My cousin Nancy, “The Vegan Voice,” is co-author on our blog Lazaro Cooks!. She provides our readers with her fantastic, original, superbly constructed vegan recipes. Conversely, I am the resident carnivore. With that in mind, I was rather horrified when I realized that I had yet to write a beef article for Blogcritics. This incredibly gross, negligent oversight on my part was happily rectified tonight. Suffice to say that this is an ode to my beef-loving brethren — sorry, Prima!
Beef does the body good. Perhaps that is a bit hyperbolic, but it does fit well into a balanced diet. When I require red meat I go to see the butcher, not the supermarket. Go where the experts are. Butchers are generally extremely proud of the products in their establishments. They are willing counselors on any questions regarding the different cuts or the plethora of ways to cook them. Every butcher I have had the pleasure of meeting can talk about beef for hours. This kind of personal service cannot be experienced in a chain supermarket.
Please, for the sake of decency, never purchase beef in a wrapped package. Part of the experience is purchasing a cut of meat you can hold, smell, caress, talk to… okay, that last bit will certainly get you noticed at the butcher shop. Look for meat with a bare minimum of outer creamy white fat. The meat should be firm, first-rate textured, and a light cherry red. Avoid meat with too much marbling, or thick ropes of fat, for this will be quite sinewy once cooked. On the other hand, beef with no fat is bland and insipid. Fat provides the meat with moisture that melts during the cooking process. It is this wondrous chemical reaction that imparts the signature meaty goodness we love in a succulent, debaucherous steak.
My personal favorite is certified organic Hereford cattle. Originally from Herefordshire, England, United Kingdom, it can now be found in over fifty countries. Hereford beef was first raised in the United States in Kentucky by politician Henry Clay. Organic cattle are born and raised with respect and dignity. Grazing on organic, pristine pastures, they roam free in the sunshine, with unrestricted access to food and clean water. In order to be certified organic, no pesticide, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers can be applied to fields or pastures. In short, you can take solace in the fact that the animal that gave its life for your consumption reveled in a happy, stress-free existence, at the same time being assured that it was not treated with growth hormones, steroids, or antibiotics.
After taking meticulous care in purchasing your meat, find a great role model to help you cook it. Mine is Joel Robuchon. Chef Robuchon was voted Chef of the Century in France and currently holds the maximum three Michelin stars. Have I ever met the man, or worked for him? No, I have not. Yet his influence on my cuisine is undeniable. His book, The Complete Robuchon, is my food bible. The book has no illustrations. However, the erudition contained is all-encompassing for the passionate, eager cook. Chef Robuchon teaches that before you can even contemplate cooking a steak, you must have three things: a heavy-bottom pan, a rack, and Fleur de Sel.
Steaks are cooked at high temperatures and heavy-bottom pans conduct heat better while keeping their shape. The fact that the pan will not warp ensures even cooking throughout. Resting is a pivotal and often overlooked part of the cooking process. When meat cooks the juices are drawn to the center. Resting allows the meat to open up and redistribute those juices. Resting time should be exactly half the cooking time. Placing a wire rack over a plate provides the steak a place to sit and any excess juices to fall away. Why take the time to perfectly char the surface area of the meat, and then allow it to sit in a pool of liquid? The goal of the exercise is to have a crusty exterior. Lastly, Fleur de Sel is a hand-harvested French sea salt. The name comes from the aroma of violets that comes into being as the salt dries. Never salt meat before cooking; it draws out moisture and impedes the browning process. Fleur de Sel dissolves fast, making it perfect to sprinkle on meat during the resting period.
Tonight I purchased an organic Hereford strip steak. The strip steak or NY strip comes from the short loin, a section of meat located along the back, behind the ribs. It is an area of the cattle that does not get much exercise, making it a tender cut. The following straightforward recipe is for a 16-ounce strip steak.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Remove the steak from the refrigerator ten minutes before cooking. Season the steak with ground coriander, black pepper, onion powder, and cane sugar. In a heavy-bottom pan, heat one teaspoon of canola oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil slowly shimmers, add two teaspoons of butter. When the butter begins to foam, gently lay the steak on the pan. If you do not hear a sizzle, get the steak off, the pan is not hot enough! Cook for two minutes. Turn the steak with a spatula; please do not puncture with a fork. While cooking for two minutes on the second side, slightly tilt the pan and use a spoon to baste the steak with the oil-butter mixture. Transfer the pan to the oven to cook for about 8 minutes.
Doneness on a steak can only be judged by feel. The easiest guidelines to remember are directly correlated to the human face. If it feels like your cheek; then it is rare. If it feels like your chin; then it is medium. Finally, if it feels like your forehead; throw it out because it’s tough as old boots, well done.
To finish the dish, take the pan out of the oven, and with the spatula lay the steak on the rack to rest. While the meat is on the rack, season both sides with the Fleur de Sel. Visit your local butcher today and have a remarkably meaty dining experience.Powered by Sidelines