Sous Vide Steak

Sous vide (a.k.a. hot tubbing)  is a technique where the meat is vacuum sealed in a plastic bag, put into a water bath, and brought to an almost-done temperature before being finished on the grill.

No matter how you like your steak done, this reverse sear is a great way to get more of your steak done the way you like it. By bringing the steak’s internal temperature close to the desired final level of done-ness first and then searing the outside, you get a nice, wide band of meat done the way you like it without much of a ring of gray meat around it.

I like my steak medium rare, so I sealed a couple of nice rib eyes in a FoodSaver bag and submerged it in a 100°F water bath. I checked every 15 minutes or so and added more hot water when the temperature dropped. After an hour the steaks were at the same temperature as the water.

Since medium rare is only 135°F, and the steaks are already almost there, all I had to do next was give them a good char.

I cranked my Big Green Egg up to nuclear temperature with all the vents open and did a final prep of the steaks – dusting them with some kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper and shaping them with my hands so that they are as compact as possible.

I put the steaks over the hottest part of the grill and closed the lid for 60 seconds of undisturbed searing. After a minute, I rotated them 90 degrees and gave them 30 seconds with the lid closed. I flipped the meat and repeated the process on the other side.

I pulled them from the grill, put the steaks on a warm plate and covered them gently with another one, and let them rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

The verdict – probably one of the tastiest steaks I’ve ever had. There was plenty of  bright pink meat with a good, rich, beefy taste and a nice char on the outside. The texture was a little grainy, which might mean I had the water bath too hot. Next time I’ll use a bigger container so the temperature doesn’t drop when I add the steaks.

T-bones

We got a quarter of a cow from my brother-in-law recently, and there was a pack of t-bones in the bundle that looked so nice that they headed straight for the grill.

This was a straight-on, no-frills, hot-and-fast grilling. I set the Big Green Egg up for a roaring 700°+F cook. While the grill was heating up, I seasoned the steaks with just a little kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper.

When the charcoal looked like a pool of lava, I tossed these bad boys on for 90 seconds of undisturbed searing. Then I flipped them and let them go another 90 seconds on other other side. I flipped them again and checked the internal temperature. I was looking for a nice medium-rare – 135°F with a hint of red and the center. It only took me another 30 seconds a side to get there.

I put the steaks on a warm plate and covered them gently with another one, and let them rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Nice crispy char on the outside and tender medium-rare goodness on the inside. Perfect.

Salt & Pepper Sirloin

Sometimes simple is best.

1 1/2 pound sirloin steak
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Set your grill up for a directed cook over medium-high heat (450-500°F).

Brush steak with oil and salt and pepper to taste.

For medium rare, grill for 4 to 6 minutes on each side, or until the meat reaches 130°F internal. Remove from grill and let it rest about 5 minutes, then cut crosswise into thin slices.

We served it with sauteed green beans and this excellent roasted beet salad.

More Flat Iron Steak

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The flat iron steak is another one of those cheap, tasty and (relatively) unknown cuts of meat that is gaining in popularity.  Cut from the top shoulder of the chuck, it is as tender as tenderloin and as flavorful as a strip steak.

Ingredients

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 canned Chipotle pepper in Adobo, minced
1 tablespoon Adobo sauce from peppers
2 teaspoons kosher sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 flat iron steak (2 halves)

Instructions

Combine all ingredients, except steaks, in a small bowl. Mix to combine. Pour over steaks, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight if possible.

There’s lots of marbling in flat iron steaks, so I don’t mind cooking them a little lower and longer than I would normally do steak. Set your grill up for direct cooking over medium-high heat (450 to 500°F).  For medium rare, grill the halves for 4 to 6 minutes on each side, or until they reach 130°F internal. Let them rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

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Beef Sate with Peanut Sauce

Is there anything better than meat on a stick? Meat on a stick with a rich and savory peanut sauce, of course.

The red curry paste in this recipe is a real  time saver. It adds a lot of flavor without the need to crush your own lemon grass or locate kaffir lime leaves.

Ingredients

3 pounds boneless sirloin or flank steaks
1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
2 tablespoons lime juice (1 medium lime)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 cup peanut butter
1 can (13.5 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk

Directions

Combine the soy sauce, honey, red curry paste, lime juice, peanut oil, rice vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, and coriander in a large bowl and whisk well to combine.

Trim excess fat and gristle from the beef. Cover the roast with a layer of plastic wrap or wax paper. Use the the flat side of a meat tenderizer or a heavy sauce pan to pound the meat until it it’s about 1/2 inch thick. Slice the meat against the grain into 1/4 x 3 inch strips.

Put the beef in a big Ziploc bag and add the marinade. Seal the bag and turn to coat. Marinate for at least 2 hours in the fridge, overnight is much better.

Soak skewers for at least an hour. Set your grill up for a direct cook over very high heat (about 500°F).

