About a month ago I was asked to be the guest chef on a reality show for the A&E Networks. I was thrilled when I first accepted their task to teach the couple on air how to cook a romantic dinner. But my thrill quickly turned to terror when the producers insisted it be a romantic STEAK dinner. Despite cooking all the time, I myself don't normally cook steak; usually that's my older brothers who like to 'man the grill', and it's not something you can really teach without trying. I thought: "How am I going to teach a couple on TV how to do something I am a total amateur at?" Cue Chef Derek.... I have been very lucky in my four years of college to have met some really great chefs through internships, summer jobs, and at school; but the first person I thought of for this particular task was my wonderful friend Chef Derek Furino. You may recognize him from my Monday Night Football edition of Nutrishus, which he catered.
Derek has been a great mentor to me while I was in college at Fairfield, both because of his expertise in cooking and his hilarious, fun, positive personality. He has been one of the biggest supporters of my TV-food dreams and is always willing to offer advice. So when I called up Fishpants (as we like to call him) he was thrilled to hear about the show and said since it's not really something he can teach on the phone, he would love to tutor me at the kitchen at Fairfield. The next day, on a busy weeknight, I took the train up and admitted myself to Chef Derek's cooking school for the night! My friends Suave and Margaret joined in on the fun in the kitchen, and we learned different techniques for testing the temperature, how to make perfect grill marks, and even some yummy tips for roasted garlic potatoes that Derek likes to make.
After just an hour and a half learning from Derek about different cuts of meat, and everything else that goes into fixing the perfect steak dinner, I felt truly prepared, and truly lucky. I got back on the train, armed with Derek's very own grill pan, and knowledge! The next day, filming in Queens, NYC was a blast, and the dinner turned out fabulously.
Now, here are some of the things I've learned from Chef, and what I've now TAUGHT, on how to cook the perfect steak. (Look out for the episode sometime in the next few months on A&E... I'll post a link when it airs)
First, let's set up our side dish:
Rosemary Roasted Potatoes:
Because they are a beautiful and delicious pairing to a nice steak, I decided to go with tri-colored potatoes. Something cool about the darker potatoes is that they have more antioxidants and are less starchy than your traditional yellow or white potatoes.
- One bag of organic tri-color potatoes
- Couple sprigs of fresh organic rosemary, chopped finely
- Roasted garlic oil (place 8 cloves of garlic and 1-2 tbs olive oil in an aluminum tin (covered) in the oven until the skins start to shrivel up and the garlic is buttery, soft. About 40 minutes. You want to use the oil from the garlic to marinate the potatoes with.
- Sea salt, pepper to taste
- Garlic: two or three garlic cloves to place on sheet tray with potatoes (don't chop)
Boil your potatoes until the center is al dente, but not overly soft. Mix with above ingredients, as seen below. Place on a baking sheet in the oven, at 375 degrees F for about 12 minutes, until crispy on the outside and skin is wrinkly!
now the moment you've been waiting for...for half a page...
The Perfect Steak
- The first choice, is the cut. You've got your Porterhouse, your Sirloin, your Strip steak, Ribeye....
2. Then your steak grade: Prime, Choice, Select. Then, you want to really make sure it has good marbling. Good marbling means good amount of fat, and a good amount of fat means a nice amount of flavor!
Prime makes up 2% of the country's steak supply, and it is the fanciest, highest quality, which is why it can be hard to find. (Most hotels and restaurants opt for this grade especially because it has the most marbling and flavor.) But go to a gourmet market and you'll be in luck. We went with a Prime Dry-Aged Ribeye, for flavor, appeal, and because it is one of the best and most delicious on the market, per Chef. He usually likes Bone-in but this one was without, so we went with it. Recommended also: Grass fed, local. Remember: you eat what you eat eats..... when the cow eats grass, you get those omega 3 fatty acids too, and they're great for your heart.
3. The salt. Of course you can get crazy with steak, there are marinades, there is steak au poivre, there are millions of techniques, but Derek likes to keep is simple. The showcase here is a delicious piece of meat, and so all Derek uses is this ultra fancy volcanic lava salt, which looks sort of like black seeds, and he likes to sprinkle that on both sides of the steak and leave it to sit for 15- 20 minutes. That way, the salt draws out the fat and moisture from the steak, creating a nice sheen on the outside of the meat. When you cook it this sheen translates to a crispy delicious outer layer. (The next day on set I used regular coarse sea salt which works just as well!)
4. Next, the pan. Derek likes to use a pan with ridges for grill marks. He puts the stove on HIGH and after the pan itself starts to smoke (meaning it is ready for burning!) plops the steak on top at an angle, diagonally in the pan (as you see in the picture below). After about 2 minutes, he places the meat diagonally on the other side of the pan (without flipping the steak over).
After another two minutes, flip, and repeat the same strategy on the other side. Notice the delicious and beautiful grill marks below!
5. When that's finished, place on a deep pan, in the oven at about 375 degrees F, for a couple minutes, depending on how you want your steak. We wanted ours cooked Medium.... pink in the middle, good flavor and juiciness, not too rare. Be sure to press into the meat with your finger to test for firmness. There are many techniques for getting used to how that should feel. Here are some charts I found to help with timing, and temperature testing:
6. FINALLY, let the steak be! Leave it before you cut into it. It has to sit for a good three to five minutes before you cut into it otherwise the outsides will get dry and the insides will turn into a pool of juice, and you do not want that. Also, the proper way to eat a steak, is by cutting one piece at a time, working your way from the outside in. It helps with flavor, and is just plain kitchen etiquette!
Serve your delicious, perfectly cooked JUICY (just look at it!) steak and rosemary roasted potatoes with steamed tricolor carrots or a nice mesclun salad.
NOTE: This steak needs no sauce, because it is that delicious, juicy, and flavorful. Simply enjoy with a nice Pinot Noir, Bordeaux, or, my favorite: Nero d'Avola. DIG IN :)
Now, I'd like to hear from you...
- What's your favorite cut of steak?
- How do you like to prepare it?
Comment with questions and suggestions below.