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The Classics: Pan-seared Steak with Mushrooms and Onions

In Do-it-Yourself, Gluten Free on May 4, 2013 at 6:59 pm
Steak Collage

Sirloin Steak with Mushrooms and Onions

I’m the most sacrilegious semi-traditional Hindu girl you’ll ever meet.

I LOVE steak. I love meat. GROAR.

My parents are the same way.

Due to weather, and sometimes lack of charcoal briquettes, I do steaks indoors. The benefit of doing an indoor steak is having a nice buttery, mouth-watering, juicy steak and preparing some simple side dishes while it’s cooking. Though I’m sure there are more accurate recipes for timing of steaks and such online, lately, I’ve been eyeballing the steaks. If I had to judge what makes a great steak, I would say

1) Having it juicy
2) Seasoning

Choose Some Meat

I’ll briefly do an overview of what I know of cuts. I can dig deeper into this topic and include some nifty graphics I find on beef parts for another post!

Porterhouse: A Porterhouse actually is all of the cuts of meat together. You have the filet mignon, the NY strip, ribeye portion and I think the sirloin too. That’s a bigass piece of meat that nobody really can finish alone, but if you’re feeding your family, that’s a good thing to get and carve up.

Most people tend to buy the meats cut up – so here are the types.

Sirloin is the leanest, so there’s not too much fat on that, and it’s the healthiest, meatiest of the bunch. It also is easy to dry out because it doesn’t have as much fat. It’s also very budget friendly.

Ribeye is more marbled, very tender, and is all kinds of yummy juiciness. One of my faves.

Another fave of mine, New York Strip has one long strip of fat that is delicious when you put it on high heat and turns into this golden bubbly buttery crispy part bordering your steak. It’s lovely and keeps your steak ridiculously juicy. It sometimes has a thin sturdy bone in it. New York strips may be the fattiest, I am not quite sure. Ribeyes and New York Strips are pricier.

One of the most delicious is Prime Rib – which usually has an oval bone in it. This cut will make you cry it’s so wonderfully tender and juicy. Prime rib is usually on the higher end in price.

Filet is smaller, super duper tender, and is the smallest part of the big meat porterhouse piece. Most chicks like this cut, though it doesn’t do anything for me in terms of filling me up, or really flavor for that matter. Just personal choice. It’s squishy and has less flavor to me than the ribeyes, NY Strips and prime rib. It’s got similar flavor to sirloin, but is much more tender.

The above cuts don’t really need to be marinated, just the salt/pepper few spices seasoning combo I told you about earlier works here for about 10 minutes.

**The below need to be marinated.**

There are cheaper cuts of meats for other purposes. Skirt steak is good and cheap, and is great for fajitas or eating alone with sauteed onions and such, wrapping around goat cheese, which is super scrumptious. I would definitely marinate skirt steak to make it tender as well as for flavor – you can throw orange juice, lime juice, lemon juice, whatever the hell you have in the fridge on skirt steak.

There’s other things like big top sirloins, eye of round, and whatever else, but those are for slow roasting in its own juices and pair well with root veggies and other things. They get tough with quicker high heat cooking, but you still can sear the outside with high heat in a pan and then stick it in your dutch oven/le Creuset, or crock pot.

Seasoning Steaks (Beef, Lamb, etc.)

The seasoning portion comes first – I liberally spread kosher salt, garlic powder, crushed black pepper, and paprika on my steaks. For lamb shoulders, I add rubbed sage. Do this on both sides and let it sit on a plate for 10-15 minutes to let the stuff do its work on the meat before cooking. There’s no need to marinate the steak for hours, this is enough time. The end result – you don’t really taste anything overpowering but a good beefy flavor when you’re done, but it’s the combination of what I mentioned that seasons everything while it’s cooking. You have to basically get a piece of steak from the package, and just be liberal about all stuff you put on it, pat it down on the meat.

Season Your Steak

Season Your Steak. Don’t Be Bashful.

Sear That Baby

The rest for me is eyeballing and I like my steaks medium to medium rare, I can’t stand tough well-done steaks. You may as well eat a shoe at that point, it would taste better.

I absolutely love to use a cast iron pan for my steaks. I put in a good mixture of pan oils and fats which probably accounts for the juiciness and lack of burning. I pour a bit of regular vegetable oil in the pan to coat the pan, drizzle some olive oil in for flavor, and then melt some butter in the pan and mix. Of the three the olive oil is more prone to burn at higher heat (high smoking point), so the vegetable oil stabilizes it. This pan should be heated at medium/medium high so that the outside of the steaks are seared. Depending on how thick the steaks are, I do a few minutes (2-3) on each side (super thick steaks). For thinner steaks, reduce this time.

From my chef friends, I’ve learned to finish my steaks off in the oven. This way the inside gets done at a lower temperature. This particular steak was a few inches thick, so I put it at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes. I got a nice medium steak with a bit of medium rare in the very middle yesterday with this (do 5-10 minutes for medium). It was perfect, soft and juicy, no weird shreddy stuff either.

Searing Steak

Searing Steak – He’s so PRETTY!

But FunnyFoodie, How Will I Know If My Meat is Done or Not?

