You don’t need a fire blazing in the backyard or a fancy barbecue to cook a great steak. Pan-roasting works well too, especially if you start with a great steak, use lots of butter and finish with browned onions.
Yield: Serves 2
2 thick New York Striploins, sirloins or rib-eye steaks
2 tablespoon any vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Butter
a sprinkle or two sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large (or 2 small) white onions, thinly sliced
2 or more cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme, tarragon or rosemary
Pat the steaks dry and season them well with salt and pepper.
Pour the oil into your heaviest skillet. Add the butter to the centre of the oil and begin melting over medium-high heat. Continue until the mixture foams. Because butter burns at a fairly low temperature, the oil, which burns at a much higher temperature, will dilute it a bit, keep it from burning and allow you to cook the steak in the flavourful butter.
Add the steaks to the pan and begin searing their first sides until they’re crusty and caramelized, about 8 to 10 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed to keep the steaks sizzling. Flip the steaks and cook the other sides for another 6 to 8 minutes for medium-rare. To judge whether the steak is done poke it with your finger; it will firm up as it cooks through. This skill takes some time to master, but it’s a good one to have in your repertoire. You may also do what every novice line cook does when the chef isn’t looking: cut a small slit in 1 side and peek at the centre. Remove the steaks from the pan and rest on a cooling rack for a few minutes, covered with a piece of foil, to allow them to re-absorb their juices.
Add the onions and garlic to the pan and sauté for a few minutes until they become golden brown and caramelized. They will absorb the butter and any stray cooking juices from the steak. Season with salt and pepper. Toss in the fresh herb of your choice and serve immediately, topping each steak with a generous spoonful of the onions.
Once the onions have browned, try adding a splash of brandy or sherry to them. A spoonful of grainy mustard is also a great flavour boost for the onions. For added richness try a splash of heavy cream or sour cream.
Braising is my favourite cooking method. I just love the way it can transform an inexpensive, tough cut of beef into a tasty tender stew. Toss in the earthy flavours of root vegetables and aromatic red wine, and you are well on your way to a rich flavour base. But the real secret to a truly memorable beef stew is patiently browning the meat.