This week I thought I’d tackle one of the classics again so I turned my attention to the staple of so many men’s diets. The Steak! The humble steak, so easy, and yet so easy to do it wrong. All too easy to over or undercook, depending on your taste. But also fairly interesting once you take into account what kind of steak you are cooking.
The main ones in the shops these days are the cheap as chips Sirloin, the slightly fancier Rib-Eye and the Fillet which is so upper class it has more servants than it knows what to do with. Now don’t get me wrong, all three of these cuts will give you a damn good meal however I personally prefer the Rib-Eye myself. It tends to have the best meat-to-fat ratio and it’s also the biggest… which is important… ya’know,.. just saying.
Anyways the type of steak you get will ultimately determine how it should be cooked. Generally speaking the more fat and marbling the longer it should be cooked for. For a rib-eye or sirloin the most you want to cook it is medium, any more and you are ruining a perfectly decent piece of meat. Why would you do that? Shame on you!
Fillet on the other hand is, by the fact of where it comes from in the cow, incredibly tender and free of any marbling. This means it needs little or no cooking whatsoever. Carpaccio is a dish the Italians do with raw fillet steak and should definitely be tried by everyone at least once.
I think the thing people find most difficult with steak is cooking times. The easiest way I find to test it is to touch your thumb and pointy finger together and press the bulge of flesh between them, that’s what a rare steak feels like. Now do it with thumb and middle, that’s medium. Then thumb and ring, well done. Then thumb and baby, that’s why-the-fuck-have-you-cooked-your-steak-for-so-long-get-out-of-the-kitchen. I’m not sure the culinary industry has a word for that yet, but they should.
So, taking into account everything we have learned about steaks and how not to overcook them (I’m looking at you; thumb and baby finger guy) lets put all this info to good use. And then stick the result in a sandwich. That’s always fun.
The Steak Sandwich
1 large rib eye steak
Salt and pepper
1 tsp fennel seed
1 large ciabatta
1 large tbsp of sweet and tangy chutney (My previous recipies for Red Onion Marmalade or Fig Chutney would be great here but use whatever you have lying around)
2 buffalo mozzarella
1 large handful of rocket
-Heat a non-stick pan on a high heat. You want this pan to be Really Fucking Hot (RFH)*
-Preheat your oven to about 150 degrees. Dampen some kitchen paper and wrap it around you ciabatta then put it in the oven. (This is to stop it drying out)
-On a decent sized chopping board lay out your steak and season well with salt and pepper.
-In a pestle and mortar (use a bowl and the end of a rolling pin if you haven’t got one) crush the fennel seeds until you are left with a reasonably fine powder.
-Pour these over the steak. Now its time for the elbow grease. Work all those seasonings into the meat; make sure every inch of the steak gets some tough love. The more you handle the meat (snigger) now the more tender it will be when it’s cooked.
-Once you are sure the meat is well seasoned, place the steak on the pan. You must remember not to use any oil as there is enough fat in the steak to do the job.
-I usually give the steak 2 minutes on the first side and then one minute on the other side. This is perfect medium rare territory. Don’t move the steak about too much either; let it do its own thing.
-When you are happy with how it’s cooked (don’t forget the finger test) place it back onto the chopping board again. Now, leave it alone again.
-Seriously, walk away from it for five minutes. This will allow the meat time to relax and release all the lovely juices stored up inside it, which will make it beautifully tender.
-While this is going on, get your ciabatta out of the oven and cut it down the middle.
-On the bottom, graciously spoon on your chutney of choice. (Most people use mustard but personally I prefer to use red onion marmalade or something like that for the sweet contrast)
-Now it’s almost time to go back to your steak. Trying not to man-handle it too much and using long knife strokes, gently cut the steak into 1 cm ribbons.
-Without letting any juices drop, bring the steak to the bread and lay it all out on the bottom slice.
-Rip up your mozzarella and lay it on top of the steak. Do the same with the rocket.
-Here’s where the magic is, using the top part of the ciabatta, mop up all the lovely juices off your chopping board, and make sure not to miss any because that is some serious flavour.
-Press the top half down over the rest of the sandwich, stand back and observe the greatness you have created.
Optional Extra: Cut it in half, tell your friend he can have half, don’t let him have it and it all in front of him. I’m not sure why but this always makes it taste that little bit better.
*trademark Dermot O’ Brien