The Perfect Steak

So my first food topic I’m writing about something near and dear to my heart: a perfectly cooked piece of cow-flesh. God-damn I love me a good steak.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household where we ate it pretty regularly. My mom liked grilling sirloin, and later flank steak for the ease and ability to incorporate flavor into the meat. Both are great; I still use flank or skirt steak when I’m making fajitas.

But my favorite food will likely always be a simple cut of beef, no marinades or rubs, done medium-rare.

At some point in the last year I mastered the art of of a good steak, and it didn’t come from a grill. If I’m making a bunch I’ll still fire up the Weber, but if it’s only myself or a couple people, I’ve determined the best way to cook a steak is in the comfort of your kitchen.

note: I’m a NY strip guy. T-bones and porterhouses also work fine. Tenderloin can be amazing, but the cuts have to be straight and uniform. Sirloin, flank, skirt and hanger are tougher because most cuts are thinner on the outside.

The first thing you need to do is get your steaks to room temperature. This is vital to the cooking process. The other early requirement is kosher salt; give both sides of your steak a liberal amount. Then walk away. Come back in an hour. The salt will have broken down the tissue and allowed real flavor to develop when you get to the searing process.

Put a really good pan in your oven. This couldn’t be more important. You want a pan that can withstand some serious heat and give a great sear to your meat. I use All-Clad stainless or a well-used cast iron pan. I wouldn’t try this with shitty cookware or anything with a teflon coating. That stuff is fine for other uses, not for this.

Heat the oven, with the pan inside, to 500 degrees. Make yourself a drink and relax. Once the oven hits 500 you’re going to be moving a lot.

When the temperature hits 500, turn on a stovetop burner to high. Using gloves, take the pan out of the oven and put it on the burner. Brush your steak(s) with canola oil and put them in the pan for 30 seconds. DON’T TOUCH. Flip after the 30 seconds and sear the other side. After the time is up, pop the pan back in the oven. Let the steak(s) cook two minutes then remove the pan, flip, and pop them back in for two more minutes. When the two minutes are up, take the steaks out of the pan, wrap them in tin foil and let them sit on your counter for four minutes. They’ll continue to cook. Clean your mess up.

note: if your steaks were still cold at the start instead of room temperature, allow an extra minute per side in the oven.

Now, the key here is your steaks. Were they room temperature? Are they uniform cuts of meat? If that’s the case you’re going to get beautiful medium-rare. If they were still cold they’ll be on the rarer side when they come out and you gotta pop them back in the oven for a couple more minutes. Just keep an eye out.

When the four minutes in the foil are up, take your steak out and enjoy.

Option 1
Some people will say that using a sauce with a steak is a cover up for bad meat. I call bullshit on that. I don’t do it often, but a good sauce can be ridiculously delicious. Here’s a quick recipe.

After you take your pan of steaks out of the oven and move them to the the foil, put the pan back on the stove and turn it to low heat. In the pan goes a few ounces of liquor to de-glaze the drippings (vodka, whiskey or scotch work great), eight ounces of heavy cream, a teaspoon of beef base, crushed peppercorns and dried rosemary. Whisk it while it bubbles and reduces until you have a nice consistency. It should take four to five minutes. Poor over the steaks and lose your shit.

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Option 2
I basically love gorgonzola with my beef. It’s salty and tangy and the perfect compliment to a great burger or steak.

When I pull my steaks out of the oven for the first time to flip them, before I put them back on I pile a nice helping of gorgonzola on and let it melt on top of the steaks. Then they continue to cook normally.

The final result is a steak with flavor you won’t believe.

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Enjoy.

So hey, let’s talk cooking.

I don’t often blog about cooking, despite it probably being my favorite thing to do in the world. But recently it’s occurred to me that I’ve picked up quite a bit in the last five years. Some of it is the painfully obvious and I just never learned. Other stuff, maybe not so much. But I’m gonna try and share some of what I’ve learned. Cool recipes, techniques, equipment and more.

I’m not a chef. I’m not professionally trained. I’m just a foodie, and a guy whose kids will one day say, “My dad? That man could cook.”

Expect a lot of food talk in the coming months.

I have my keys, but where the fuck is my car?

That’s the name of a drink I learned about last week when I was on vacation. A lovely waitress told us about it, then made us a couple, then wrote the recipe for me so I could consume more when I got back to my cold existence in Wisconsin.

Initially she wrote down:

Rum
Vodka
Triple Sec
*Watermelon Pucker
*Malibu
Splashes of Cranberry and Pineapple Juice

*more of this, less of everything else was her preference.

Ten minutes later she came back, grabbed the recipe from me and added

Gin
Tequila
Bacardi Lemon
Disorona

It was an expensive drink.

#63 – Strung Out – Ultimate Devotion

#63 – Strung Out – Ultimate Devotion

Fuck yea, Strung Out.

These guys were part of a group of bands I mostly got into at the same time. They included Strung Out, No Use for a Name, Good Riddance, The Ataris, AFI and Gob. With the exception of AFI, which veered towards hard-core, they all mostly played the same kind of music. I loved one, I loved them all.

Strung Out is probably the only one, maybe along with Good Riddance, that I could never really call my favorite at any one time. I’d go through phases where one of the other bands dominated my earholes and while Strung Out came close, I never thought of them the way I did NUFAN or The Ataris.

