An evening with the guys, steaks, and good times.

Monday’s a big day for me.  I’ll be going in for some surgery.  Nothing major, I swear.  But, it will involve a couple of days in residence in the hospital.  So, with my wife out of town with the girls for the weekend, it seemed like a perfect night to have the guys over.  The kids went to one of the other houses, where we shared a babysitter, and the night began..

Earlier that day, I hit the Rastelli’s Market just down the road.  I was pleased to find some gorgeous USDA Prime NY Strips at a pretty reasonable price.  If you’re a South Jersey person, Rastelli’s really has a great selection of all sorts of stuff.  The prepared foods are quite good as well.  Behind the butcher counter, I met years of experience, and a willingness to get everything just right to afford us the perfect evening.  Not long after, I left with 7 of those Prime NY Strips, cut 1.5″ thick.  We paired the steaks up with some roasted baby red potatoes and sautéed haricots verts.  My friend John brought some fantastic bread too.  On to the recipes & methods.

Roasted Baby Red Potatoes

These are quite possibly the easiest potatoes in the world to make.  Impossible to screw this up.  This serves 8 people.

  • 3 pounds of baby red potatoes
  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (be sure to get the stuff made from real virgins)
  • 6 cloves of finely minced garlic
  • Kosher salt & ground black pepper – just eyeball it, put in as much as you feel comfortable with
  • Leaves from one sprig of rosemary

Cut the spuds in half, or quarters if you’ve got some big babies in there.. Put everything in a large bowl and toss.  Or do as I did – put the lid on and shake it like crazy.  Dump this out onto a sheet pan (or again, as I did – a foil-lined sheet pan) and chuck it in a 400F oven for an hour.  The potatoes were done early, so I just hit the warming button and left them in the oven.  You could use pretty much any small, thin-skinned potato as well, but I like the flavor of the red potato here.  Like I said, this is impossible to screw up.

Sautéed Haricots Verts

Again, ridiculously easy.  This will also serve 6-8 people.

  • 1 pound Haricots Verts, stem side trimmed, washed, etc.
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Red pepper flakes

Boil some water.  Salt the water generously.  Prepare a big bowl with salted ice water nearby.  Par-cook the beans for about 90 seconds, then rescue them from the boiling water (I used a frying spider like this to do the job), depositing them in the ice bath to stop the cooking process.  When the beans are cooled, extract them from the cold water.  I did this step a few hours ahead, so I put them in a sealed bowl in the fridge.  If you’re doing it right then, just put them aside.

Get your sauté pan ready.  Coat the bottom in the EVOO.  Add the garlic, some salt and a pinch of the red pepper flakes.  Very slowly and gently, heat up that oil to infuse the flavors of the garlic and red pepper.  Turn up the heat to medium, add the beans and finish them off.  How long?  Do you like your beans crunchy or like baby food?  It’s all up to you.

Grilled NY Strips – Reverse Sear Method

This was the part that drew shock & awe from the guys.  Conventional wisdom says you sear a steak and finish it over indirect heat, like in the oven.  This flips that model upside-down.  Why?  Science.  That’s why.  Think about what happens when you do a roast in the oven.  You cook that roast to medium-rare or medium, and when you cut into it, it’s pretty much top-to-bottom pink, right?  Think about the last time you had a steak cooked by conventional means.  You had a crust on the outside, and a ring of well-done just underneath, followed by your center that’s medium-rare or medium.  What if you could get rid of most or all of the ring of well-done meat?  That’s what the reverse sear is all about.  Want to read more?  Go check out /r/steak on Reddit.  Lots of reverse searers and sous-viders there.

So, on to how to do this.  I put the steaks on a rack, holding them above a sheet pan.  I salted each side very generously with Kosher salt.  I left them out on the counter like this for an hour.  An hour?  In the creepy-crawly bacterial danger zone?  Relax, skippy.  You’re going to blast these things with fire in a little while.  Bacteria growth, if any, will be on the surface, and will be quite handily eradicated after you introduce them to some fire.

I did our steaks on the grill.  We’ve got a Weber Genesis E-330, LP model.  I switched on the far right burner, and deposited our steaks on the far left of the grill and closed the lid.  How high should the burner be?  Depends on how cold it is outside.  Last night, it was about 45F, so I did medium-high.  You want the ambient temp inside the grill around 200-250F.  Relax, this will be a while.  If you’ve got a probe thermometer, probe the meat and set the alarm for 115F (assuming you want medium-rare).  Basically, you’re going to pull about 10-15F below where you want to finish.  For me, this took about 45 minutes to reach this temp.  I pulled the steaks, and covered them in foil, and took them inside to rest for 10 minutes.

During that rest, I cranked up all of the burners to high and kept the lid down.  By the time the rest was over, the grill was about 650F.  During the summer, I can get it to well over 700F.  Steaks go back on and get flipped every 30 seconds until you’re happy.  To impress, add a turn, giving you nice cross-hatch grill marks.  The steaks got about 4 minutes total sear time, roughly 2 minutes per side, leaving them at 125-130F, perfect medium-rare.  Off the grill, onto the plates.

Because you’ve already rested the meat, they won’t bleed out the moment you cut them, so you can dig right in.  Be warned on a couple of points here…

  1. You need thicker steaks to pull this off.  If you go with the standard ¾ inch type steaks you generally see in the market, the method doesn’t work.  Why?  During the sear, you’ll overcook the middle.  Minimum of 1 inch.  1 ½ or more is better for this method.
  2. Be prepared for horrified looks from your guests.  When you pull the steaks to rest them, they will look like sad little lumps of meat.  That’s ok.  Just tell your diners to relax and believe.  Last night, I had 6 skeptics that thought I’d ruined good steak, only to completely reverse that opinion mere minutes later. 🙂

My sole regret was forgetting to get a picture of the completed steaks.  What can I say?  We were hungry.  We paired the above with a bottle of Phantom, from Bogle Vineyards.  Rastelli’s was doing tastings the other day, and it caught me by surprise, so I bought 2 bottles.  At $18 each, they were better than lots of $50 bottles I’ve had.

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