Saturday, November 19, 2011

Anniversary Rib-Eye Steak Dinner

We usually save this dinner for New Year's Eve but I'll be working with the band that night this year so decided to use it for our wedding anniversary dinner instead. (Our actual celebration will be going out to Kokkari in SF on Sunday - we haven't dined there yet and are very much looking forward to it). The meal is steak, baked potatoes, and steamed broccoli with a dressing of homemade mayonnaise.

The recipe is based on one from Jacques Pepin that I picked up a long time ago and have since made my go-to 'in-the-house' steak dish. I've tailored the recipe a bit to accommodate grass-fed steak which I find takes a different handling than grain-fed beef in that grass-fed has quite a bit less fat and can be overcooked quite easily. Now that I've learned how to prepare it, the taste of grass-fed has me hooked as it's much less dense and I find that it contains a much more 'beefy' flavor.

2 1/2 pound grass-fed rib-eye steaks
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons shallots minced
2 tablespoons cognac
1 cup beef stock

Cut each of the two rib-eyes in half. Grind up the salt and peppers in a large mortar until well-ground but less fine than a powder. Rub the salt-pepper mix generously over the cut meat.

Heat a 12-inch iron skillet over high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the butter with the canola oil. Once the butter ceases to foam, add the steak halves and allow to cook about 2 minute on one side without disturbing them. Flip the steaks over to the other side to cook for about 1-2 minutes or until using a 'touch' method to determine they are at medium-rare. Remove from the pan to a platter, cover with foil and allow to rest as you prepare the sauce.

Although meat thermometers are a blessing when cooking a large piece of meat, like a whole chicken, a pork roast, or a large chuck, I find it much better to use the touch method to determine the doneness of a steak or other smaller cuts like pork chops. I try not to overdo it during cooking as there is a risk of pushing out juices from the meat, hence flavor, but once I can determine from sight that the meat is getting close, then I'll use touch to support my sense of doneness. It took me a while and plenty of trial and error to get accurate readings from the touch method, but now it rarely fails me.

Reduce the heat of the pan to medium then add the minced shallots to the pan, adding an extra bit of oil if the pan seems too dry, and allow to cook for about a minute, until the shallots are limp. Add the cognac (be careful here as the liquor might catch a brief flame - whatever you do, don't freak on it) and allow it to reduce a little before adding the remaining tablespoon of butter and the beef stock. Allow the contents of the pan to reduce over medium heat to a gravy, about 3-4 minutes. When it is done, pour over the steaks and serve.
To give you an idea of what I consider to be a perfect medium-rare on a grass-fed rib-eye:
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