steak’s anatomy

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You people… yes YOU, who can’t stop yapping about how the “grilling season” has begun.  Wooh omg~ let’s break out your Cadillac stainless steel monster-grill and park it so handsomely on your beautiful Martha Stewed deck, under that family peach tree looking out into your Ina-garden and get everybody all Bobby Flayed-up on your marbled rib-eye.  Whatever, yah-dah yah-dah ya-dah…  Yeah, you people.  Please.  Just.  Zip it.  SHUSH!

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Yeah?  You think it’s polite to talk about cinnamon rolls in front of diabetes?  Or sex in front of all teenagers who obviously can’t have sex?  It’s braggery and quite frankly inhumane.  For people like me who spent their entire life in city-dwellings, the sort of fantastical, green grass-colored, charcoal-dusted scene that you are painting only exists either in magazine-isles, or the life of every jerks who occupies the terrace-equipped penthouse of my building, whose life I fantasize about rescuing in a horrific car accident and thus gratefully leaving that penthouse to me in his will (…a script filled with prejudice then shock, love and understanding followed by my happy ending)…  I’m allowed to fantasize.  Oh pffff, save it.  Save your pity and don’t tell me how I can “grill at home” because I wouldn’t expect you to understand what happens when we try to “deeply caramelize” a piece of steak in the kitchen.

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A tearful group-hug with the local firemen is what happens (awww… you guys don’t have a terrace either?).  Why because in order to achieve that grade of deeply-browned and caramelly-toasty steak surface, us city-dwellers crank up a piece of heavy-duty cast-iron on the most ferocious level of heat-source we can conjure (the light dwindling ground shaking and all…), only to realize that our flaccid amateur ventilation-hoods comes with the SHARPEST professional smoke detector.  We’ve all been there…  The alarm squealing, the stove frantically shuts off and we stand there helplessly to witness the glory of that steak slip and slip away in this urban indoor mockery.  I trade in a H&M dress for that steak…  So I have moved on, evolved.  You go hug your grill.  Screw grills.  When it comes to home-steaking, I CRAAAFT IT.  If you are not a food-geek who obsesses, this is where you leave.

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That’s right.  It’s an art, a relatively SMOKELESS art, a steak that cooks to an EVEN PINKY-NESS inside-out with beautifully caramelized outer layer.  Non of that ultra-well-done sandwiching a bit of completely-bloody-rare in the center.  You see, a steak with a thin-deep-browned crust and medium-rare flesh can be pulled off in a restaurant or on a charcoal grill because they are the wielder of INTENSE HEAT.  The surface is quickly crusted before the flesh has time to be overcooked, and they can manage the BLINDING resulting-smoke.  Unless you have a Gordon-Ramsay-kitchen, otherwise you can pull off the same with a (dah dah dah~) BLOWTORCH!  Yes!  You can cook a steak without even TOUCHING the stove.  Instead, the steak is seared (by the torch) then cooked inside a low-temp oven to achieve an almost sous-vide effect.  Then the blowtorch delivers a highly-controlled and focused caramelization afterwards with only a relatively small amount of smoke that’s manageable even for my weak vent.  Really, just a faint WHIFF that gets immediately sucked away.  Yes.  It takes LONGER.  What did I say?  It’s a CRAAAFT.  You are willing to spend hours on a $5-ingredients cake and NOT a lil’time to perfect a $30-steak?  A cow died for this.  Pay some respect.  It deserves nothing less than to be meticulously attended then later sings in your mouth (btw did I mention you rub butter on it for the browning part?) in your smokeless/siren-less/firemen-less home.  I’d say it’s a great bargain.  Screw grills, again.

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* To get the most out of the steaks I buy that aren’t pre-aged, I wrap the steaks in clean towels then leave it in the coldest corner in the fridge (usually the inside-corners on the lowest level) for a few days (approx 6 days).  Just make sure that the fridge isn’t TOO COLD that things in the back have a tendency to frost, and flip the steak twice during this process.  The towel absorbs the excess blood/moisture out of the steak but prevents drying out.  The steak will darden in color considerably and firm up in texture.  Of course it won’t be as tender and flavorful as commercially dry-aged steak (usually aged for several weeks), but the extraction of excess moisture from the meat results in a more concentrated beef-flavor.

** A powerful blowtorch isn’t just important for creme brulee, or caramel pork belly.  It has so many other useful kitchen-applications that I consider it an essential at Lady and Pups.  Forget the baby ones that’re only useful for lighting up a cigarette…  Buy a gas torch that’s meant to attach to a butane gas canister, which is powerful but inexpensive.

*** The trick to using a blowtorch is understanding the distance to hold it to the subject being torched.  To evenly brown, you want to hold it further away applying a less concentrated heat.  To have bits and pieces of burnt spots or dark browning, you want to hold it closer.

Ingredients:

  • 1 piece of New York strip-steak or ribeye steak, AT LEAST 2″ in thickness
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp of rosemary leaves
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
  • 2 tbsp of unsalted butter for brushing, room temerature
  • Red wine sauce:
    • 2 shallots, finely minced
    • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
    • 2 sprigs of thym leaves
    • 1 tbsp of butter
    • 1/2 tsp of salt
    • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
    • 2/3 cup of red wine
    • 1/3 cup of beef/chicken stock
    • 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
    • 2 tbsp of Dijon mustard
    • 1 tbsp of unsalted butter for melting
  • Stilton blue cheese to top the steak (optional)

Equipments:

Leave the steaks out in room temperature for at least 2 hours before cooking.

