Retail Therapy & a Big Hunk

08Apr10

In case my first post about bacon didn’t give it away, most of what will be posted here will not be pleasing to vegetarians and vegans.

I love a good hunk of meat.  (Insert inevitable innuendo here.)

I bring this up because in my kitchen there is a rib eye steak from Prather Ranch, well salted and getting happy.  He and I are gonna have us a little sit down soon.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with retail therapy?  Without getting into too much detail, I was in the City earlier and wound up…all wound up.  My friends bless their hearts, listened as great friends will and said “You deserve a nice pair of shoes before you go home.”  I laughed but didn’t really think that was going to help this time.  (Besides, I just got a great pair 2 months ago…)  Fast forward some more and I’ve power walked all the way down Market St. to the Embarcadero.  I took some great mental photos of the new Embarcadero Zip Line (free until April 18th), mid-week tourists, skater kids and local eye candy.  After sitting and watching the ferries for a bit, I rang up Mr. G who works nearby and humored me for a Blue Bottle Mocha.  He also endorsed the retail therapy idea, but I said “You know, all I can really go for right now is a big steak.”

I knew deep down that Prather would have what I wanted, but I obligingly went to Golden Gate first, just to check.  They do have a LOT of great things (some of the best lamb sausage around!!), but today wasn’t the day.  Cowgirl Creamery pit stop for more Lamb Chopper and a couple of new goodies, then finally the MEAT STORE.  Is it wrong that I love the way that sounds?  It’s just so right!  After a nice chat with the Meat Man (I forgot to ask for his name!), I picked my prize:  A 1.2 lb cut of marbled beefy goodness.  And as soon as I said “this one please” I honestly felt better.  I smiled for the first time all day.

Mr. G. brought up something I hadn’t thought about in a long time: the scariness of cooking a “big piece of meat.”  “Easy to screw up” and “expensive” are definitely not terms that are nice to group together.  And people are still buzzing about this week’s “Techniques” episode of No Reservations, which included Les Halles’ côte de boeuf (double-cut rib steak … W-O-W).  Everything Tony said NOT to do, I or someone in my family had done once (or more) back in the day: cooked it while it was still a little cold, cooked it too long (I may never unlock the mystery of 7 minutes per side), flipped it too much, and yes the worst — cut into it before it had fully rested.  Luckily, I have entered my 30s with barely enough knowledge to treat a big hunk of meat with love and respect.  And I’m still learning!! In honor of Mrs. G., I’m going to attempt a step-by-step on “My Perfect Steak” in its simplest (yet detailed) form, so that perhaps Mr. G will have the courage to cook her a Big Piece of Meat!

For those who think I’m nuts, ask the Lobel family (butchers extraordinaire) or Jaden Hair (one of my favorite food bloggers & a TV personality based in Tampa).  Or scroll down.  Either way, enjoy!

My Perfect Steak (the indoor version)

4 Ingredients:
Steaks (I prefer rib eye, aka Scotch fillet/entrecôte/Delmonico…everyone’s got their preference. But if you can, buy it from somewhere that has an actual human being behind the counter.  It really helps!  The most expensive one is not always the best!)

Good salt (i.e. Kosher, Maldon, fleur de sel.  I rarely use iodized salt for marinating meat because it just makes things saltier.  Yes I realize how lame that sounds.  But if you don’t believe me, taste 1/8 tsp of table salt versus 1/8 of any other salt.  Or just read this.)  There are many other things which can be used to season/marinate a steak, and I’m not averse to them.  But for now, let’s keep it simple.

Butter (The Real Deal Holyfield!  I enjoy Smart Balance as much as the next girl, but PLEASE treat your steak better than this!  Otherwise, you’ll deal with the bubble and squeak of cooking all the things in your butter substitute that make it “healthier”.)

Olive Oil (Don’t waste your good Extra Virgin on this, just Originale or Light will do fine.  But if XV is what you’ve got on hand, don’t go shopping.)

What to do:

Take your meat out of the fridge at least an hour before you have to cook it.  (Seriously!)  Pat the steaks dry with a sturdy paper towel, because the last thing you want to see are remnants of a cheap napkin or towel stuck to your steak!  Transfer to a platter or plate where they can hang out before cooking.