Pour the marinade off the beef and into a medium saucepan. Add the peanut butter and coconut milk. Stiring regularly, bring the peanut mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the sauce has reduced by about a third. Remove peanut sauce from heat and keep warm.

Place steak on the skewers. Double skewer the meat so that it will be easier to flip. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until just cooked through. You want to crispy on the outside and medium on the inside. Serve hot with the peanut sauce.

Steak and King Crab on a Budget

We love to eat out, but with the way the economy has been, we just can’t afford to do it nearly as often as we’d like. Our solution has been to eat at home, but we still like our fine dinning experience.  By doing some bargain shopping and taking full advantage of our FoodSaver and freezer, we were able to put together this gourmet meal for a fraction of what it would have cost in a restaurant.

The Cook

Make sure your steak and crab are well-thawed. Pull the steak out of the refrigerator about an hour before cooking.

Set your grill up for direct cooking at high heat (about 500-700°F).

Season the steak on both sides with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Put the steak over the hottest part of the grill and close the lid. Give it 60 seconds of undisturbed searing. After a minute, flip it over. If the steak won’t come away from the grill easily, give it another 30 seconds. Once flipped, close the lid and give it another 60 seconds of undisturbed searing.

Now open the lip and leave it open for the rest of the cook.  Flip the steak again – flipping the steak often minimizes flareup and maximizes the amount of steak that’s done the way you like it. Keep flipping the steak once a  minute until they are done to your taste. Press on the center of the steak or use an instant-read thermometer to determine doneness. I like mine medium-rare, which  is 135°F internal with a mostly pink center with a hint of red and yields easily to a little pressure.

Remove the steak the a warm plate and let it rest while you cook the crab and asparagus.

Decrease the heat of the grill to medium-high (about 400°F).

Place the legs on the grill with the spiny side up. Close the lid and let cook for 5 minutes. Flip the legs and add the asparagus to the grill. Leave the lid open and grill for about 5 minutes, turning frequently, until the spears begin to brown and caramelize and the crab is heated through.

Remove the asparagus to a plate and drizzle with olive oil and a little lemon juice. Keep warm.

Wearing food prep gloves, or using a thick disk towel, break the legs at the joints. Use a seafood cracker or pair of kitchen shears to further crack the leg segments. Serve with melted butter.

The Math

We bought 2 full clusters of crab legs at a significant discount from a local yuppiemart that had ordered way too many of them. We bought the value-pack of steaks from Cosco. Everything got separated into meal-sized portions, sealed in FoodSaver bags, and frozen.

5 pounds of King Crab clusters @ $9.99/pound = $49.95
5 pounds of beef tenderloins @ $6.99/pound = $34.95

So, for $80.90 we got enough steak and crab for 4 meals for 2. That’s $20.26 a meal. Add $10 for a  bottle tasty, mid-priced red wine, a couple bucks for the veggies and dessert, light a candle and we’re still talking fine dining at under $40 a couple.

Corned Beef & Cabbage

This Irish-American dish appears on many a St. Patrick’s Day table. You can buy pre-seasoned corned beef brisket at most grocery stores,  but I’ve been curing my own for a couple of years now and it’s well worth the effort. While the dish is traditionally braised, I like the firmer texture and greater depth of flavor I get from smoking it a little first.

The Cure

Start with an uncured, trimmed 3-4 pound brisket flat (the bottom portion of the brisket).

Combine all of the following ingredients to make your dry cure:

3 tablespoon  Morton’s Sugar Cure (plain)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons corned beef spices (I like Penzey’s with brown & yellow mustard seeds, coriander, allspice, cracked cassia, dill seed, bay leaves, cloves, China ginger, peppercorns, star anise, juniper, mace, cardamom, red pepper, whew…)

Place brisket in a large freezer bag and coat with the cure. Rub the cure into the meat, covering all sides. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal. Store in the refrigerator for 5 days, flipping the meat over once a day. Liquid will begin to collect n the bag – this is a good thing as it indicates that the cure is working. Do not drain it off.

On the 6th day, remove the brisket from the cure and rinse under cold water to remove most of the pieces of spice. Then soak the brisket in cold water for 1-2 hours to remove some of the salt. Dry off the meat and season lightly with a little fresh-ground black pepper.

The Smoke

Set up your grill for an indirect cook that will burn for at least 5 hours at between 225 to 250°F. Use a drip pan under the brisket to catch the fat. Add wood for smoke (I like grape vine). Cook at 225°F for about 3 hours, or until the internal temperature of the meat hits 160°F. Remove the brisket from the smoker.

The Braise

1/2 large head green cabbage (about 2 pounds), cut into thick wedges
6 Yukon gold potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), quartered
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Place the brisket in a large roasting pan, surround with the remaining ingredients and add enough water to barely cover. Braise in the oven until the vegetables are done and the meat is very tender, about 30 minutes to an hour.

