Let Them Eat Steak!
Happy belated Bastille Day! A while back I was asked by a friend to teach her to make a steak. I told her that I could make a better steak for less money than a trip to a local steakhouse. I don’t go out for steak, honestly, it is too easy to make at home, and you save a ton of money. I like strip steaks, they have good flavor, and are not too tough. Now, if you were to go to Outback, an 8 ounce strip steak will run you about $15. I bought mine at Schnucks for $4.75. Side dish type things are cheap, so I’m not even going to count them.
Before we even get into cooking a steak lets talk about how you know when it’s done. First, there is the easiest way. Cook the living shit out of the steak. Ok, no. Thermometer? Well, that works, but then you have to remember the temperatures for the different donenesses of your steaks. The other down side of that is that you are poking a hole in your steak for all of the juices to run out of. That is not good. Even if you like your steaks well done they can still be juicy. The best way and the easiest is to poke it with a finger. Here’s how it works, take your left hand and hold your index finger and thumb together, then poke the pad of your thumb with your other index finger. That is rare. Medium rare? Middle finger and thumb. Medium is the ring finger, and well done is(burned) your pinky.
Now, the first thing you want to do is get your steak out of the fridge, and set it on the counter for about a half hour. You probably should also get your oven warmed up (350F), and you could even put your skillet in it to get it hot too . I wanted to have a little pan sauce for fun, and since I had some red wine, onion and chicken stock I was set.
Season your steak on both sides with salt and pepper. That is all you really need. Buy a decent cut of steak, and make it thick enough that you can cook it without worrying that you will end up with a piece of shoe leather. I know a lot of people love fillet mignon, but at $24/pound it is a bit pricey, and what are you getting? Sure, it is tender, but it is also a muscle that doesn’t do much work, and doesn’t really have much in the way of flavor. Sirloin is a bit too fatty for me, but it is a nice cut. Everyone has different preferences, so try a few, and find what you like. I like a strip steak, they taste great, and aren’t super fatty. I keep things simple and stick with salt and pepper, and I don’t see a point in marinades. If I want a steak I want it to taste like a piece of beef, not teriyaki.
So, you’ve got a steak that you seasoned with salt and pepper, and a hot skillet. Get the skillet on the stove top(turn the burner on), and put a small amount of oil in it. Let the oil get hot. When you tilt the skillet you should see ripples in the oil before you even think about putting the steak in there. When you put your steak in the pan, leave it alone. You are NOT sauteing here, you are searing. After a minute or so, gently shake the skillet. If it doesn’t move leave it alone. If it moves a bit, gently turn it over. Tongs are best for this sort of thing.
Now, put the steak in the oven. Here’s where things get a little tricky. How long? That depends on a lot of factors. How thick is the meat? What shape? How do you like it? Give it a few minutes, and check. That is all I can tell you. Thicker steaks will take longer. If you skipped the take it out of the fridge step, it will take longer. The onus is on you to make your steak the way you like it. Remember that practice makes perfect, and the more often you do this the better you will be.
Done enough? Ok, take it out of the skillet, set in on a plate to rest, and cover it with a piece of foil. This is important. It won’t get cold. It’s now time for our pan sauce! I julienned about half an onion. Pour out most of the fat from the skillet, and put it back on the stove. Put the onions in and saute them until they are tender and starting to caramelize. You’ll notice that there was some brown stuff left by the steak(Its called fond), the onions will get some of that out of the pan. Then I poured a small amount of red wine in the skillet with the onions. Then stir making sure to sure that all of the brown bits come out of the pan. I let it reduce a bit, and added some chicken broth. Again, let it reduce. I did that just to mellow out the flavor of the wine. When I got it reduced I added maybe a teaspoon of soft butter to the sauce, and mixed it in. That is the sauce for my steak, and it tasted much better than any of the steak sauces you buy in the store.