Bloject 25: Steak

10 Feb

It’s about time I quit worrying and love the bomb procrastinating and get down to it: I joined former guest-poster Cookbook in her Bloject 25, a project designed to inspire people to cook 25 things they’d always wanted to cook but, for whatever reason, just haven’t yet. One of the items I wanted to conquer was steak. My list can be found here. If this is something you are interested in, join us! We’d love to have you.

Steak is expensive, so I’ve passed it up many times in favor of flank steak, or carne asada, or stew meat. It was something we only ate if we ordered it in restaurants. But all too often I experience the sting a disappointment when my requested medium-rare steak comes back grey and tough and well-done. At ten bucks a pop, though, I could never afford to experiment at home.

Hooray for steady employment and blojects, though, because last weekend I felt justified in buying two giant steaks. I decided to use a Pioneer Woman recipe because I figure, if anyone knows how to cook a steak, it’s someone from a family who raises cows for slaughter! The day of, however, I read the recipe I chose more carefully: the sauce is explained in full PW detail, with pictures accompanying each step. The method of cooking for the steak, however, was summed up cheerfully as, “Cook till done!” Not helpful for your average n00b. But she does make a killer blue cheese sauce, so I kept her recipe and went looking for another one.

After googling my problem  (“zomg why won’t PW tell me how to cook a steak!!!1!!!”) I discovered a recipe by Alton Brown that looked promising. Good old Alton. I still trust you, dude. All that weirdness from Next Iron Chef aside. I was especially excited because the recipe described the steak as “pan seared.” YES. This was what I wanted.

First off, when you cook steak, you’re probably going to want your sous chef to help. She might need to be pulled away from other, very important, cooking projects, though.

The meat needs to be at room temperature before it’s cooked, which, as Sunday recently mentioned in her post about salmon, all meat should be at room temperature first. I set my steaks face-down on the stove as it preheated. The reason for this was twofold: to absorb some of the heat, but also, to keep Jupiter’s thieving paws away from our dinner. I’d never leave the kitchen with them unattended, because one stray second away and he’s got himself some very expensive cat food, but it worked well enough when I was near.

Your sous chef, by this time, will be joining you.

I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but since I’ve been pregnant, I cannot just casually chop onions anymore. I used to chop bucketfuls without a second thought, but since the pregnancy, onions make my eyes fill with the sulfuric tears of Satan. It’s not the crying I mind, hell–I’d gladly take it–it’s the complete inability to open my eyes and the horrible, horrible pain. I can barely stand near a sautéing pan of them without the fumes getting to me at least a little. I have no idea if this change in me is really due to pregnancy or my advanced age or what, but my relationship with onions has changed. I tried all the tips and tricks and nothing worked. I avoided onions as much as possible.

And then, my friends Zack and Heidi got me a lovely Amazon giftcard for my birthday last year. And I broke down and bought these.

They work perfectly! I can now mince onions with the best of them, pain-free. The husband makes fun of me, of course, but whatever. I can slice onions again!

(Note on the make and model: they work, are not cute, and aren’t particularly sturdy. They are like very inexpensive sunglasses with foam attached. But the foam is well attached and sturdy and they work beautifully. They do everything they say they do and store easily in this little pouch.)

(Thanks again, Zack and Heidi!)

Here I am, chop-chopping.

Okay, not really. I’m actually pretending to chop while I take a picture. It’s technically a reenactment.

  Beautiful onions! I’ve missed you so.

The onions got to work caramelizing, like so, while I pulled the very hot pan out of the oven and plopped in the room-temperature meat. Just like Alton said, I waited the full 2 minutes before turning, and…

Dissapointment! No sear, or at least, barely any sear. This made me very sad as I do enjoy the burned bits. When I put them in the oven to finish them I realized: I had done nothing wrong. My oven didn’t get as hot as it was supposed to because after cooking for the recommended time for medium-rare, they were completely and totally raw in the middle. I put them in for a few minutes more, testing and thought about what I would do next time.

