Perhaps it's just the hunter-gatherer instinct buried somewhere very deeply in my male psyche, but whenever I cook meat, I feel a compelling need to submit it to the primal fire. Sear a steak with a blast of heat from a red-hot iron skillet or charcoal grill, or slam it into an 800F oven (well, OK, 450 anyway). Listen to it sizzle, hear me roar, see me ripping great bloody chunks from the dripping carcass ... but I digress.
I encountered the procedure in Chef Michael Schlow's "It's About Time, Great Recipes for Everyday Life," a cookbook that Amazon.com, perceiving my recent fascination with Mario Batali's cookbooks, advised me that I would probably like, too. I fooled them by checking the recommended item out of the public library rather than buying it, but they were right: It's a pretty good book, featuring a series of menus based on Schlow's rather diffuse theory about cooking and time, some of them designed to prepare when you're in a hurry, others intended for those days when you want to relax and spend hours in the kitchen.
Schlow's "slow-roasted steak" doesn't take hours, but the gentle process requires a lot longer than slapping a steak into a searing skillet just long enough to tan its hide. "Most chefs and cookbooks instruct that meat should be seared at very slow temperatures, then cooked at high heat and allowed to rest before serving," writes Schlow, who is chef of Boston's highly regarded Radius restaurant and several others. "I could not disagree more. I think true success comes from cooking meats slowly, at very low temperatures."
I had my doubts, but it happens that I had picked up a beautiful natural rib eye the same day I got the book from the library, a coincidence too fateful to ignore. So I gave it a try, and to my pleased surprise, it was one of the best steaks I ever ate. Although the slow process doesn't build that deliciously crunchy and caramelized seared exterior, the fresh herbs and rich butter (just a dab of it, really) more than made up for that. And the interior was incredible, tender as cream cheese and a beautiful hot pink all the way through.
I somewhat modified the recipe ... I just can't help doing that. But the procedure is faithful to Schlow's technique. More or less.
INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)
1 rib eye steak, 12 to 16 ounces (350-500g)
1. Preheat the oven to a slow 300F (150C).
2. Chop the thyme and rosemary - you should end up with about 1 tablespoon of chopped herbs. Salt and pepper the steak.
3. Put the olive oil in an iron skillet and put it over medium heat for just a minute or so ... counter-intuitively, you do not want to sear the meat. In fact, writes Schlow, "it shouldn't even sizzle." Put in the seasoned steak, and cook it gently for just one minute on each side. Sprinkle on about half the herbs, melt the butter in the pan, and turn the steak once or twice, adding the rest of the herbs, until it's nicely coated on both sides with butter and herbs.
4. Put the steak on a wire rack in a shallow roasting pan. If there's any butter and herbs remaining in the skillet, pour them on top of the steak. Roast at 300F for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the temperature at the center of the steak reads 120F (50C); it should feel very soft to a finger touch. Remove it from the oven and allow to stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving; the temperature will rise with carry-over heating to a perfect rare.
WINE MATCH: Bring out your best red wine for this beauty. It was a delight with a spectacularly good California item, Delectus 2001 Napa Valley Stanton Vineyard Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon from California Wine Club's Connoisseurs' Series.
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Thursday, April 13, 2006
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