Remove the corned beef and slice thinly across the grain. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a large platter. Lay the sliced meat over vegetables and ladle over with a little of the remaining liquid.

Planked Steak and Scallops

This dish makes good use of plank cooking to not only flavor the food, but to create a simple yet mildly-dramatic “one pot” meal on the grill. Don’t skimp on the chipotle or cayenne. The chilies help to balance the robust woodsiness of the cedar, and provide an unexpected kick without overwhelming the meat.

Bacon-wrapped Tenderloins with Smokey Compound Butter (stolen largely from Pinch My Salt)

For the Steaks:

2 beef tenderloin steaks, 1 1/2 inches thick or better
2 slices bacon
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

Tightly wrap one slice of bacon around each steak, securing with with a toothpick. Season both sides with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.

For the Compound Butter:

1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup) at room temperature, divided in half
1 tablespoon Smoked Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder or cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Melt half of the butter and pour into a mixing bowl. Add the spices and mix until until well-combined. Let cool until mostly solid. Add the remaining butter and whisk to combine. Spoon mixture onto a large ramekin, cover with a sheet of waxed paper, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Chili Lime Scallops

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon chipotle chili powder or cayenne pepper
1 lb sea scallops

Whisk lime juice, oil, garlic, chili powder, salt, and cayenne together in small bowl. Add scallops and toss to cover with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate, basting once with marinade, for about 30 minutes.

Asparagus

1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed
olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Please the spears on a plate and drizzle with a little oil and vinegar. Turn to coat then sprinkle with salt.

The Cook


The goal is to put everything on the grill at the right time so that it’s all done at once. It’s important to work quickly, so have your mis en place, some warmed plates stacked nearby, and an oven set on low as a backup in case you need to stash a dish that finishes early.

Use a food-grade plank that’s been soaked in water for at least an hour. Set your grill up for direct cooking at high heat (about 500°F).

When the grill is up to temperature, put the plank on by itself for about 5 minutes, or until you see the first wisps of smoke coming from the board. Flip the plank over and set it beside the grill with the warm side up.

Sear the steaks for 2-3 minutes on each side. Put the plank back on the grill with the warm side up and move the steaks and the scallops to the plank. Close the lid and cook until the steaks and scallops are right around 120°F internal, about 10-15 minutes.

Add the asparagus to the grill. Leave the lid open and grill for about 5 minutes, turning frequently, until the spears begin to brown and caramelize.

Ideally, the asparagus should be done at the same time the steaks have reached 135°F internal (medium-rare) and the scallops are opaque and have just started to flake a bit. Remove everything to warm plates, top the steaks with a pat of the compound butter, and serve.

Swiss Steak

No, I did not grill Swiss steak. It was a cold and dark Sunday afternoon,  -19°F outside with an ugly North wind, and I was craving some meaty comfort food. This oven-braised dish fit the bill perfectly.

This is mostly just an update to my Grandmother’s recipe. While she would have never used wine, fresh garlic, or Spanish paprika, her Swiss steak was always heavy with onions and tomatoes.

Ingredients

3 pounds minute steak (about 6 steaks)
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Smoked Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup beef or chicken broth
1/2 cup red wine

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Trim the steaks of any excess fat and cut into into individual serving sizes. Combine the flour, salt, and pepper. Place the flour mixture into a large plate.  Dredge  both sides of the steaks in the flour and set aside.

In a 5-quart Dutch oven or a large, lidded skillet, add enough of the oil to cover the bottom and set it  over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the steaks to the pan two or three at a time, being careful not to overcrowd. Cook about 2 minutes per side until golden brown on both sides. Remove the steaks to a plate, add more oil to the pan,  and repeat until all of the steaks have been browned.

Remove the last steaks from the pan and add the onions and garlic. Saute until soft, but not browned, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, beef broth, and wine.  Stir to combine and cook for a minute or so, scraping the bottom to loosen all of the brown bits. These will help flavor and thicken the sauce.

Lay the steaks across the top of the sauce. Try for a single layer, but stacking or overlapping is fine if you have to. Cover the pan and cook in the oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the sauce is brown and bubbly and the meat is falling apart tender.

I love to dish up the steaks on a plate with whipped potatoes and sweet corn and then smother everything with the remaining sauce.

Pulled Beef

After buying our last half of a beef, I discovered that our butcher had unhelpfully labeled all of the roasts as “Roast.” Since now I’m never sure what I’m getting when I take one out of the deep freeze, I needed a roast recipe that would work as well for a top sirloin as it would for a chuck.

I decided to try making pulled beef. This low-and-slow barbecue approach is similar to the one used to make pulled pork, but because of the (relative) lack of fat and connective tissue in some beef roasts, this recipes adds a braising step to ensure that the meat is moist and tender. Continue reading “Pulled Beef”