My not-so-hot oven explains the lack of sear, as well.

So, sauce is bubbling, meat is cooking, let’s have some veg, shall we? I steamed broccoli, because it’s one of Isobel’s favorite foods right now, and sliced up some grape tomatoes because I needed to eat them before they spoiled. They didn’t need the careful slicing I gave them—they would have been fine sliced in half or simply left whole. But I am so paranoid of Isobel choking I wanted to make sure they were easily ingested.

Sauce, you are looking wonderful. How’s our sous chef doing?

 Manning the kitchen towel station, I see.

OMG. Heart attack imminent.

If you don’t have an adorable sous chef, no need to panic: you can easily throw a towel over your own head and shout, “Peekaboo!” a few times as you whisk it off and you’re all set.

And now, the blue cheese.

I loved blue cheese as a child and then didn’t encounter it again for years. Anthony thought the effect was a little strong, and he’s not the hugest proponent of blue cheese with steak. Something I didn’t realize as he likes it otherwise. Well, crap. Fortunately, though, he loved the steak and dipped in the sauce more conservatively than I did.

Mmm! Here’s my plate. (Anthony’s plate is the photo at the top of the page.) First off, notice how lovely and pink it came out. Perfect. You’ll notice that Anthony’s portion is huge: for some reason I thought they’d shrink up a lot more than they did. We each ate about half of our steak and saved the rest for lunch the next day.

Isobel only had a couple bites of meat, as her ear infection messed with her appetite. She eagerly reached for the broccoli, though.

Those carefully sliced cherry tomatoes went totally untouched. Of course.

She sings constantly, and dinner is no exception. I love her broccoli crumbs.

Isobel always manages to sneak at least some of her meal on the floor for Jupiter. She’s a crazy cat lady already.

I normally make a sauce for the vegetables, or at least sprinkle over a little tamari or olive oil. In this case I knew there’d be sauce for miles, so I didn’t bother. I used the leftover sauce, onions, and meat and made THE BEST sandwich with a crusty French roll the next day. (I’m sure the snugness of my waistband is just a coincidence.)

And before I leave you, I wanted to tell you I saved all the jus from the meat, labeled it, and tossed it in the fridge to add to stew or gravy next time I make some. You all totally have a bag in your freezer labeled “meat juice” too, right? Right.

28 Responses to “Bloject 25: Steak”

  1. Cookbook at 8:50 am #


    Seriously, I want to put my face in the computer screen.

    Well done!

    • LittleBig at 10:07 am #

      It was good. The leftover sandwich was even better. OMG.

  2. Elizabeth at 8:50 am #

    Do you know about the finger test? It seems weird, but is basically as reliable as using a meat thermometer PLUS one fewer thing to wash up!

    • LittleBig at 10:08 am #

      Yep, learned about it from the sainted Nigella. That’s how I knew it was too rare. I cut into Anthony’s before serving because I wanted to know how his compared to mine in looks.

  3. Tristina at 9:06 am #

    Well done! Cooking steak is pretty intimidating. I usually make Stephen do it on the grill since he loves to grill and I don’t.

    One trick I have figured out in my countless times of failing to get a sear is to make sure the pan is scalding hot. I usually let it heat up on medium-high for a good bit. Sometimes until I see heat waves roiling off it. Then I put in a splash of olive oil (which starts smoking immediately) and lay in the steak, holding it down with the spatula. Few minutes later, sear.

    At least it worked once. 😉

    • LittleBig at 10:09 am #

      Well, the pan was *supposed* to be that hot. That’s why Alton had you leave it in the oven for a good long while to heat up. My oven didn’t cut it. Thinking of just leaving it on the stovetop next time.

  4. Elly Lou at 9:37 am #

    Finger tests and meat juice? What kind of place are you running around here these days?!?

  5. booksnyarn at 9:42 am #

    *don’t lick the monitor. don’t lick the monitor*

    That looks utterly delicious. I now need to go wipe the drool from my chin.

