An Alternative Way to Eat a Steak
Probably the purists, those of “just a quick sear per side and at the most some drops of olive oil and a pinch of salt” will never forgive me but about me I like to play with the cooking of the steak. I find it is a preparation so varied in its possible expressions and yet a so pure and simple course in the execution, to represent the real field of expression of the griller, the one that measures his technique but also his imagination, constantly trying to make as his a dish that won’t ever fully belong to him. If you are following me you know how unsettled I am from this point of view: I enjoyed experimenting a bit of everything, from the various temperatures of Reverse Searing to the rest in freezer of prefreezing. Some time ago during a wedding catering I had a new epiphany in this regard.
We were preparing Tataki Tuna in black sesame crust and capers Ponzu sauce. Do you know what the Tataki technique is? If you have already been to the Japanese restaurant almost certainly yes, but maybe you do not know it’s called that. Among the many dishes usually proposed, it is probable that you also get some salmon, which is clearly raw but warm inside and with a very thin and cauterized border. Making a tataki salmon (or tuna) consists in searing a small and regular section of flesh on a plate on each side and then resting it immediately for a few minutes on a very cold surface, usually a steel plate with ice underneath . The cold immediately ceases the phenomenon of carry over, limiting the cauterization to the thinner external borders and keeping the interior completely intact (but warm). Tataki meats create a very interesting game of consistency, temperature and intensity of flavors. In the exact moment when I was composing my fingers with tuna, I suddenly had the idea of trying to do the same thing with a steak but trying to give it a sort of “lacquered” marinade look that gives it an appearance similar to that produced in many American steakhouses. But it was necessary to adapt the method, to create something personalized and in some way completely new.
You may certainly have tried the finishing that I mean if you have been in the United States and you have been in a “serious” Steakhouse. On the Italian banks, despite all the due qualitative proportions and with all the necessary distinctions, a product vaguely inspired by this style is proposed by the Roadhouse Grill chain. Let’s try to describe it: it is a steak without evident grillmarks, with an extremely homogeneous cauterization not only on the contact surface but also on the barefoot, of an intense color and with a rich and shiny appearance. To obtain this effect, it is necessary a sort of fat and strongly umami marinate to be usually applied during cauterization. The idea could be to use this marinade as a post-cooking stop which can at least partially interrupt the carryover, to which must however necessarily follow a subsequent high-temperature caramelization phase for a few minutes. The flaw is that being so fat, the marinade can not be cold but at the most at ambient temperature, which probably means a “frame” a little more conspicuous to the section of our steak compared to a normal tataki cooking. But I consider it an acceptable limit.
The other aspect to consider is that for a steak it is not enough a simple sear on a plate as for the tuna. To obtain the same homogeneity of cauterization would need a powerful cooking environment as we could have in a Josper or similar device and not just simple irradiation. To reproduce the effect in our home we can resort to a cooking with lid on well insulated devices, as it could for example be a Kamado but if we are looking for a low cost solution, the best results in this sense I had them with the home replica of the Beefer, in which I used two simple chimney starters and it is therefore my intention to use it again in this test. For the occasion, however, I redefined the method, bringing it to a 2.0 level, let’s say. I got a Smoking Grate, a product from the Steven Raichlen line, basically a cast iron drawer with a grid on the upper side. What I will do is put the steak cooking on the the appropriately heated base of the Smoking Grate and then put on the grill on, above which to place and turn on a self-igniting carbon disc that guarantees adequate heat without the risk of annoying falls of ashes or embers.
Then this is what I did:
- First I got a couple of ribeye that are worth: Black Angus, good marble, three fingers thick. I then applied some simple very fine minced SPOG, as I usually do for foods that I cook tataki
- I heated the bottom of the Smoking Grate for about 20 minutes on a grill
- In 2 dl of balsamic vinegar, I simmer two twigs of rosemary. Once removed from the fire and threw the rosemary I added respectively 1 dl of Soy Sauce and 5 cl. of Worcestershire sauce. Once mixed carefully, I finally added 150 gr. of butter in a whole one piece and just removed from the fridge. When continuing to mix, the butter has completely melted, the whole mixture has become lukewarm. I then moved it near the Grill
- I put the Ribeye in cooking, not before inserting a probe to monitor the temperature trend. A tataki cooking is substantially raw and focuses entirely on the first external millimeters. Even in the case of our steak we will definitely stay below a Rare cook, even low than a French Blue. Let’s say a 35 degrees, taking into consideration also the final phase of caramelization. When I am completely satisfied with the level of cauterization, the internal temperature is 30 degrees. I remove the steak and dip it in the butter mixture, letting it rest until the inside temperature has started to fall (about 7-8 minutes).
- In the meantime I moved the Smoking Grate to the side of the grill, still subjected to heat but no longer next to the embers, I added the grill and placed a self-igniting disc on it and started combustion. This stuff is so fantastic: they produce a remarkable heat and a flame spreads over the whole surface in about a minute with so many tiny sparks, almost like those of sulfur in a match. Once the full combustion has happened, I left the steak to drip for a few seconds from the marinade, and put it in the Smoking Grate. The heat is powerful, the caramelizing of the meat is almost immediate and in about 3 minutes we are ready to serve, at a temperature of 36 ° C.
At the cutting test I would say that the experiment was successful: the bark is evident, dark and lustful, the cauterization draws a precise thickness, higher than a normal tataki but still respectful of the style. The meat is at body temperature, neither cold nor hot and in the mouth a melting and buttery “tartare” effect, with an interesting contrast with the warm crust with strong and marked flavors. If you then pour in the middle a few drops of a marinade taken from the pot before adding the butter and then thicked on a low heat …. Sayonara!