Saturday, October 9, 2010

Give old ways the Chop

Cooking steak has always been a bit of a mystery to me, like for many others I presume. I know how I like my steak (medium-rare) but wouldn't have the first clue as to how to get a piece of meat to that state, especially with the huge range of cuts and thicknesses of available steaks, not to mention bones, cooking methods and so on. So it's always been a lot of guesswork, cutting it in half to see how cooked it really is, and sometimes eating well-done steaks that seem more braised than grilled.

Dry aged Delmonico steak provided by Chophouse, cooked by me
At my recent visit to Chophouse, I was gifted with a beautiful piece of meat, which I cooked up a few days afterwards to the detailed instructions of executive chef David Clarke. Well, most of the instructions. I have a terrible habit of not following instructions to a tee (especially disastrous in sweets and desserts); mostly down to laziness, which ironically makes a lot of jobs more difficult than they would have been originally.

But I digress. After removing the Delmonico with rosemary from its plastic vaccuum seal and leaving it to rest and warm a little out of the fridge, a light coating of coating of olive oil, salt and pepper are all that are required before going into a very hot, ovenproof pan. And of course I couldn't be bothered to do onions and garlic in a separate pan (more washing), so in that went too.

One side cooked
After a couple of smoky, saliva-inducing minutes the steak is flipped, revealing a fairly even caramelised, deep brown surface. It seems the bone interfered with part of the meat not reaching the pan, but the rest was looking real good. After an equal amount of time on the otherside (which caramelises similarly), the whole pan goes in the oven to finish off the cooking.

Now I wonder if the all-round, possibly less intense heat of the oven cooks more evenly than on the stovetop. It is a technique that appears common in restaurants, and easy enough to do at home as long as your frying pan can go in the oven. It also gives you a number of minutes to do other things; like blanching the green beans, making croutons for tomorrow, setting the table etc.

After the desired cooking time in the oven comes one important step which I've never really considered doing - resting the meat. With all the hard work done in the oven, Mr. Delmonico needs some time off. I notice a fair amount of the meat's juices coming out at this stage, and make sure to keep it to chuck back over the steak later.

The temptation to slice into the steak while it's resting is near-unstoppable, so perhaps make sure there's someone to watch you if you're like me with little restraint. After its period of resting, the steak needs to go back in the oven for a little, just to warm it up for eating.

Steak going back in the oven to warm
(er... and those were tomorrow's croutons I was talking about)
I insist that I will not use another pan for the night, so the steak gets thrown atop the croutons I was preparing for another purpose, although I suppose this stops the bottom side from getting overly cooked. I'll justify it however I please.

Within minutes, I'm poised with steak knife, ready to cut into my evening's assignment (the steak) and assess my handiwork. I notice that most of the fat that was surrounding the steak has rendered down and that there's only a little fat left on the steak.

The result? A little closer to medium than medium-rare for the most part (I admit, I was running around looking for the ever-hidden oven mitt at the last stage of oven warming), while it was definitely a little rarer towards the bone of the steak. The flavour of the steak was sensational, and considering I only added salt, pepper and olive oil, it goes to show how the fatty marbling through the meat and the overall quality of the meat contributes so much to the end result - not even mustard was necessary.

While we're all sometimes creatures of habit, every now and then some habits should be broken and others need to be broken. In terms of cooking steak, I'm definitely giving the old, confused, uninformed way the chop and will say hello to juicy, medium-rare steaks from here on.

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