Your meat will tell you. Listen to the meat. Be the Meat Whisperer.

Seriously though, you can take a look at it and poke the meat. As with most meaty juicy things, it will know when it’s ready to go.

Okay…I Really REALLY Want to Become a Meat Whisperer. How Do I Become The Meat Whisperer?

Take your spatula and prod and tap at the meat.

Take a look at your hand. See where the skin meets your thumb? Pinch that.

That same texture would would be raw or rare in steak. When prodding the meat, if it feels a little ‘slidey,’ the middle of the steak is rare or if the meat is REALLY squishy and dents in, the whole thing is still raw.

Take your fingers and pinch a little ways further into your hand. That’s medium-rare, a smidge further in, medium.

If you go all the way to the middle of your hand, that’s well-done. If you tap at the meat with your spatula and it’s hard, it’s well-done. And THAT, y’all,…is an absolute TRAVESTY, as I mentioned earlier.

If you like your steaks well-done, you have no business being on this site, and you and I have nothing in common. NOTHING!

Sorry. I get a little passionate when it comes to meat…

That Steak has Been Doing Some Serious Work in the Oven – Rest It

So, if you’re still with me here and like your steak with some actual flavor and not well done to all kinds of hell – when you take steak out of the oven, rest it.

Resting applies to all meats or fowl you bake, roast, or grill; let the steak sit for about 5-10 minutes to rest on a clean new plate (not the one you previously used for seasoning the raw meat, to avoid cross-contamination of bacteria).

Why Rest? *I’m* the One That Did All This Work, Not The Steak. Git This Steak In My Belly Already!

Patience, Grasshopper.

Resting the meat makes the juices that rise from the top travel back to the middle of the meat. This means that when you cut into a steak, the juices will not rush out onto your plate, but instead, will stay inside the meat and in your mouth where it should be!

This is basically the biggest trick with all meats I make. If you put anything on at high heat, the outside part of meats have a wonderful sear, or fowl skins crisp up and turns a rich golden color. Searing also flash-seals all the juices in. At a later point with all meats, after searing, you turn the heat down and let the heat circulate within the meat to cook the inside. All the juices get trapped within the meat and will not dry out.

Top or Topless?

I usually prepare and serve steak in the nude and usually have the notion that good steak shouldn’t be bastardized by strong or super-distracting toppings, but this particular day, I decided to try making a mushroom and onions mixture to top my steak. The results were fabulous.

For the mushrooms – while I let the steak rest on a plate, I put the cast iron that I used for steak pan back on the stove and sweat some shallots and white mushrooms (you can use any kind of mushroom, it would be delicious). The pan will have all that great butter, steak drippings, and seasonings already in it. To avoid it from being too salty, you can spoon some of this mixture out before putting your mushrooms in, but I had good results just adding mushrooms directly. I added some red wine to the pan to deglaze and let that work for about 5 minutes, and then covered my cast iron pan with a heat-safe lid so that the mushrooms would cook on the inside another 5 minutes. Mix and top it on the steak or serve it on the side.

Steak with Mushrooms & Onions and Caprese Salad

Steak with Mushrooms & Onions and Caprese Salad

Sides

You can choose to make any side that you like, but that particular night, I actually had a hankerin’ for a fresh springy salad rather than my usual starch dish or potatoes.

Simple Caprese Salad (Shown in Picture

The salad shown is a simple Caprese salad with some cucumbers because I had them on hand and like cucumbers. It’s just sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, sliced fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped basil, and some cracked pepper. Not shown here, but I made some balsamic vinaigrette to drizzle on top. Pour some balsamic vinegar into a bowl and slowly drizzle extra virgin olive oil into the bowl while simultaneously whisking. I added some agave nectar until it was mildly sweet and cut some of the tartness of the vinegar, but the more aged the balsamic vinegar is, it’ll naturally be on the sweeter side and you may not need any sweetening agent.

I personally love having ripe tomatoes as at least one side to my beef dishes for a few reasons: it’s a palate cleanser so you can enjoy more steak without getting that weird “my tongue is numb” feeling, and secondly, raw veggies have a lot of great enzymes to help you digest proteins…

AND … you’re gonna love this part…

…the fiber in raw veggies help you carry some of the lovely fat from foods out of the body, which is a big bonus to your waistline. So there’s a huge secret tip right there – the more fiber you have with something potentially fattening, the better off you’ll be.

Caprese Salad with Cucumbers

Caprese Salad with Cucumbers
(no dressing shown here)

For The Love of all That is Good and Meaty…EAT

Mmmmmm. Beefy.

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Lazy Saturday Breakfast, on an Oddly Cold, Rainy May Morning

In Musings on May 4, 2013 at 12:29 pm

WP_001380WP_001383

Rainy and cold morning for a Saturday in May…in Atlanta of all places. And there are still skeptics of global weather patterns…

Having a cozy breakfast and enjoying the company of my puppy, Remy – who was previously happily running all over the house this morning because…it was morning and that’s what puppies like to do as a good-morning ritual, but is now snoozing on the back of the couch near a window sill because he’s bored and dolefully looking at the gray morning rain.

