Monthly Archives: October 2011

Wit what?

The perfect sandwich. Juicy steak, melty cheese, fried onions and a soft-yet-chewy roll. Screw the mushrooms, the peppers, and even the pizza sauce. Yes, this is a Philly Cheesesteak if you know what you’re talking about…

Now, I have spent plenty o’ days in Philly standing in line at Jim’s, Pat’s and Geno’s practicing how I’m gonna order: wit whiz or not, prov or sauce…all to keep the cashier from making it: wit spit. Despite the lingo, all of these establishments have been around forever and have very respectful “steaks” in their own right; but they market to the masses. And when I say masses, we’re talking about thousands of people a day. The cheese steak has turned into the quintessential fast-food of Philly, and this isn’t necessarily a good thing when it comes to feeding the thousands of drunks and tourists. Hours of standing in line for what I see as “drunk food with potential” has led me to make a better, and more personal Philly. And to be brutally honest, the best cheese steak that I have had, and did not personally make, was in Baltimore. No lines, no freaking out if you don’t know how to order, just good cheesesteaks.  Now before I get my house burned down or cat thrown in the ring by Michael Vick, I will at least say that it was a Philly themed bar (owned by residents of Philadelphia) in Baltimore, McGerks, and they don’t have any dogs. I digress…

Cheesesteak Vegas #1

Cheesesteak Vegas #2

To go ahead and cut in line and just make your own isn’t all that hard. Most stupermarkets sell beef rib eye that is “sandwich cut”, and if not, you need a meat slicer. The bread or “roll” is a hit or miss conundrum, which plays a very important “roll” (heh heh)  in this situation.  I am lucky,  my nearby bakery sells fresh hoagie rolls. A note to my friends from the mid-west reading this that have no idea what the hell a hoagie is: find a foot-long Italian sub loaf of bread instead. Regardless, fresh bread is a must, and you shall seek it out for cheesesteak’s sake. The cheese is up to you, just make sure that it melts good, isn’t wrapped in plastic in slices, or is in liquid form at room temperature (whiz), which by the way is not normal, but tasty. Now go get your thin sliced steak, grill it up nice and slow on a flat top and toss it together with abnormal cheese and sautéed onions. Throw it in a chewy roll and thank your lucky stars that you aren’t standing in line with the drunks in Philly, especially if the “Birds” or “Phils”  lost that night.

Recipe for two Philly Cheesesteaks for when the “Birds” are playing:
1 lb beef rib eye sliced thin, partially freeze it to cut it thin with a knife if you are one of those “losers” without a meat slicer
1/2 yellow onion diced
1/2 lb sliced, aged provolone or cheese sauce
2 hoagie rolls cut down the middle
1 Tbl vegetable oil
salt/pepper/onion powder

Heat skillet or griddle over medium low heat with vegetable oil. Saute’ onions until softened (5 minutes). Season steak with onion powder, salt and pepper. Put the rolls in the microwave for 20 seconds to warm them up. Add meat to the onions and toss together constantly to cook the slices of meat evenly. Once the meat is medium rare (pink left in the middle) form in into two long sandwich shaped piles and place the sliced cheese (or drizzle whiz) on top. Once the cheese has melted into the meat, scoop it up and pile it in the warm rolls. Consume immediately.


Your steak has already been killed.

This post isn’t going to have some silly story to start it off with. The purpose of this post is to prevent something that happens all of the time from happening again…killing dead meat. I’m sure I will catch some flak from some vegans out there, but if you like a good steak, you will read on.

It looks even better on the inside.

The first and foremost problem is heat control. The whole process of bringing something from the temperature of your refrigerator to an edible and safe temperature can be a daunting task I know, but we’ll get through this together. These steps apply to just about any cut of meat that doesn’t take 4 hours of roasting to tenderize. Filet mignon, ribeye, New York strip, flank, etc… It should also be noted that these rules cover thick cut pork chops too, just cook them to at least 145 degrees (the FDA just lowered the safe temp on pork).

Step 1: Buy good steaks. Ask the butcher to cut what you want, since what he cut yesterday and  is already in the case isn’t quite thick/thin enough. Sure, they will cost some good coin, but it will still be half the cost of an fancy place that sounds like Roofs Christ, which is essentially overpriced meat with a stick of butter.

Step 2: Bring the meat to room temperature. Let it sit out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes (turn a bowl over on it if you’re worried about bugs or whatever getting to it). This will prevent having a raw center and a well done outer layer of the steak. You should be able to get medium-rare the whole way through.

Step 3: Dry off the meat with paper towels and season just before cooking. This helps make a good sear. When seasoning, take the thickness of the cut into account. The thicker the cut, the more salt/seasoning it needs. Seasoning is a personal preference, however I do stay away from the pre-mixed spice concoctions as a steak should taste like meat.

