20 May 2008

A recipe of sorts

I did this with rib eye steak; I suspect just about any reasonably boneless cut would work. (I am sure it would work with sirloin, but hey, I generally buy sirloin in slabs these days.)

Melt bacon fat to cover and a bit more—you want to see a wave in the pan when you tip it, but you don't want an impression of depth—in a cast iron frying pan well large enough for your steak. If you have an electric range like I've got, the right setting for this is a bit past medium; if you don't, you want to have it hot enough that the fat isn't spitting, but it would if it were appreciably hotter.

The steak has been hauled out of the refrigerator, freed from packaging, and rinsed under cold water while the bacon fast was melting; shake it a bit (the less water on the surface, the better) and sling it into the pan. It helps to have done the pan tipping just before so the fat coverage of the pan centre is as deep as it's going to go.

Cover haphazardly—the objective is not a thick crust, but it should be mistakable for one by someone not paying close attention— with ground cinnamon, modestly with crushed dried leaves of tarragon, and apply a very light (two eighth turns on the grinder) quantity of salt. Cover the pan with one of those splatter screens, and do something else for four minutes. (I did dishes.)

Remove the splatter screen, lift the steak off with a fork, do the pan rock thing to get the fat redistributed, and flip the steak over back into the pan. Replace the splatter screen for another four minutes. (You didn't think I could get all the dishes done in the first four minutes, did you?)

Flip the whole thing again; you now have two minutes. (For a sort of rare; if you want crunchy blue, the times go down to under three, two and a half, and a bit more than one, minutes, and the heat goes up a bit and the splatter screen is not at all optional.) In that two minutes, find a jar of organic applesauce, a cutting board with edge gutters, a respectable slicing knife, a large bowl, and whatever you use to deglaze the pan. (I use a lamentable brandy; it comes in a glass bottle, and that's about the limit of what I can hope to say in its defense. On the plus side, cooking returns strong drink to the mean, and it's excellently effective at the deglazing part.)

The heat is turned down to simmer, the steak comes out, is given a vertical moment to lose any surface liquids back into the pan, and gets put on the cutting board.

A goodly dollop of brandy goes in the pan, and there is much scraping with a fork (Aoife is not enamored of this noise whatsoever) until it is indeed deglazed. Three and a half tablespoons—meaning as much applesauce as will stick to the tablespoon in result of a scooping motion, not a measured tablespoon—go into the pan and there is further stirring. A certain small quantity of water needs be added so that things will smooth. Remember to take the fork out of the pan again, and put it somewhere it shan't become contaminated.

Slice the steak into quarter inch thick strips, more or less; the long ones in the middle get sliced in half (I think one is after pieces of a comfortable size to eat with chopsticks, but opinions will probably vary) and the whole lot get tossed into the large bowl. (Big soup bowl, small serving bowl sort of size.) Any juices on the cutting board go into the pan, and there is more stirring. A little bit of salt goes on to the meat in the bowl; the knife gets washed, dried, and put away, and the cutting board gets washed and put on a rack to dry.

Final bit of stirring, with optional turning up of heat until the contents of the pan is threatening to boil, then the whole lot gets poured over the contents of the bowl. (Which would, it must be admitted, probably do entirely well for two in the presence of side dishes and/or less appetite.) Wash and dry the pan; this takes but moments with warm water and steel wool, and it keeps the cleaning step from being a sorrow and a lamentation after things have had time to dry and bind to the iron as curses bind to the guilty.

Eat with chopsticks, a glass of orange juice, and looks of serious bafflement from a cat who is quite entirely certain that nothing involving cow is possessed of the food-nature.

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