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How to cook steaks and sides like the pros in your home kitchen

Newsday food writer Pervaiz Shallwani demonstrates how to

Newsday food writer Pervaiz Shallwani demonstrates how to prepare a steak in your kitchen using steakhouse techniques. Credit: Newsday / Jeffrey Basinger; Daniel Brennan

Cooking for a pregnant wife can lead to new cooking skills. For me, that’s when I learned to make a steak as good as those I’ve eaten in most steakhouses. And at a fraction of the price.

Shortly after we learned we were having a child three years ago, Laena surprised me with a message one afternoon declaring she had a steak craving. “What kind of steak should I buy?” she wanted to know. I suggested a rib eye.

I arrived home to find a tomahawk chop, a gigantic Flintstone-like rib eye whose other monikers include cowboy cut and dinosaur steak because of the way they are presented — butchered and scraped so that several inches of clean white bone remain intact.

I had always put up a barrier between a modest steak and such a dramatic one. This kind of cut I had tagged as one for an extravagant night out, not one my modest kitchen was equipped to handle.

I made a go of it, and the result was meat with a uniformly charred crust, deep beefy flavor and a bright pink center. I was thrilled and ruined. It’s hard to go back to your everyday steak after such an accomplishment.

In the years since, I have become somewhat obsessed with the idea of turning our home into a steakhouse on the weekends for parties of four to 10, gathering people around the stove to fire off steaks — dry-aged ones, grass-fed and grass-finished ones, rib eyes, porterhouses and New York strips — all perfuming the air with scent of charred beef.

To do so, I have also learned that you need to follow a few foolproof rules, many of which apply to cooking any steak.

A steakhouse-quality steak requires a visit to a good butcher. This means a conversation with a local butcher who can guide you. For this story we settled on Main Street Meats in Farmingdale, where we chose steaks, dry-aged for at least 25 days, similar to those used by top Long Island steakhouses, including Tellers: An American Chophouse in Islip and Union Prime Steak & Sushi in Great Neck.

The price of a dry-aged steak in the butcher case will seem like sticker shock at first, but one thing to note: Dry aging extracts moisture from meat, resulting in a steak that is more concentrated in flavor. It also shrinks less in the pan. So it costs more, but you are also getting more steak for your dollar.

Before you cook the steak, pull it out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour. You can heavily salt it with large crystal salt (kosher or sea salt) on all sides, including the edges. This adds flavor and tenderizes the meat.

You’re going to be cooking the steak on very high heat in order to get a nice crust while maintaining a medium-rare center. It’s going to need to be thick, at least 1 1⁄4 inches and better if it’s closer to 1 1⁄2 to 2 inches, pretty standard for a porterhouse or tomahawk.

In order to form a crust, the steak will have to be room temperature and completely dry so it doesn’t cool the pan and begins forming a crust immediately upon contact.

When you’re ready to sear, make sure you pat the steak completely dry with a paper towel. You want it to sear, not sizzle, which means it’s steaming.

The key differences between a steakhouse and most homes is ventilation. Unlike steakhouse kitchens, most homes don’t have an exhaust system to deal with the smoke that will develop when searing a steak for several minutes, likely leading to a blaring smoke alarm.

I found you can combat this by turning on the exhaust fan and opening a few windows, turning on a ceiling fan or opening a door.

A cast-iron pan is ideal because it is heavy, heats evenly and holds its temperature. When I have a really well-aged steak, I find that heating the pan until smoke is violently billowing from it is all I need to start the sear. When the flavor of the meat is this good, why alter the flavor with oils, garlic, butter or herbs?

One way to get a little fat in the pan is to start with the fat cap side first. This way there will not only be some fat in the pan when you start cooking the meat, but the fat cap will be somewhat creamy instead of rubbery by the time steak is cooked.

Despite what you have may have heard, there is no harm in using a thermometer to test the temperature. You want it perfect, and inserting a thermometer to make sure the temperature is 130 degrees for medium-rare will make sure you get it right.

Once it’s ready, you need to let the steak rest for at least five minutes and up to 10 minutes on a cutting board. During the cooking process the juices have rushed to the surface. You want to give them time to relax and thicken. Cutting the steak before this happens will lead to all the juices flowing onto the cutting board.

You can serve the steak whole, but I prefer to slice and present it fanned out on a plate.

Part of the steakhouse experience is sides. The more I do this, the less I want a hearty supporting cast of mac and cheese and creamed spinach, which get in the way of what I really want: more steak.

Here we replaced wedge salad with a whole leaf Caesar, the spinach with charred broccoli, while adding some sweet roasted carrots for color. As for the potatoes, we stuck with vintage hash browns. Some classics are irreplaceable.

 

DRY-AGED STEAK

This recipe is ideal for a well-marbled steak. It allows the flavor of the meat to stand out. Searing the steak in oil or butter will take away from the beef flavor. Instead, “grease” the pan by rendering out some of the steak’s own fat. To season it, use only salt. Make sure there is sufficient ventilation so you don’t set off the smoke alarm.

