Saturday, June 4, 2011

Making the perfect steak

This is what you want - the perfect medium rare steak
Having a great butcher is where to start

Here are a couple of T-bones
Making the perfect steak- everyone has their own way of grilling, but the difficulty is- how can you insure that the steak will have that nice sear on the outside, and be perfectly done on the inside? 

This is a question that is particularly important to my patients, who have the Lap-Band. If they get a piece of meat that is overcooked, that meat can get stuck in the band.  But even if you don't have a Lap-Band making the perfect steak is not as easy as it sounds.  Unless you cook the steak Sous Vide.

Here is my simple way to make a great steak that will have a perfect crust, and yet be juicy and flavorful.
The first place to start is with great meat. Having a good butcher is important - because they can make sure you have prime, aged beef that is the highest quality and the most tender. 
I like a rub on my steaks. There are a lot of commercial rubs available, but its cheaper and easier to make your own

After the steak has been nicely rubbed it needs to be vacuum sealed

When steaks are going to be juicy, you do not need to put a sauce with them. The steak will supply the flavor. But the steak does need some seasoning.  To season a steak I like a simple rub that is made up of equal parts of Kosher salt, ground pepper, brown sugar, and paprika.  I usually season the steaks on both sides with salt first, then rub the steaks with this rub.  There are a lot of rubs out there, and they cost quite a bit- so making your own rub is a lot easier.  Some like to add other ingredients like granulated garlic, or a bit of chili flakes.
Then the steak is placed in the water oven. For medium Rare I keep the steaks at 136 degrees

They are going to stay in about 45 minutes if the steaks are an inch thick

 The water bath temperature depends on how you like your steak. I like mine medium-rare - but what I want is the entire steak to be medium rare- not just the middle pearl (or as Capital Grill calls it "warm red center").  So for me the ideal temperature to cook steak is 136 degrees F, and it takes, for most good cuts, about 45 minutes per inch.  Hard to over cook it, because the temperature isn't going to change, however, the longer it is cooked beyond this, there will be some breakdown of other proteins in the steak and it will change the consistency.
The steak is done, but it doesn't have that nice sear on it.
 Once the time is up, you have a steak that is medium rare throughout.  Of course, this isn't all that appetizing, what is missing is that great sear on the outside of the steak.  As soon as the timer goes off and 45 minutes has passed I place a grill pan on the stove and crank up the heat. Normally you don't cook beyond a medium heat on the stove, but this isn't cooking- this is searing. If I am doing a dinner party in my outside kitchen I use the infrared setting on my gas grill, the highest allowed. This will put a great sear on the outside of the steak.

I like using a grill that will put some great grill marks on the steak. Before you even put the steak in the grill make sure it is hot. So when the oil starts to smoke, it is read-- and I usually have this as high a heat as it can take. This isn't cooking, this is searing.
The nice thing about grill marks is you can orient them to make perfect squares - mom always wants me to make the food look "pretty". You only need to sear it long enough to get the grill marks, usually less than two minutes a side.

This outside sear is called the Maillard reaction.  It caramelizes of the surface only of the meat. Allowing a rich chemical reaction of the organics - to provide that great taste.

If a steak is traditionally grilled, or broiled in an oven, the outside temperature is the highest - which is the Maillard reaction, but as one goes into the steak it goes from well done, to medium well, to medium, to medium rare, and if it is undercooked a bit rare, to raw.  With Sous Vide cooking you eliminate that as an issue. Instead the entire steak is cooked medium rare.

Look at that- the entire steak has that medium-rare center. The outside of the steak is seared perfectly seared, and there is no part of the steak that is over done or under cooked.  This will be the juiciest steak you can imagine

When I have guests over for an outdoor barbecue I have the steaks in the Sous Vide, and start the grill up outside. Then, when everyone is ready for dinner I am able to take the steaks out of the water oven and place them right on the grill for a perfect sear everytime. They get steak that is cooked better than you could ever imagine. 

The only problem with this? None- if someone wants a steak medium or medium well (arg) - you can leave it on the grill longer to cook through. 

You won't want to visit a steak restaurant again- because what you make at home will be so much better, and a lot less expensive than going out to get one.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Making scrambled eggs- properly

The key to eggs is to cook them slowly on a low heat
The key to cooking proteins, is to not over cook them so that they give up their juices - leaving a dry, rubbery, curdled mess. This is most evident with eggs.  Eggs are a protein, and if cooked properly will give you the most elegant meal, for breakfast, or brunch, or even dinner.

Too many restaurants make eggs on a hot griddle. They quickly scramble the eggs, taking less than a minute.  They come out with the consistency of rubber, and even less taste. Most people get use to this, and think this is how they should be.  My wife always thought she needed ketchup with her eggs.  Once she had eggs the way I cooked them - she said, "I don't even need ketchup for these!"

Here are the keys to cooking proper scrambled eggs:

(a) First heat a pan to a medium heat on the stove, or less.  I like using an old fashioned cast iron pan.  These pans provide a nice even heat, and make great food.

(b) Get some great eggs, and this is not a place to skimp. Eggs that have higher content of omega-3 fatty acids cost more than a standard dozen, but they still are an inexpensive protein

(c) Once the pan is hot, put about one pad of butter to coat the pan- just enough

(d) crack the eggs and place them on a plate or a bowl, and then directly into the pan. DO NOT WHISK THEM.  Do not add salt, or pepper, or milk, or cottage cheese.

(e) Start by breaking the yolks in the pan, and then turn the heat down to simmer.

(f) start to stir

Keep the eggs in motion. I use a heat-resistant spatula
As the steam comes off the eggs- take them off the heat and stir
These eggs are almost done. Turn off the heat and add 3 tablespoons of butter - cold. The butter will stop the heating and you will have eggs that have the consistency of yogurt or custard.
Once you have great eggs, you will never want eggs done any other way.  It takes me about ten minutes to make eggs- and it is worth it. For my patients who have the lap-band, if they get eggs that are done on a high heat and fast, they will "stick" in the band, because they have the consistency of rubber.
Learning to cook great eggs is easy- you need patience, and a bit of time.
Once you have the eggs cooked- then add salt and pepper to your liking. If you add it before it will change the consistency of the eggs, and the salt will draw the water out of the eggs.