It wasn’t until recently that my wife became fond of describing me as “meat and potatoes.” While some might take offense to that characterization, I took it as the compliment that it was intended to be. After all, I would genuinely be happy to eat some form of meat alongside some form of potato for the rest of my life.
However, not everyone respects the versatility and utility of the noble potato, and as a meat-and-potato kind of guy, I have no problem deferring to other people’s preferences. But what can you eat with steak besides potatoes?
Charred Brussels Sprouts and Sauteed Veggies
“Being a Midwestern dude, I grew up on steak and potatoes, too,” says professional chef and cookbook author Jim Mumford. “While delicious, it turns out a person’s insides may appreciate something other than red meat and white carbs 24/7.”
With that in mind, Mumford says his personal go-to side to pair with steak is charred Brussels sprouts. And that’s not just coming from a point of taste, “the science supports it,” he tells me. “The char on the sprouts pairs well with the grilled meaty flavors of the steak, while the grassy, bitter flavors contrast sharply, acting as a vegital palate cleaner.”
If you want to take that “dish to 11,” Mumford continues, “add a classic South American chimichurri sauce — the tangy and herb-laden condiment works wonderfully with both steak and sprout.”
Similarly, Brian Jupiter, executive chef at Chicago’s Ina Mae Tavern, offers that sauteed vegetables are a simple, easy pairing next to steak. “Add a bit of butter, garlic and thyme as the veggies soften to kick the flavor up a notch,” he tells me.
“Steak also loves acid, so serving a bright fruit salad with your T-bone might seem odd,” Mumford says, “but it pairs like a fine wine, bringing out the salty, umami notes of the meat.”
Professional chef and former restaurateur Sylvia Fountaine concurs: “Contrast is always important with side dishes. So if you have a rich cut of meat, you’ll want something with some texture and some acidity to bring balance to the plate. A citrus salad with dates and pistachios is a perfect complement to a filet or prime rib — the tangy, juicy citrus, sweet sticky dates and crunchy pistachios are super refreshing without distracting from the main dish.”
Mac ‘n Cheese
It’s also hard to go wrong with some cheese-covered pasta. “Another side steak enthusiasts could consider is the ultimate comfort food: baked mac ‘n cheese,” Jupiter offers. “Boil up some pasta and toss with an assortment of creamy, melted cheese, completing the masterpiece by topping with crispy breadcrumbs.”
For those aiming to replace potatoes with something particularly carb-friendly, Fountaine has you covered. “Potatoes have been the go to side because they’re cheap and neutral, and can take on any flavor you want,” she says. “But a great low-carb or keto alternative is butternut squash and leek gratin.” The squash and leeks make for a “vitamin boost” compared to the potatoes, she continues, “plus it adds beautiful color and an unexpected twist on a classic.”
“An unconventional side that would also work well for steak is hush puppies,” Jupiter tells me. “Though typically served as a side dish for seafood, the tender inside and crispy coating of hush puppies are perfect to mop up any remaining juices from the steak on your plate while satisfying your palate with the sweet and savory taste.”
Garlic Butter Rice
If you’re just lacking potatoes and need something to plate next to your steak that’s in your pantry, Jupiter says rice is an “excellent carb-complement.” “Cook your rice any way you like,” he says. “You can keep it simple by just adding a bit of butter, garlic, chicken broth and onion for a nice garlic butter rice, or perhaps you want more of a bright and zesty rice to which all you have to add is a bit of lemon juice, chicken broth, turmeric, butter and fresh herbs to top.”
If all else fails, Mumford’s got one more trick up his sleeve. “Going back to my Indiana roots, you can do as they do in every backwoods BBQ,” he says. “Just serve a nice, juicy piece of steak alongside of, you guessed it, another nice, juicy piece of steak.”