Season LIBERALLY with the salt, sprinkling from a few inches above.  Please FIGHT the urge to just shake whatever shaker or container your salt is in over the meat.  Get primal, get visceral, just do it!  I wish I could tell you “one tablespoon per pound” or some kind of tried-and-tested magic number, but IMO that doesn’t exist.  You want to be able to SEE the sprinkled salt create an even coating before it melts.  If you’re really unsure, just start with 1/2 a teaspoon per side, per steak and work your way up. (*Note! This is a variation from Jaden’s recipe above, calling for a thick layer of salt, which is to be rinsed off after 15 minutes or more.  I have no problem whatsoever with that method, which by the way is yummy & very well researched.)

Don’t be afraid to hold the meat!  It’s the perfect way to make sure that the sides of your steak catch all the extra salt that ended up on the plate.  But alternatively, use a pair of tongs and handle gently.  PLEASE DO NOT use a fork, unless it’s your goal to create little holes for your steak’s juices to escape.

Then comes your first test: walk away.  Cover the steak(s) with plastic wrap for safety if needed, but that’s it.  Don’t poke it, flip it…nada.  For at least 30 minutes.  Chances are there’s a Friends rerun showing somewhere, watch at least one. :-)

Then and only then, put a cast-iron or other heavy-bottom, oven-safe skillet on the stove, and preheat between medium-high and high til it’s HOT.  For me, I’ve got an electric stove (sigh), so it takes about 10 minutes.  No joke!  While that’s going on, take out whatever you’re storing in the oven & get the top rack to the 2nd-3rd position from the top.  You want to make sure there’s adequate space between the pan and the top of the oven/oven coil. Preheat to 375 degrees.

Pat the steaks dry again on all sides, the salt has drawn out some moisture from the meat.  (Don’t be scared!)

If you have a brush (basting or pastry), pour out some XV oil into a small bowl & brush the steaks with it on all sides.
If you don’t have a brush, you can drizzle oil lightly on the steaks or coat the pan CAREFULLY with oil by first taking it off the heat.  I’ve done both, and while the latter does make things smoky you’re about to see a whole lot more.  (Get your fan on & windows open!)

Gently lay the steak(s) into the pan. Important to remember! 1) Lay them down going away from you (aka closest side to you down first) to minimize splatter or oil pops — trust me. 2) Do not, do not, do NOT crowd the pan.  Your average cast-iron skillet will fit 2 steaks comfortably with plenty of space around  each one.  You need that space to cook properly, unless gorgeous carmelization isn’t your thing & you want to steam your steak. ;-)

Once the meat is down, leave it the *beep* alone for 2-3 minutes.  I say 2-3 because it depends on the thickness of your steak.  I highly recommend consulting the Lobel’s chart, which is pretty universal & has never steered me wrong.  And I’m talking about a true medium rare steak, which I feel is the only way to go.  (Feel free to email me your thoughts on gray meat.)  So walk away, but don’t go far.  This would be a good time to get the butter out, if it isn’t already.

After the appropriate time, use your tongs and flip the steaks.  They should come away from the pan without resistance – if they don’t, give it another 15-30 seconds.  Avoid the urge to use a spatula!  You can spend the next 2-3 minutes patting yourself on the back for the beautiful sear yo got on that steak!  When you’re done (don’t get too excited yet) put the whole skillet/pan into the oven on the rack you set up earlier.  Use a timer to make sure you don’t overcook the meat in there!!!!

Along with the timer, you can hedge your bets by taking the temperature of the steaks in the center.  130-140 degrees Fahrenheit for medium rare.  Transfer them to a (serving) plate and cover with foil for 5 minutes.

In our house, everyone gets their own steak or half of one.  So to serve, I say pick your (well-rested) steak, top with some butter and grab your side dishes!

P.S. — Fancy things to enhance your steak… to be discussed another day or better explained by others on the Internet:

–Make a compound butter to top the steak with — I like adding smoked salt , garlic confit, dried tarragon.  Florentines will extol the lovely pairing of rosemary and a good steak as well.  Jamie Oliver put me on the right path w/that during his “Naked Chef” days (OMG, 10 years ago?!) and I love it!  (Wish I could get those eps on DVD, but there’s always YouTube and my TiVo server, LOL)
–Toss some sliced mushrooms into the pan; their inherent water content will come out and make magic!
–Deglaze the pan with liquid (stock, wine) and butter to make a sauce out of those delectable brown bits — but if your bits are closer to black than brown, pour the wine into a glass instead & save the butter for your bread/rice/side of choice
–Have some fun with Magic Butter (beurre monté)
–Sprinkle minced chive over the top before serving — it’s a wonder what a little green can do!

The Great Reward

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One Response to “Retail Therapy & a Big Hunk”

  1. Quote of the year:

    I love a good hunk of meat.


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