Remy

Remy, my Schnorgi puppy, taken on a sunnier day
(‘Schnorgi’ is half Miniature Schnauzer, half Corgi!)

My breakfast this morning is no-muss, no fuss, and just plain comforting: boiled farm-fresh multi-colored eggs, Ethiopian roasted Yirgacheffe coffee, and finishing off with a slice of banana-pineapple-coconut cake from Cakes & Ale in Decatur. The cake tastes like a combination of banana bread and carrot cake, with fluffy buttercream frosting and walnuts. It’s stick-to-your-fork-and-melt-in-your-mouth moist. It’s not eye-wincingly sweet either (you know what I mean…some things are SO sweet it makes you do this >.* ), making it perfect for my Saturday indulgence, and well – I’m an adult and I can have cake for breakfast if I want to 😛

As usual, I French-pressed my coffee today and added a bit of non-homogenized milk and agave nectar. The Ethiopian Yirgacheffe is actually going great with the cake – it’s not bitter at all, and actually has some chocolatey-nutty, almost hazelnut, undertones to it. It’s pretty mellow and has some subtle spicy aromas.

The eggs made me so happy this morning in all their colored-splendor! I bought them from friends, Agatha and Emory, who have affectionately named their home and farm, Clarity Farm.

Clarity Farm - Pond

It’s such a great name for such a beautiful and serene place; I posted some pictures of their farm after we all went strawberry picking on a gorgeous sunny Sunday (view the slideshow on Facebook). They have a couple different types of hens at their farm, one of which is the Easter Egger variety.  That name is apropos for their wonderful pastel colors that the rather beautifully-feathered hen yields; you can’t help but get giddy over preparing naturally sage, baby blue, and even pale lavender eggs. They cook the same as regular eggs and are still white with a rich and deep-yellow yolk. What a treat this morning.

A few "Easter Eggers" at Clarity Farm

A few “Easter Eggers” at Clarity Farm

Apart from raising hens, tending to her two sweet horses, two playful dogs, a happy pig that dines on feed as well as wonderful vegetables and fruits, and a few plump cats, Agatha has been studying herbs and herbal cooking for years and has a wonderful blog, The Independent Herbalist, and always has great tips to use some of those herbs and greens I find at the farmers market and don’t always know how to prepare them. The greens make for vibrant and beautiful salads and soups, and are good for you, to boot, while the herbs also have a high level of medicinal properties and just bring any dish to life with their scents and bright flavors.

That’s another thing to note, fresh herbs are great if you have them – if you can manage a couple of indoor potted herbs near a sunny spot in the house, it’s completely worth it. Otherwise, using dried spices is also good, but make sure they’re not too old. I actually thoroughly convinced myself one year that I had very bad cooking skills, only to have a friend, Michael, who used to be a chef, point to all my spices in the cabinet and exclaim with a his Long Island accent, “Have you actually *tasted* these?! They’re so OOOLD! They’re not even spices anymore, they’re CONFETTI!”

New York Sicilians always put things in such perspective for you. They make you feel simultaneously loved and like an absolute idiot with their motherly “WhassaMATTA with you?” tone of voice. It’s great. I recommend you collect some of these fine folks into your life, it’s never a dull moment.

So, yes, don’t cook with herb-colored confetti, have some spices around that still smell and taste like something, and I guarantee your cooking will automatically taste better.

*Stretch*

I’m off to go curl up in a nice corner in the house and read a book that I recently bought, “Cheesemonger: Life on the Wedge,” by Gordon Edgar, a punk-rocker-turned-cheesemaker.

"Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge" by Gordon Edgar

“Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge” by Gordon Edgar

This book is more of a food literature read instead of a pictorial cheese dictionary, but it has a handy guide in the appendix on how to purchase cheeses. Throughout the chapters, it has blocked out sections to provide more details on names and types of cheeses, which is great. After reading it, I’ll write more about my thoughts on the book!

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Cooking FAILS: Improper Seasoning & Execution

In Beef Up, Do-it-Yourself, Gluten Free on May 1, 2013 at 12:55 pm
Shark steak

Shown here: Seared shark steak; Dinosaur Kale with Fava beans prepared with garlic, shallots, and toasted sunflower seeds.

A few nights ago, I prepared some shark steak, fava beans and dinosaur kale.

The flavor combinations, herbs, used etc. were fine, but…

Basic Seasoning: FAIL
Execution: FAIL

Long story short, I treated the timing and seasoning as though I was preparing a simple white-fish dish with spinach, which was completely off-base.

Due to the dense texture of the shark, as well as the sheer thickness of the cut, I should have treated the shark steak as I would beef steak. Under-seasoning left the flavor lacking some oomph. Just like steak, I should have given some ample seasoning to the shark with kosher salt and let it sit a bit for it to go through to the core.

It was my first time cooking fresh fava beans too. The whole pods reminded me of snap peas, so I treated them as such after shelling; in reality, I should have boiled or kept them sauteeing for a bit longer than I do peas and treated them more like standard beans. Same goes for the kale – they were very fresh and tough and needed more sautee time.

Now I know for next time. I absolutely love how pretty shark steaks cook up though.

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