That isn’t to say they aren’t a phenomenal band that made amazing music. Twisted By Design remains one of my all time favorite albums and at least three songs from it could make this list.

Ultimate Devotion is the fastest love song on this list. Maybe it’s the fastest, darkest sounding love song I’ve ever heard. It starts at 80 mph and stays there. The uniqueness has made it a constant go-to when I want something emo without the sappy, slowness that usually comes with it.

More Strung Out to come.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1P8C2b7-Hs&w=420&h=315]

#64 – Denver Harbor – Satisfied

Oh man, I remember the moment I found out about these guys, I just about lost it.

I used to love Fenix-Tx back in the day. I’ve never been a fan of a more simple, mindless band but you would be hard-pressed to find a band I listened to more when I was 18 years old. They released two albums and I played the motherfucking shit out of both.

Fast forward about five years. I hadn’t listened to a new album of theirs in years and they were mostly off my radar. I was sitting in a computer lab, browsing the net because I was a college student and too broke to afford to internet of my own.

On some comp CD I’d bought I played this song. I’d never heard of Denver Harbor before but the voice and music was unmistakable. A quick search confirmed when I’d figured out. Fenix-TX had changed their sound, changed their label and changed their name.

This song is awesome. I played it at least a hundred times that summer. I still put in on a playlist every now and then. That said, it’s the only DH song I know because if I recall, the rest off their stuff is sort of forgettable. Oh well. The way things go, right?

#65 – Michele Branch – All you wanted

#65 – Michelle Branch – All You Wanted

Maybe if I had any shame, I’d have trouble with this admission: I love Michelle Branch, I love her music, I love her side projects, I will never not love Michelle Branch. I wish she made more music, preferably with Jessica Harp.

Her first single came out when I was a freshman or sophomore in college. I remember Everywhere being a catchy little pop song, the kind that a lot of female musicians were making back then. It was mostly forgettable but I kinda liked it.

Then All You Wanted came out, and I was hooked for life. The music video was original, the song was again catchy but more personal, Branch was adorable as fuck. Since then I’ve been a fan, at one point driving three hours alone just to catch a free show of hers when she played a fair.

Alright, little ashamed of that.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aViAxK3SKU&w=420&h=315]

#66 – Tonic – You Wanted More

#66 – Tonic – You Wanted More

One of three almost indistinguishable bands to come out in the late 90s. Third Eye Blind released Semi-Charmed Kind of Life, Matchbox 20 came out with Push, and Tonic had If You Could Only See. Each came out about the same time, each sounded just like the next.

Tonic was my favorite, and when I heard this on the American Pie Soundtrack I was basically hooked.

I think it’s the kind of unremarkable song that most probably hear once or twice and forget. I’m not even sure the biggest Tonic fan will consider this one of their best. But for some reason I love everything about it. Even the video, while cheese, is pretty awesome.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z04VDnr5k4I&w=420&h=315]

#67 – Placebo – Every you, every me

#67 – Placebo – Every you, every me

I haven’t done a tally, but my guess is a good number of songs on this list are ones I only heard because they were on a soundtrack to some movie or TV show. This song is Exhibit A. I only like a handful of songs Placebo has put out, and all came from TV or film.

I saw Cruel Intentions in the theater with some friends. I don’t know why, but if it means anything we were all really drunk. Our judgement was impaired. Have I got that out of the way? Cool.

This song is from the opening credits. I immediately loved it. The voice, the music, the lyrics. Technically this song could be much, much higher on this list depending on my mood. As it stands, I’ve never gone long without hearing it. “Wow, I used to love this song” will never go through my head when it comes on. I will always listen to it when it comes on. It’s fantastic. I’m playing it now.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMaycNcPsHI&w=560&h=315]

#68 – DMX – How’s it goin down

#68 – DMX – How’s It Goin Down

Not a lot of hip/hop or rap on this one. I went through a phase when I was a sixteen or seventeen years old, and then it pretty much passed and it wasn’t until Atmosphere that I started listening again. I blame southern rap, getting crunk and all that fucking bullshit. This stuff was better when it was East vs West and people were getting shot.

I got into DMX the same way I got into all rap back then; my cousin from Minneapolis. I’d visit him every year or two and when I got there we’d play basketball and blast hip hop in his driveway. I picked up on some things I couldn’t get on the radio in rural Wisconsin.

Apologies to Pac, Biggie, P and Westside Connection, DMX was my favorite and this track was the best. By a massive margin too. Not the radio/TV version, the album track. Emoish, at least compared to everything else out there at the time? Sure. But that couldn’t possibly surprise you, given the stuff on this list.

Still a song I’ll pop on a playlist from time to time. Gonna be one of those that never gets old.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dW17m0P4LeM&w=420&h=315]

#69 – Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven

#69 – Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven

OH HEY LOOGIT IT’S THAT SONG THEY PLAYED AT THE END OF EVERY HIGH SCHOOL
DANCE.

Yea, that’s mostly what I remember this song for. In college I became a fan of Zeppelin but it was Stairway that I’d heard dozens of times first, largely because it closed out just about every dance I ever attended.

Since then I’ve grown to appreciate it as one of the all-time classic songs. I recognize that it’s better than most, if not every other song on this list, but this is my favorites, not what I think is best. Does that mean we could see some N*SYNC in the tunes ahead? Crap I know is bad but I can’t help loving it? LET’S FIND OUT.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHFxncb1gRY&w=420&h=315]