To cook the steak:  Preheat the oven on 300ºF/150ºC.  Mash garlic, rosemary leaves, thyme and extra virgin olive oil together to make a herb-oil.  Brush the oil on all sides of the steak, then rub coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper thoroughly on every inch of the steak, including the sides.  Set the steak on top of a rack with a baking sheet at the bottom, and set it on top of the stove under the hoods/vent.  Turn the vent on high, then start torching the steak with the blowtorch until you NO LONGER SEE ANY PINK on the steak on ALL SIDES.  This step here is NOT TO brown or caramelize the steak but to sear it for the baking.

Inser an oven-proof thermometer into the CENTER of the steak.  Scatter the mashed herbs over the steak and place it on the middle rack of the oven (also a serving plate on the lower rack to warm up).  Bake the steak for the first 15-min THEN TURN OFF THE OVEN completely.  Leave the steak in the oven until the internal temperature reads:

120~125ºF/45~50ºC for RARE.  130~135ºF/53~57ºC for MEDIUM-RARE.  140~145ºF/59~63ºC for MEDIUM.

Any longer you don’t deserve a steak…  This will take anywhere from 25~35 minutes depending the thickness of the steak.  I have a 2″ thick rib-eye cooked for medium-rare, which takes approx 30 min.  Take the steak out of the oven once it reaches the desired temperature, and let it rest in room temperature for 7~8 minutes.  DO NOT REMOVE THE THERMOMETER until the steak is FULLY RESTED.  You may risk loosing all the juice through the hole.  The steps so far were meant to cook the steak for an EVENLY PINKY done-ness throughout.  The browning and caramelization comes next.

To brown and caramelize the steak:  Once the steak’s rested, remove the thermometer and all the mashed herbs on top.  Move the baking sheet again under the hoods/vent and turn it up on high.  Brush the unsalted butter over the steak and start browning the butter/steak with the blowtorch.  We are aiming for a DEEP BROWN/crusty caramelization on all sides here so don’t be afraid to go at it.  But again, don’t hold the torch TOO CLOSE or you are going to end up with burnt spots.  This will take a few minutes.  The wonderful part about this method is that the heat of the torch isn’t going to “cook” the internal flesh, therefore you can serve the steak HOT and SIZZLED.

Serve the steak on the warm serving plate and pour some of the melted butter from the baking sheet on top (do it).  I like mine with a piece of Stilton blue cheese or red wine sauce.

Red wine sauce:  You can make this before hand, or during the time the steak is in the oven.  Saute shallots, garlic and thyme with salt and black pepper in 1 tbsp of butter in a sauce pot until slightly browned.  Add the red wine, stock and balsamic vinegar and cook on medium heat, until the liquid has reduced by 1/2.  Then turn off the heat and whisk the Dijon mustard and unsalted butter into the sauce until melted.  Strain the sauce through a fine sieve.  Set aside until needed.

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16 Comments

  • Jocelyn says:

    Love your humor & yr super impressive food photography …. Me just starting to learn food photography & have not yet bought toys of tripod/ external flash etc …. U should have a post to teach some trucks pls! Cheers

    • Mandy L. says:

      Jocelyn, Oh I’m really am an amateur in photography. I have literally just gotten my first tripod last week…:P

  • 吴恩惠 says:

    你好,昨天发现你的博客很喜欢,挑了几篇分享到新浪微博,今天在微博搜了下,才发现你的微博@LadyandPups,如果你觉得我这样不好之类的,我可以删除微博上你的博客类容。。。。没有经过你的同意分享到别的地方真的不好意思。

  • Jessen says:

    I just wanted to comment on your Blog, not something I usually do, but felt the need to. I found your little space a couple of weeks ago and I love your style of cooking. You take the time and extra steps with every recipe you create, and that’s my style of cooking and creating recipes as well. Maximum Flavor!
    I love this technique for cooking steak, and will try it once I get some nice cut steak at my fingertips – probably for fathers day! Thank you for this blog! I absolutely love it.
    Jessen

    • Mandy L. says:

      Jessen, I so so appreciate your comment :) thank you so much for taking the time to write it. Cheers to food lovers!

  • Thiago says:

    After that post i just feel the urge to hug you. Please accept my virtual hug, this recipe is simply amazing.
    Also, BEAUTIFUL pictures. Really beautiful. I’m crafting my own steaks from now on, thanks!

  • Beautiful photos, and amazing tips. Blowtorch? Genius!

  • OKAY. So as a fellow BJ resident, who hasn’t found a half-decent steak in this city since arriving here a year and a half ago (I once went to Flamme in Sanlitun and nearly stormed out in anger and indignation), WHERE do you get steak like that? We’ve resorted to packing new york strips as temperature-controlled contraband in our suitcases whenever we go back to the US…

    • SARAH: haahahaha!!! I feel you!!!!! OK, you can get “decent” NY strips steaks or rib-eye from April Gourmet (this one is where I went: http://goo.gl/maps/0iEpm), or Sanlitun’s Jenny Lou’s (I haven’t tried buying there but I’ve seen vacuum-packed imported steaks from their butcher section). They are either from Australia or sourced from Shan-dong. Won’t be the same as New York’s aged steaks of course, but it scratches the itch.

  • Hmmm I suppose I’ll have to take a closer look at April Gourmet’s meat selection! We once bought a rib roast there, and despite all the rosemary, olive oil and butter we mustered for the job, it came out like something akin to my old chuck taylors. Hit or miss, I suppose. We’re running out of those contraband Costco steaks from our last trip back, so we’ll have to check again soon. Thanks for the tips! Here’s hoping this latest bout of airpocalypse weather clears before the weekend. : )

  • Jasmine says:

    I am totally going to try this method. How genius! I usually start my rib eyes in a 275 degree oven and warm them slowly (kind of a quick dry age) to a bit under medium rare. Then I sear them off in my cast iron pan. But a blow torch? I love it. I’m going to try it!

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