…I’m talking to you, Food & Wine.
I really love to drive. Every afternoon during the spring and summer of 2020 I would hop in my car, blast some tunes and blaze a trail north. The freedom was only ever temporary, so I’d turn around after about 15 miles and sulk back to lockdown.
When I’m on the highway, I like to choose my own speed. It’s never anything crazy, typically only 5-10 miles over the suggested number, depending on the conditions and clientele. To be clear, I go the speed I choose, not the slowpoke in front of me, not the lemming beside me and definitely not the jerk breathing down my neck. I don’t tailgate, I don’t rubberneck, I don’t drift, I don’t mosey and I definitely don’t travel with the pack. If my interstate independence means slowing down, I will do it, although not without resentment and commentary.
The last two years in particular have been all about rules and restrictions, so whether it was driving, playing around in the kitchen or writing about it all, I had to make the most of my identifiable freedoms. While not always groundbreaking or original, I’m also not a deliberate copycat; nor am I interested in keeping up with the Joneses. I’m just doing me – I cannot be the only person who feels this way, driving or otherwise, so please just hold on to this thought for a sec.
Saturday night I picked up some lovely ribeyes and finally tried out a reverse-searing method, which I definitely did not invent. I was so delighted with the results that I decided to anchor my next post on this delicious technique. I went a little further and pulled up all the fun beef recipes I’ve tried out for the past two years and spent the evening happily reminiscing. I even found the photos for the short rib birthday dinner I cooked for myself, but forgot to post. How fun was this going to be? With two featured recipes and a curated collection of beef essentials, my post was tentatively titled, My Top Ten Beef Recipes.
Imagine my displeasure when I came across this on my Twitter feed around 11pm:
Irritated and suspicious, I clicked and it was their 24 requisite beef recipes. Really? I was seething; this was my idea. The nerve…I probably wouldn’t have noticed but it kind of happens a lot: harissa, sheet-panning, fusion all were usurped by big-time food bloggers mere hours before I posted. So I took a lap, regrouped and clued in – I mean seriously, it’s just food. We aren’t talking about economic policy, civil disobedience, social revolution or political upheaval. If you think about it, there are only so many foodie things to talk about, which might explain why I spend so much time discussing driving habits or my Thelma and Louise antics. But those little stories are the logical entrées for the way I think about cooking. They reflect my experiences on any given day, regardless of how silly or flawed, and perhaps make the recipes more relatable to an actual kitchen. Try that, Food & Wine.
Back to Saturday night, there I was thinking ill of no one, crestfallen, but still determined to share my favorite beef recipes, which are still included in this post. But I was facing some hard choices: Am I a copycat or a provocateur? Should I start over or pivot? Do I slow down or speed up? Well, duh, duh and duh.
Since they already did all the hard work researching, collecting and blabbing on and on about the recipes, I’m going to do my own thing and talk about reverse-searing. Typically I’ve always grilled or broiled steak, whether it was sirloin, skirt steak or filets. Sometimes I nailed it with incredible tenderness and sometimes I aced a crispy brown crust, but never really both at the same time. Marinades can be helpful, but I like the meat to hold its own without too much flavor enhancement. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to have some fun.
The article above goes into great depth about the chemistry behind reverse-searing, but it really comes down to roasting the steaks at a low temp for 30-40 minutes to dry out and “cook,” then flash searing at a very high temp to create a perfect savory crust. I added copious amounts of butter, sliced garlic and bundled thyme to my cast iron skillet and quickly spooned it all over the steak for the finish. It was smooth, decadedant and divine, especially with sautéed shiitakes over cheddar grits.
As for those short ribs, for reasons I cannot explain, I don’t think I ever tried them before last month. I trusted The Barefoot Contessa and per usual it was perfection. Since it was my special dinner I was experimenting with, I again went for the home run with cheddar grits as the base layer. Happy Birthday indeed.
We don’t have beef that often, other than grilling burgers Sunday nights, weather permitting. I don’t mean to imply that I hold it as an indulgence that we only have for the most special occasions. But since I’m trying to stay healthy-ish with more vegetarian, chicken and seafood dinners, I guess it kind of is. The very fact that I could remember these 10 beef dinners tells you something. Yes, I could substitute for each recipe and have a Tofu Diane or Navy Bean Wellington every week. Or I can be thoughtful and prudent, maintain high standards and hold out for the good stuff, the real thing. Considering that I’m not known for patience, this is a bit of a growth moment for me. Again.
- A meat thermometer can be your best friend, especially when some people prefer their steak overcooked, I mean medium.
- I am not an expert on purchasing beef and often make do with what I stumble upon. I will say that ribeyes have enough fat and flavor to make the reverse-searing worth the time and effort.
- I use first cut (or flat cut) brisket which is less deckled but comes with a fat cap that keeps the meat moist as you cook it. It works well for oven roasting and slices beautifully.
- And don’t fall for “corned” anything.
- You have to flambé the Steak Diane. Just do it. You’re welcome.
- My Beef Wellington was way too thick – I bought a whole tenderloin and failed to trim it to a manageable size. Easy answer is individual Wellingtons with filet mignon.
- Beware…both the Bolognese sauce and the Boeuf Bourguignon are events – spend an afternoon enjoying the process. If you are going to be impatient and take shortcuts, you’ll miss out on the ritual, so just open a jar instead.
- You can see by the photo that my Steak Frites’ sauce was nearly curdled. This was already the second go-round but the celebratory nature of Christmas Eve prevented me from doing my best work. Still good, just ugly.
- For both meatballs and meatloaf, a nice blend of pork and beef works really well.
- Don’t laugh at the idea of meatloaf. I swear I could get marriage proposals with this recipe, especially with those crispy end pieces.