Soul singer Grace Love grew up watching her mom cook Southern comfort foods, those lessons fueling a dream to open a restaurant. Before Grace could don a chef's coat, her musical career took off. She's performed at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem and recently received raves for her one-woman show, "Sex, Drugs and Rock and Soul." She and her band, Grace Love & The True Loves, are booking dates on their summer tour including an appearance at the Sasquatch Festival at The Gorge. They're played live on KEXP, Seattle's independent radio station known for launching big names like Macklemore. And she's been nominated for Earshot Jazz Northwest's vocalist of the year.

grace love cooking photo by Jackie Logan
Photo by Jackie Logan

Still, cooking is what Grace loves best. "Music and food are my heart and soul," she said. So, it's not surprising to learn she's moving toward opening her own place, a cafe with a mission: "I want to train homeless kids, give them some skills so they can go find jobs." It will be named after her late mother, Nadine, when she nails down the right spot.

Grace stopped by the Kitchen at Allrecipes' HQ in downtown Seattle recently to demo one of the dishes she'll include on the menu, a meltingly tender Smothered Steak. In the South, the term smothered usually refers to a river of gravy flowing on everything from hash browns and biscuits to fried chicken. But Grace uses smothered as another way of saying braised. She sautes the veggies before adding the chuck steak to brown, and then adds water (or veggie stock) before "smothering" the pan with a lid. The meat braises in the oven until the beef turns tender, about an hour. Before it's served, the lid is removed for a final 10 to 15 minutes. "You want it to get brown and crispy at the end," she said.

smothered steak
Photo by Leslie Kelly

She removes the meat to a platter and reduces the cooking liquid over high heat on the stove top, until it's thickened, adding a small sprinkle of unseasoned breadcrumbs to beef up the sauce. The dish is served family-style, on a platter, over steamed jasmine rice. It's one of those creations that perfumes the kitchen when it's in the oven, and tastes every bit as good as it smells. In other words, this Southern-style Smothered Steak hits all the right notes.