1 dry-aged steak (New York strip, porterhouse, bone-in rib-eye steak, aka tomahawk), 1 1⁄2 to 2 inches thick with a small strip of fat intact

Large crystal salt (kosher or sea salt)

1. Remove steak from refrigerator 30 minutes to an hour before cooking and preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Place a cast-iron or heavy oven-safe stainless-steel pan large enough to cook steak without crowding over high heat. Let the pan sit on heat until very hot and smoke is quickly rising off pan, about 5 minutes.

3. Pat the steak dry with a paper towel and sprinkle liberally with salt on all sides.

4. Using tongs or your hand, hold the steak upright in the pan so that the fattiest edge is in direct contact with the hot surface. When that edge is brown, move the steak to expose another edge to the pan. Keep moving the steak so that all the edges are brown, then place it flat in the pan, gently pressing with fingers or a metal spatula until a nice crust forms, 1 to 2 minutes.

5. Flip the steak and do the same on the other side for about 1 minute.

6. Place the pan in the oven and cook until the center of the steak registers about 130 degrees with a meat thermometer for medium rare, 5 to 7 minutes (a few minutes longer for a larger cut such as a porterhouse or tomahawk).

7. Transfer to cutting board and let rest for about 10 minutes. A well-marbled steak doesn’t need much of a garnish.

8. Just before serving, slice steak against the grain. Serve with salt for seasoning.

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WHOLE-LEAF CAESAR SALAD

Adapted from “A Girl and Her Pig: Recipes and Stories” by April Bloomfield with J.J. Goode (Ecco, 2012).

For the dressing

7 salt-packed anchovy fillets

2 medium cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1⁄4 cup Champagne vinegar

1 large egg

1 cup grapeseed or sunflower oil

1-ounce chunk Parmesan, very finely grated

1. Place anchovy fillets and garlic in the bowl of food processor and pulse to a rough paste.

2. Add the mustard and vinegar, crack in the egg and blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

3. With motor running, gradually drizzle in the oil in a steady stream.

4. Add Parmesan and blend until combined. Chill in the fridge to thicken. Dressing will keep for up to 3 days.

For the croutons

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Tear stale, rustic bread into bite-size pieces. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake, tossing the pieces every once in a while until they are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. The bread should be crispy all the way through(but not too dark).

For the salad

2 heads romaine lettuce, chilled and cored

2 handfuls croutons

3 tablespoons chilled dressing

6 anchovy fillets

1 teaspoon large-crystal sea salt, such as Maldon (optional)

Chunk Parmesan sliced into thin sheets with a vegetable peeler

In a large bowl toss the lettuce leaves and croutons with dressing. Transfer to a large plate and garnish with anchovies, saltand Parmesan. Makes 4 servings.

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POMMES DARPHIN (POTATO PANCAKE)

2 pounds russet potatoes, unpeeled

4 tablespoons butter, divided

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Salt to taste

1. Wash and dry the potatoes. Using a mandoline, the grating attachment on a food processor or the large holes of a box grater, grate into long strips.

2. In a heavy 12-inch round skillet, preferably cast iron or stainless steel, melt half the butter and add half the oil. When hot, add the potatoes, pressing down with a metal spatula to form into a cake. If you only have a smaller pan, cook 2 pancakes, 1 at a time.

3. Cook over medium heat until a crust begins to form on the bottom, 8 to 10 minutes. Occasionally use the spatula to loosen potatoes from the pan, shaking it to keep the pancake from sticking. Be careful not to tear the pancake.

4. Once the pancake is evenly browned, invert it onto a plate, add the rest of the butter to the pan, then return the pancake to the pan uncooked side down.

5. Brown the underside another 8 to 10 minutes.

6. When done, slide onto a cutting board, cut into wedges, transfer to a plate, sprinkle with salt and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

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THREE-COLOR CARROTS

3 small bunches of carrots in three different colors, green tops removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and fresh pepper

6 sprigs of thyme, plus more for garnishing

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash the carrots, dry them thoroughly and cut each lengthwise into 4 pieces.

2. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, toss the carrots in olive oil, salt and pepper and spread in an even layer.

3. Place the thyme sprigs on top of carrots and cook until the carrots are lightly charred, 20 to 30 minutes.

4. Serve with finely chopped thyme. Makes 4 servings.

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CHARRED BROCCOLI

4 medium heads broccoli

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and fresh pepper

Juice of half a large lemon

2-ounce chunk of aged Gouda, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons breadcrumbs

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash the broccoli, dry thoroughly and chop into large florets with about 1 inch of stalk remaining.

2. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, toss the florets in olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread in an even layer and cook until they are charred, 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Transfer to a plate, spritz with lemon, sprinkle with cheese and bread crumbs and serve. Makes 4 servings.

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