Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Beef. I like beef.

In previous discussions elsewhere with the lovely and gracious Karen, the subject of steak came up.

Which prompted me to dig up and complete this post that had been moldering away in a near-forgotten sector. (What the coarse and vulgar population might rudely term my "draft pile." But they'd be wrong.)


Last Christmas I received a sampler pack of seasonings from Williams-Sonoma. Smallish tins of +/- 1 oz. each. Mexican this, Seattle that, etc. Anyway. They had a steak seasoning which I rather enjoyed. But, while one is trudging through The Great Recession, buying the large tin at $10 (!) for a mere 4 oz.* (!!) is not going to happen.


I set about deconstructing it and, frankly, improving it. If you ever pick up these sorts of seasonings you will notice three things at the head of the ingredients list (in the USA, ingredients have to be listed in order, starting with the most abundant one) sugar, salt, and paprika. Sure, they may give them ultra-posh adjectives such as "Herne Bay sea salt" or "Peruvian sun dried paprika" but you must realize these things are cheap filler. Also there were some variants of ingredients which I thought (correctly, as my lab research shows) could be substituted or upgraded.

Thus, I gathered Joey (Davy is more of the quality control tester) and we assembled in the kitchen, gathering our spice jars and an old coffee mill we comandeered AGES ago for the purpose of spice grinding. You will NOT believe how helpful Joey was. He has an eerily accurate palate.

But I digress.

Here is my version. It is, on purpose, NOT identical to the original, because as noted above, I believed I should change some of the things I didn't like "while I was at it." I'll note those as I go.

(This is all by volume, use teaspoons, cups, or whatever.)

3 parts granulated garlic (Usually I'd go for fresh garlic, but in these applications, it'd fall off and/or scorch. So I got a good brand of granulated. The original rub had granulated roast garlic, but I found it got bitter over the chargrill's high/dry heat so I switched...oh, make sure you use the granulated and not the powdered stuff, which often has bizarro ingredients!)

1 part EACH black peppercorns and red pepper flakes (in the original, I couldn't detect much heat from the chile seeds/ribs...but I tend to like a bit of heat, so I used flakes instead of a seeded dry chile...although next time I might experiment with a varietal such as cascabel)

2 parts each coriander seed, dill seed, yellow -- I s'pose you could try brown -- mustard seed.

Put all in a spice mill and whiz 3-4 want a pretty good crack, but not a homogeneous powder. I like mine a TINY bit finer than spice rubs straight out of the my opinion you get better adhesion that way.

Oh, and note the lack of salt. I like salting the meat first, letting the juices flow back and forth in an osmosis ballet and then adding the spices.

What I did is get a big ol' segment of cow (pretty cheap per pound at the warehouse-type places) and then slice myself. But before doing that, I let it wet-age. If you get the beef -- do not try this with pork, AMHIK -- you can age it in the original cry-o-vac if it has not lost its seal. I've let mine go 16 weeks and the results are spectacular. The taste isn't as minerally/gamy as with dry-aged beef, but it is equally tender.


What you do with your steak is salt it first as it comes up to room temperature. You will see some "perspiration" on the surface and then you sprinkle your spice rub. Then go light your charcoal fire. (Or wait 30 minutes if your BBQ grill is a gas model.) For max foodieness, I used real hardwood charcoal, but you use whatever. I also use one of those "chimney starters" so that I don't need to worry about (yuck) lighter fluid. When the coals glow, you dump 'em into the BBQ grill.

You drop the charcoal WAY to one side of the vessel. Pile it as far and high on ONE side as possible. This is key.

When the "coal side" is intolerably hot, you put your steaks on the grate. You could, if you are insufferable like I am, give them that quarter-turn for fancy-pants grill marks. The idea is to sear the outside, HARD. You want as much stuff caramelizing there as possible. This is also key. Do not peek, do not flip, etc. Let it go there. 1 minute per inch of thickness per side. So, a 2" thick steak would go 2 minutes per side. Then you slide them to the part of the grill where the coals are NOT. You want the steak to cook to your desired doneness as slowly as possible. The slower you go, the more time certain tenderizing enzymes have to do their voodoo. This is key.

Finally, take them off and cover LOOSELY with foil, let them rest 10-15 or so, so the juices -- which are trying to exit as a result of the heat, much like water exits a boiling pot -- have time to calm down and go back into the steak where they should be.



* That's 110gm for the metric kids.