6.6.11 Meaty Monday: Steak & Salad
June is busting out all over. The delicate pink and white blossoms of spring have given way to lush peonies and roses and lilies. After a momentary blip last week, there is no more no sign of the sultry, damp days ahead when dogs will lie panting in the shade and we will press sweating glasses of lemonade to our fevered brows. Today all is bright green hills and turquoise skies. The kind of weather when thoughts turn to fresh salads. And the grill, of course. Summer means grilling. Oh, no! you say But I'm a city dweller. I can relate. I'm a grill widow. Where once I was only in charge of marinating, my hobbled husband has temporarily relinquished his patio post in front of the Weber, leaving me to face down this fiery challenge. For the moment, I have run screaming back to my stove, where it's possible to make a perfectly acceptable steak. Heat up that cast iron pan really well, buy the best meat available and don't overcook it. That's the best advice I can give you. That, and serve it sliced thinly next to a simple salad of arugula and red onion. It's heaven on a plate.
the best steak is humanely raised and well-marbled
I don't think I need to go on any more about the importance of buying humanely raised meat, do I? My hope is that you will have found a local source, some small farm that takes good care of its animals. Organic has come to mean less and less, and I don't think proscribing grass-fed makes any sense either, so just try to know your farmer, or at least your butcher, and learn about where your meat comes from.My favorite steak is a well-marbled ribeye with the bone in. You really need that fat for juicy flavor. And I feel like the bone imparts extra flavor. To me, this is the most buttery and delicious cut. It requires nothing more than salt and a hot pan (or grill). Although I know tastes vary, I think the best way to eat it is medium-rare. Before cooking, I let my steak sit out so it's room temperature, and salt it generously. Then I set a cast-iron pan on the flame and let it heat up for quite a while. You want your steak to sear and get a deep crusty char on the outside, but remain juicy pink and tender within. Note: switch on your stovetop fan and throw open a window, as you will be generating some smoke!
no matter where you do your cooking, you want to get a deep crusty char
If you're a steak novice, fear not. Nothing could be easier. But you either have to use a thermometer, or learn a simple technique for ascertaining doneness. Heat changes the texture of meat, and this is palpable. As it heats up, the protein strands tighten, causing the meat to firm up. This shrinks it and squeezes the juices out, which is why a rarer steak is preferable; a well-done steak is tougher, firmer and less juicy.If you're going to use a thermometer, here are suggested temperatures. But do bear in mind that meat will continue cooking after you take it off the heat, so aim for about 5 degrees lower. It's essential that you let your steak rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting into it. Trust me, this makes all the difference. Rest the meat on a cooling rack, turning it over in the middle of the resting period. It will help the juices from pooling on the bottom of the meat (and leaking out onto the plate), and distributes the juices evenly throughout.Here
is a guide that explains how to test for doneness by feel. It's very satisfying to be able to give your steak a poke and understand what's going on in there. As with everything, practice makes perfect. And remember, you can always throw your steak back to cook a bit more, but once you've overcooked it, well...Rare: 140ºMedium rare: 145FMedium: 160ºAn arugula salad is the perfect cool, crunchy and slightly bitter counterpoint to your hot, fatty steak. Taking a cue from classic steakhouse salads, I like to throw in some red onion. It can be a bit too pungent and aggressive, though, so try soaking your slices in cold water as you prepare your steak. It's a neat trick that softens their flavor.
Grilled Ribeye with Arugula Salad
serves 2, with leftovers
— 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
— 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
— 1 teaspoon organic honey
— 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
— sea salt
— 4 cups arugula
— 1 bone-in ribeye (about 1.5 pounds)
— 2/3 cup olive oil
— salt & pepper
Remove your steak from the fridge and let it come to room temperature (about 30 minutes). Meanwhile, slice your red onion and let it soak in a bowl of very cold water. Now rub steak with a generous amount of sea salt. Add pepper if you like. (I prefer without.)
Heat a cast-iron skillet over a high flame until the pan is very, very hot. Throw the steak on and cook for 4 minutes; flip and cook for another 4. Remove to a plate and allow to rest for 10-12 minutes before slicing thinly.
While your steak is cooking, make your salad dressing. Whisk honey, mustard and vinegar together. Then whisk in olive oil to emulsify. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.
When your steak is resting, drain the onion and pat dry with a paper towel. Combine in a bowl with the arugula, and toss well with the dressing.
Serve your sliced steak with a pile of salad mounded on the side, or on top.