Quest for the perfect steak
Never cooked a proper steak? Neither have I. Let's learn together.
How to cook a perfect steak? This is a phrase I typed into my Google search box again and again. All because of being suddenly faced with two big chunks of meat and a challenge to cook them in the sweep-me-off-my-feet way. Something like a hundred web pages later I was ready to begin the experiment. This page is a step-by-step report from my quest for the perfect steak dinner.
Photos by Tiggered
My steaky story
Oh well, I’d better say it sooner rather than later. I’ve never made a steak in my life, until now. You may consider me totally backwards, but I don’t think I’ve eaten one, either (when I think about it, this may prove an advantage – if my steak turns to be crappy, I may remain blissfully unaware of this fact because I have nothing to compare it to).
Why, then, bother with steak making all of sudden?
Reason 1: My partner is a total carnivore for whom sight of a thick chunk of red meat is always extremely exciting.
Reason 2: What, shall I cower in fear of an ordinary steak? It’s time to take the bastard on!
Steak making for dummies
Steak making seems to involve plenty of maths.
Apparently, steak meat needs to be aged for AT LEAST 21 days (at 35 it’s getting good).
Then there’s salting (if you decide to go for it – I’ll explain later) – time, amount of salt and thickness of your steak all matter.
Finally, frying times, which also depend on the circumstances (meat thickness, your kitchen equipment and how well do you want it done) but generally oscillates between 1 and 3.5 minutes per side.
My first instinct is to scream – how on Earth such a chunk of meat is supposed to go from raw to cooked in 4 minutes???
But let’s forget instinct for a while. I shall be brave…
I’m quite sure some of the seasoned steak makers will call me a blasphemer, but I’ve tried leaving my meat in salt for about an hour before cooking at it worked wonders. It’s supposed to be the best way to improve your steak if you settle for the second best quality meat. I wasn’t going to splash out when preparing the dish for the very first time, oh no, salting then it was.
I found the recipe (if I can call it so) on this blog (to give credit where it’s due) and at first didn’t particularly like the idea. After some explaining (thanks to the author for glorious drawings) I decided it’s a trick worth trying. Basically I've sprinkled a spoonful of salt on each side of my steak and left it there for an hour – see the original recipe for details. It didn’t turn the meat inedible, just the opposite.
Adding some rosemary or other seasoning at this step is highly recommendable.
When your steak has had enough marinating, simply wash the aromatic salt off. Wipe the meat dry with a paper towel (apparently this step is important for a proper steak alchemy).
We’re nearing the final phase now.
A little peppery detour
Just before frying, sprinkle your steak with pepper. A lot of pepper. And if you aim for the ultimate perfection, make it freshly ground pepper.
This is my latest discovery and culinary fixation – freshly ground peppercorns transform any ordinary dish into a damn masterpiece. The very smell is intoxicating and as to the taste…
It doesn’t really matter how you grind them. I use my faithful pestle and mortar – peppermills tend to work well for a while, then, with their blades blunted, they become a piece of good-for-nothing kitchen junk. Besides, pestle and mortar have more uses than just grinding pepper. You can grind other spices, to begin with. Cloves. Cardamom. Garlic. Good old pesto is finally within your reach. And so on.
I was very free-handed with pepper when seasoning my steak. It didn’t hurt a bit.
It's frying time!
Remember my doubts from a few paragraphs ago? Well, I am officially reassured – 4 minutes is enough to turn raw meat into a delicious steak. I have no idea how it works with grilling or other preparation (my kitchen is not that sophisticated), but when frying, what you need is a really, really hot pan.
I think it was the first time I’ve ever used timer in my kitchen. I’ve let my steaks fry for 2 minutes/side sharp and ended up with a textbook photograph steak – nice and brown on the outside, delicate pink inside. I aimed exactly for that effect, so I judged my experiment a total success, although now I know that my steak preference is ‘very well done’. You live and learn :)
How do you like your steak?
Which is your favourite option?
How to make perfect roast potatoes
Your steak cannot stay in the world all alone, you need to find it some buddies. I went for roast potatoes (as I always do when serving large chunks of meat for dinner). I believe my favourite recipe was invented by Jamie Oliver.
First, peel and boil your potatoes. When ready, drain them, season with rosemary (or whatever you like), add a few knobs of butter and cover the pot. Shake vigorously until your spuds break into chunks and get ‘fuzzy’. This is actually the most important thing in the recipe – the ‘fuzzy’ bits will get wonderfully crispy and brown in roasting.
Transfer the whole lot onto a roasting pan and into the oven it goes. Roast until golden (it may take up to an hour) and voila – your steak has new best friends.
Don’t know how about you, but when I splash out for a proper steak, I want some posh veg on the side.
Asparagus under bechamel? Sounds posh enough, Let’s get started.
Only tips of asparagus are really tender and delicious. OK, maybe I shouldn’t call them tips, it’s more like 2/3 of the stalk. I’ve learned a funny asparagus trick somewhere along the way – if you bend them, they will naturally snap just where the tip stops being delicate and turns woody (see the picture).
Tender shoots boil really quickly – 10 minutes or so – so don’t overdo it or you’ll end up with green mush.
Bechamel sound posh, but it’s dead easy to make. Melt 1/4 stick of butter. Add a tablespoon of flour, mix well. Add 1/2 cup milk, mix until smooth. Season with salt and touch of nutmeg. Voila.
If your sauce is too thick, add more milk, if too thin – more flour.
And that's it!
My perfect steak dinner, all ready
More foodie articles by Tiggered
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