Step 4: Use a fat or oil with a high smoke point (no olive oil). I use bacon grease or canola oil.

Step 5: For thick cuts (over an inch thick) I sear over high heat and then oven roast in a cold pan at 300 degrees until I achieve the correct doneness. Putting the steak in a cold pan before the oven prevents overcooking one side of the steak. For thinner cuts, I use medium pan heat and only turn it over once, no oven.

Step 6: After you have made this long journey to greatness, let the steak take a break before you eat it (5-10 minutes). This will prevent the juiciness from running all over you plate. Besides, it was killed, cut, burned and is about to be eaten… Let it have a rested farewell.

DO NOT poke the steak with anything other than a thermometer while cooking, only use a thermometer if you don’t know how to test doneness by touching the steak. There is a way to compare the firmness of your palm to the steak to tell doneness. I recommend using a thermometer first, and practicing the “firmness test” to get it right.

DO NOT smash the steak down with a spatula, brick or anything for that matter. Just let the thing cook would ya?

DO NOT cook a filet well-done, I will personally tell your butcher to stop wasting good meat on you.

DO NOT do this in a non-stick pan. The high heat you need is too high for Teflon and it will turn into a gas that will make you sick. Use either stainless, anodized, or cast iron cookware. These types of pans also encourage the development of “fond”. Fond is the French term for the browned bits you get in the pan by searing a steak, which help add a lot of flavor to sauces.

The recipe for this post is one of my favorites and is my usual go-to for having people over. It is spicy, but the port sauce adds a sweetness to it that keeps everybody eating. Have plenty of red wine to wash it all down. The only downside to the recipe is that it creates a hell of a lot of smoke while you are essentially burning peppercorns, so if you don’t have a good exhaust fan, open some windows- stat.

Drum roll please…. Recipe for: Pepper Crusted Filet Mignon with a Port Cream reduction (for 4 lucky people).

Ingredients:

4 Filet Mignon steaks around 8-10 ounces each or about 2 inches thick

1 Tbls bacon fat

1 Tbls whole black peppercorns lightly crushed in a bag with a rolling pin or buzzed in a coffee mill

Salt/Onion Powder/Garlic Powder

1 Cup Port Wine (I use Fonseca Bin 27)

1/4 Cup heavy cream

Pre-heat oven to 300. You should have taken the steaks out of the fridge already, like half an hour ago, did you!? If the steaks are wrapped in bacon, remove the bacon and cook it over medium heat to render out the fat in a stainless skillet large enough to fit all of your meat. Leave the fat in the pan and eat the bacon when nobody is looking.

Season the steaks liberally with salt, onion powder and garlic. Put the crushed peppercorns on a small plate and shake the plate to make an even layer. Press the steaks gently into the peppercorns so they stick to the meat. Heat the skillet with the bacon fat to high heat until it is just barely smoking.

Turn on your fans, place the steaks in the hot pan and sear for two minutes per side (do this in two batches if your skillet isn’t big enough). Remove steaks and put them in another cold, oven safe pan. Pour off any excess grease from the skillet, but leave any burnt bits or peppercorns in there, then return the skillet to medium heat. If you have a splatter screen, now is the time to use it… Pour in the Port, it will steam, hiss and scare the pets, this is ok. If you have gas burners you may want to turn off the flame to avoid it igniting and melting the door of your microwave off. Once it calms down, using a whisk, break up all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and bring it to a light boil to reduce.

Place the steaks in the oven and bake until an internal temperature of 125 degrees is reached; it should be about 10 minutes, but use your thermometer. While the steaks are in the oven keep an eye on your sauce, making sure you maintain a high simmer whisking occasionally, as the liquid reduces, you will need less heat and it will burn easily. Once the wine has reduced by half, you will see the bubbles start stacking up on each other; when you whisk it, you will start seeing the bottom of your pan. Turn the heat down to low and whisk in the cream. Taste it. Does it need salt? Is it too runny and it needs to reduce more? Is it too thick and you need to add more wine? Figure it out. Keep it on low heat until the steaks are done (which this takes about 10 minutes, oddly about the same time it takes to bake the steaks).

Once you have reached 125 degrees, remove steaks from oven and wrap in foil and DO NOT touch them for 10 minutes. The temperature will coast up to a perfect medium rare and I will not tell you how to cook filet to any other temperature, sorry.

Pour your sauce onto four plates, unwrap steaks and set them in your little puddle of sauce. Any juices accumulated in the foil can be poured over the top of the steaks or sopped up with a dinner roll. Cut into your steak, show your friends and bask in glory. If you have any unfortunate souls with you that want their steak cooked more, show them how to use the microwave ruin the steak and don’t have them over ever again.


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