    I tend to broil in my oven, and usually don’t do too bad. I think I would like to try your version though. PW and Alton Brown are total winners in my book!

    • LittleBig at 10:10 am #

      I’m nervous about broiling. I’m a broiler virgin.

  6. @railbirdj at 10:46 am #

    Holy crap that looks good. I want. I can haz?

    • LittleBig at 2:55 pm #

      It’s long since gone the way of the food baby, my friend.

  7. Dave at 1:14 pm #

    Nice post. I want me a steak right now. Steak is the easiest thing on the planet to cook. Ribeye is the best cut. Meat at room temp, coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to season. Cook on a screaming hot grill or cast iron skillet for 1-2 minutes per side depending on thickness. Let rest 5 minutes. It’s really that easy.
    Did you use a non-stick pan? That might be why you had no sear. I’ve never figured out how to cook in one of those.

    • LittleBig at 2:56 pm #

      Sort of? Anodized alumninum. I’ve gotten a nice crust with it before. I’m just pretty sure my oven’s not hot enough.

      Next time I think I’ll try the Polak Dead Hipster Method.

      • Dave at 2:58 pm #

        Never used anodized aluminum. I only cook on stainless and cast iron. Cast iron is great for meat and becomes non-stick over time yet still provided a great sear.

      • LittleBig at 3:01 pm #

        If I can ever afford new cookware, I’ll keep that in mind.

  8. I have to say your sous chef is adorable. And you’re so lucky that she eats broccoli, mine won’t touch the stuff. Or most vegetables for that matter. Except for tomatoes. Which I guess are technically a fruit, anyway.

    • LittleBig at 2:56 pm #

      She’s regressing into a picky phase, and I’m not happy about it. Right now, if she’ll eat broccoli, I’m doing to offer it to her by the bucketful.

  9. April at 8:29 am #

    Onion goggles…I’m totally considering these now. I made pasta sauce last weekend and cried my eyes out. I finally put on my sunglasses to cut the second onion and it helped but still burned some. Are onions suddenly more painful? Have they been genetically engineered to maim your eyes for attempting to cut them up? I’m not sure why I’m suddenly having trouble but my eyes have become way more onion sensitive and I can’t blame it on childbirth as I still have not produced tiny sous chefs.

    • LittleBig at 2:24 pm #

      Oh April. Maybe we’re just getting….


      …… (O-L-D).

  10. dingey at 8:56 am #

    Ooh! I highly recommend looking for cast iron at estate sales and whatnot. Of course, I say that as a spoiled asshole who was given a whole set of anciently seasoned cast iron by her mawmaw. I love that stuff. Now you make me want steak. Thanks, lady. Thanks a lot. Oh sweet lord. There’s a place almost kind of near where I work called AMAZING SAVINGS exclamation point which is like an odd-lots and dented merch outlet for organic and “healthy” eats, including (sometimes) really f-ing good ribeyes for really f-ing good prices. It was pretty much my downfall this summer……

    • LittleBig at 2:25 pm #

      Yes, I need to make some thrifted cast-iron scores!

  11. overreadproject at 3:18 pm #

    Ummm…why on EARTH do I not own onion goggles. I can only ever purchase sweet onions (which is not always what the recipe calls for), and even then I have to deal with eyes that burn and leak salt water. I’m putting them on my list right now!

    • LittleBig at 12:57 pm #

      I’m kicking myself for not getting them sooner. You won’t regret it!

  12. wishingforhorses at 9:38 am #

    Okay, now I want steak. Damn, that looks good! Blue cheese sauce…that’s very slutty. Well done my dear!

  13. purplequark at 11:31 pm #

    Well done! Steak can be fun as well as intimidating and confusing…but many times worth the joy and effort 🙂 Then there’s fish…

    • LittleBig at 12:58 pm #

      I honestly would have tried it ages ago had it not been so expensive.

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