Monday, September 8, 2008

Meat and 'taters or How to Cook a Perfect Steak

The Good Husband is solidly a meat and 'taters guy. Before we lived together (yes, we lived in sin for about 3 years before we got married, *gasp*. Good thing we are both atheists LOL) I rarely ate meat or potatoes. My former life is a culinary shame since I was forced to either eat on the cheap (ramen noodles and hot dogs) or at restaurants.

Along with eggs and 'taters, meat and 'taters is one of those dishes that I had to learn to prefect over time. I still run into some bumps every now and then and I am trying my hand at different cuts of meat, but I think I have the overall concept down.

This beautiful plate is what we had for dinner on Sunday. I usually reserve Sunday for making meals that seem nicer. We do have mashed potatoes and steak during the week, but this gorgeous cut of New York Strip just screamed "Sunday Dinner" to me.

So, after years of practice and more than a few burnt steaks, I offer my tips for the perfect steak.

~First, make sure the steaks are room temperature. Let them sit out for at least 30 minutes before you cook them. This allows the fibers in the meat to relax so the meat won't curl up on you.

~Make sure your pan in hot, as in smoking hot. This does NOT mean, however, to have the heat on high. Place the pan on medium high heat and let it sit there for about ten minutes or until the pan really starts to smoke. On my stove, it is about a 7 on the dial. I like to use a cast iron pan, but a grill pan would be great as well. I have also used my hard anodized pan as well and it can create a great sear.

~Brush the steaks with oil (I use canola) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the seasoned side down in the pan and season the other side.

~The steaks and the pan WILL SMOKE. Having a good exhaust fan will help get most of the smoke out. But if you are lacking a good fan, you might have to open the windows or risk setting off the smoke alarm, like I do every other time I cook steak.

This is the biggest point of contention in our house. TGH hates the amount of smoke I create when I make steaks. He was not used to having steaks cooked on the stove top and our lack of good ventilation drives him nuts. But a little suffering is worth it when he finally has a bite of good steak. So, just be prepared for a little smoke. It will clear out and you will be happy with the quality of your steak.

~Do NOT move your steaks once they are in the pan. By not moving them you allow for the meat to sear, trapping the juice inside. If you are using a grill pan, you will have great grill lines on the steak. Flip them over once. That is the only movement allowed.

Now, you can either cook the steaks completely on the stove top for finish them off in the oven. If you choose to finish them on the stove top, I would turn the heat down slightly and cook them for about 7 to 8 minutes per side for a nice medium rare. The steaks I used were about 1 1/2 inches thick, thicker than what I am used to. But they looked so good at the local butchers that I couldn't pass them up. Thanks Mr. Henry! So cooking time should increase about 1 minute per side.

Or you can finish them off in the oven. TGH likes this version better since it cuts down on the smoke in the house. Just preheat the oven to 350 degrees and cook the steaks for about 6 minutes for medium rare.

~Let the meat rest! Letting the meat rest - anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes - allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, making sure than when you cut into it, all the juices won't run out and the rest of the meat is bone dry. Also resting the meat allows you time to make a killer pan gravy from the drippings.

So with that lesson behind us, on to Sunday Dinner or Meat and 'taters.

1 recipe steak (see above) I used thick cut New York Strip
1 recipe mashed 'taters (following) with pan gravy (following)
1 veggie side dish (I used canned seasoned green beans)

Mashed 'Taters
6 large red potatoes, scrubbed, skins on, rough cubed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 oz sour cream
Splash of milk (optional)
Salt to taste

~In large stockpot add potatoes and enough water to cover. Once the water boils, add 1 tablespoon salt.

~Reduce heat and simmer, covered 15 to 20 minutes or until fork tender.

~Drain and add potatoes back into the warm pot to evaporate any left over water.

~In mixing bowl mash the potatoes with a potato masher or electric mixer, breaking the potatoes into large pieces. Add 3 Tbsp. butter and continue to mash until all of the butter is melted.

~Add the sour cream and mash until all of the sour cream is incorporated and most of the lumps are broken up. If the potatoes are too thick, add a splash of milk. Add salt to taste. Serve with pan gravy.

Pan Gravy
Pan drippings from steak
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups of beef stock
1 teaspoon onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste

~Using the same pan you cooked the steaks in, place the skillet on medium low heat.

~Add the butter to the pan, allowing it to melt completely. Add the flour to the pan, and using a whisk, combine the flour and butter, cooking for 1 minute.

~In the meanwhile, combine the beef stock and the onion powder.

~Whisking continuously, add the beef stock slowly to the pan until the liquid and roux (the butter and flour mixture) is combined. Increase the heat and continue to whisk, making a figure eight pattern in the pan. This will prevent the gravy from both burning and clumping. Add the salt and pepper to taste.

Whisking and slowly pouring the beef stock is the key to lump free gravy. If you find you are have problems with making a lump free gravy, I suggest that you add only ONE cup of the beef stock at first and whisk to break up any lumps. Once the gravy is lump free, add the rest of the stock, careful to never stop whisking.

~When the gravy starts to bubble and there are no lumps, pour into a gravy boat and serve over mashed potatoes.

recipes by: The Good Wife

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