Appetizers
July 27, 2012
Cowboy steak part II -- amazing steak photos suddenly appear on my phone

Cowboy II.JPG

If you're a meat eater, this is one of the great indulgences - a big, thick juicy steak you cook yourself. Enjoying a steak of this magnitude and in this manner involves care, knowledge, maybe a ritual or two, and a little bit of precision. You think about it, make a special trip to buy it, take it home and center your entire evening around cooking and then eating it.

One of the great steaks in this neck of the woods is the "cowboy steak" at Corti Brothers. Meat eaters know this cut well - and they know it's worth every penny. I wrote about my encounter with the cowboy steak, and followed up with a blog post about a similarly incredible steak from the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op here.

Since then, Nate Simon, a Sacramento physician and major food enthusiast, has been biding his time until he could tackle his very own cowboy steak. I learned about his meal as it was coming out of the pan. The photos came out of nowhere. I was eating a salad, of all things, when I got a text from Nate. It was the photo you see above - a great steak that had been cooked in a cast iron pan. The only thing missing was the campfire and the covered wagon. Prior to that, I had received a few texts of great-looking food while Nate was dining at a French bistro -- in Paris.

There are several ways to cook a steak. In those past blog entries, I seared the steak in a hot pan, then finished it in the oven - on one occasion at relatively high heat, and the other time at very low heat over the course of about an hour.

Below, Nate tells us what he did. One thing might puzzle some of you - Nate turned his steak multiple times in the course of browning it. I think we were all told at some point to only turn steaks one time. But Harold McGee, author of the classic "On Food and Cooking," has suggested turning the steak often - maybe every five seconds -- for superior browning.

Also, Nate and I are both fans of the Thermapen. It's pricy, but it's really the best way to pinpoint exactly how the steak is cooked. Unlike most instant read thermometers, the Thermapen is instant - and it's worth the money.

photo I.JPG

"Here's what Nate wrote: "I generously salt the steak and put it on a rack over a plate, in a 270-degree oven for about 25 minutes, by which time the internal temperature is about 80-90 degrees. This gets the meat over the thermodynamic hump that inhibits even cooking, and it dries the surface which enables browning.

"A cast iron pan is thoroughly preheated to a moderate temperature (lively but not smoking); a bit of oil goes in, then the steak. I brown it a bit, turning frequently, then add a good-sized knob of butter. This melts and browns, and I almost continuously baste the steak with the butter, using a spoon. The steak gets turned about every minute or two, again basting constantly.

"I pulled it at about 110 degrees and rested it for 10 minutes. All that butter stays in the pan, but if you're feeling really celebratory, a spoonful of it makes an amazing sauce for the meat by itself!"
There you have it - your weekend project. Nate's steak looks fantastic, and he reports that it ate very well. If you have the right tools and follow his advice, you can be chowing down on something like this, too. Nate also suggests a good Cabernet Sauvignon with decent structure and tannins or a California Syrah that works well with the richness of the steak.

And if you happen to encounter any resistance from a loved one who is concerned about silly things like cholesterol or clogged arteries, simply say that this version, including the butter, is "doctor recommended." At least unofficially.

By the way, accompanying the steak in the first photo is purslane, which Nate found at the farmer's market. He prepared it by sauteing garlic, then adding chopped heirloom tomatoes, the purslane and a bit of sherry vinegar, cooking it until tender.

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Bee's restaurant critic. Follow him on Twitter, @blarob.


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