions, I'd be happy to put in the oven and drive it over to B.

(optional) Here's a recipe and shopping list that might be suitable, but of course you've always been the rockstar with meal planning."
posted by dum spiro spero at 11:06 AM on September 16, 2019 [5 favorites]

For the veg, I suggest steamed haricots verts in a vinaigrette. It's fine if they are still warm after being transported in the cooler which is now a warmer, but they are also excellent at room temp and they keep well, even to the next day, so you could make them at any time.
I think I'd do the steak and potatoes on the stovetop, rather than light up the grill, but that is maybe an individual choice. If the dogs can have their run in the garden while you manage the grill, I can see how it would work well.
Your friend obviously thinks it'll be ok for you to leave the dogs for an hour or more while bringing food to your other friend. So don't stress too much about them. My dog only needs to go out twice a day, when he is sick it may be four or five times, but definitely not all the time.
posted by mumimor at 11:10 AM on September 16, 2019

I think you are very kind to do this. If you've got a few bucks more than you have time and energy, I'd find the steakhouse closest to the nursing home and get some take out. It will probably include some vegetable and potato. I would also bring another bag, like a cloth bag, so it wasn't totally obvious that it was take out (like, I would use the plastic restaurant bag to carry it in).

Your older friend likely doesn't realize what a big request this is.

I also suspect a really good burger would go over well too, and would like be a lot cheaper.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:14 AM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

For the veggies, there's no shame in buying a prepared dish from a nice nearby supermarket.

Exactly, I think you've extended yourself graciously in agreeing to take care of dogs, renting a car, and agreeing to this meal. Now you're done extending yourself and you can just try to meet the letter of the rest of the requirements.

If it were me I'd be doing that "Braise a good steak in a cast iron pan and then put the whole pan in the oven" trick. I'd tell the not-useful husband it's on him to bring a bottle of wine, or something your friend can have that will be a nice accompaniment (maybe even some tablewear from home, don't want to get too fancy but maybe he can contribute?) and then maybe get a good cold side salad that your friend can eat (beets and gorgonzola? tabouleh? something that you can just buy and put on a plate).

Sick dogs will probably just loaf around. If they have stomach troubles, take them out often but realize that you're mostly there in case of emergencies and if one of them pukes or poops in the house, it's a pain, but not something that required OMG CLEAN UP attention.

You're being a good friend. Don't make this harder on yourself than it has to be.
posted by jessamyn at 11:41 AM on September 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

It's also fine to tell Friend A that it's too much for you to rent a car, drive several hours, pet sit for sick animals, and plan and pull off a dinner (cooking on a strange grill no less!) for Friend B. Ask Friend A to let Friend B know that you'll come for a visit, but that the cooking and bringing dinner part is something that Friend A will do for Friend B when they return from the weekend.

Friend A is clearly a good friend if you're doing all of this for them. It's fine to be honest with them about how volunteering you for a pretty big extra without even asking you is not a comfortable thing for you and that you expect that they'll go back and fix this and take responsibility for pulling off this extravaganza. If you and Friend A feel an obligation, I'd let Friend A know that if they leave some money and a recommended steak house to order take out from, you'll bring the meal over to Friend B and visit. I hope that Friend A is already paying for the car rental and travel costs. This is already a very big ask.
posted by quince at 12:30 PM on September 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

What we do at home when we feel too lazy to cook veg is cook up a cast-iron ribeye and some oven taters and sell it as STEAK AND FRITES. I understand the desire to cook a vegetable but honestly either the facility or her husband can do that.

And you're being a really tremendously generous and gracious friend.
posted by stellaluna at 12:33 PM on September 16, 2019

Will Friend A be home in time to help you do this on Sunday instead?
posted by kate4914 at 1:42 PM on September 16, 2019

Friend B is a friend in need; institutional food is generic, usually watery, unseasoned. Steak and tasty veg will be a huge gift. Nursing homes can be so sad, they smell weird. I'd mention to Friend A that you felt conscripted and would prefer to make such plans yourself. Also Applebees and other restaurants sell perfectly fine steak dinners to go and Fried A can deliver to Friend B.

Trader Joes has frozen haricots verts, steam, add butter and garlic salt. Steak(sirloin tips are easy), potatoes in packets with onion (can be made at home). Buy a couple single servings of red wine unless it's really not okay. A chocolate truffle, too, or maybe a frozen apple pie to cook. Thank you for being a friend despite being quite reasonably resentful.
posted by theora55 at 4:01 PM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

A baked potato in a cooler would also hold heat pretty well and is a great part of a steak dinner. It's decently easy and hands off, so would transport pretty well.
posted by Carillon at 5:29 PM on September 16, 2019

Easy vegetable option for transport: creamed spinach goes well with steak and looks fancy, but is actually dead easy, especially if you are already making baked potatoes. Would even be fine made ahead and microwaved before you bring over.
posted by veery at 3:47 PM on September 17, 2019

I want to thank everyone for the advice and kind words. In the end Friend A suggested we do the dinner thing the afternoon I arrive (Before they leave) when she and her husband are around to help. I will send a grocery list ahead and they will shop. I will be taking the excellent advice regarding the meal itself. So a combination of everyone's responses will be enacted.
posted by obliquity of the ecliptic at 5:15 PM on September 17, 2019 [6 favorites]

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