Last night tom-mcgee.com World Headquarters played host to the lovely Pelin and her totally cool fiancee Gavin. It was a fabulous evening all around, and without the slightest hint of modesty I’d like to claim that the food helped a little. Now Pelin, being from Turkey, has this whole healthy Mediterranean way of eating. But all of us with the last name “McGee” are hopelessly carnivorous. Betting that Gavin was that way too (and I won that bet) I went with beef.
Lots of beef.
One of the tricks I learned from a former-favorite cookbook, Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Cooking, was a method of preparing a standing rib roast. My current favorite, Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook has a recipe for côte de bouef that he claims will instill shock and awe upon your guests. Mashing them up, so to speak, here’s what I came up with.
First off, getting adequately thick steaks is not an easy task. You want something you can really char the outside of while keeping the inside nice and red, the way we carnivorous types dig it. Your basic supermarket steak makes that impossible because it is a) too thin; and b) too watery. If you get the outside the way it should be it’ll end up well-done, plus before you can sear the outside the excess moisture has to steam off.
I ventured over to the local Costco, and picked up a five-and-a-half-pound rib-eye roast (around $35) for a little do-it-yourself action. You might scoff, “Costco, feh” but you’d be wrong. Costco not only gives you enormous portions of everything for cheap, but they give you the good stuff. I’m never disappointed.
Prudhomme’s method involves slicing off the fat cap, then layering on black pepper, garlic powder, salt and sliced onions; then replacing the cap, wrapping the whole thing up in plastic wrap overnight and then cooking.
Garlic powder, and its twin onion powder, are instruments of evil. They make no further appearance in this or any other food post on this blog. Go look through your spice cabinet. If you’ve got them, throw them out. I’ll wait.
Coat the beef first with salt. This will draw out the moisture, sort of a quick-and-dirty dry aging. It’s counterintuitive, but drying out your beef makes for a juicier steak. Don’t be stingy, you want it to look like it snowed.
Next, take a quarter cup or so of black peppercorns, put them in a ziploc bag and whack them with a hammer until they’re nicely broken up. Spread these on top of the salt. Then mince a few cloves of garlic, layer that on top, and follow with a sliced onion or two. Put the sliced off chunk of fat back on, and wrap the whole deal tightly in plastic wrap and chill overnight in the refrigerator.
The next day, allow time to bring it up mostly to room temperature, remove the fat cap and scrape off all the excess seasonings. They’ve done their job.
I then took this beast and sliced it into three two-inch thick ribeye steaks. The salt had done its magic, and the inside was firm and dark maroon streaked with ivory. When I put these into the grill pan (five minutes a side) they blackened nicely on the outside and developed that puffy shape that means you’ve got one juicy steak. After their ten minutes in the pan, another ten minutes in a 400-degree oven. Then, another ten minutes resting on the countertop.
Mr. Bourdain — I call him “The Boss” because of the harsh way he addresses his readers — demands this resting time for all roasted and grilled meats and he’s quite correct. When I sliced them up the juices stayed in the meat, not on the cutting board. They were a beautiful red all the way through.
The sides were sauteed spinach (one of those enormous Costco bags cooks down to about two cups) with pine nuts, garlic and raisins, and frites, according to the Gospel of The Boss. It served six, with a nice leftover piece for Brandy the dog, and no one went away hungry.