Saturday, January 31, 2015

How to cook a really damn good piece of meat

I'm standing in my kitchen, letting the smell of my first cup of coffee lull me into consciousness. My two-year-old is bringing me Spot it! cards (to play? who knows with a 2-yo?). I notice he's taking the longest route from where I'm standing to where the box sits on the coffee table in the adjacent living room, over and under the baby's 'stim gym.' He calls me to help him on the potty and I'm grateful he does a little dance to put his pants back on, instead of getting upset that I flushed the toilet before he had a chance to do it himself. He is, after all, two.

This post is not about potty-training, although I'll humble brag that he's not even 26 months old and pretty solid all day. It took his sister an additional... long-ass time to get to this point. It was different with her, I was working when she was this age and, now, I've been home for at least 12 weeks. I can't believe the baby is almost three months old. I'll write up his birth story, I promise.

The real purpose of this post is to share the method I used to make the London Broil we had for dinner last night.

I found a link to a piece called "How to Cook a Steak and Influence People" a couple of months ago. The steak cooking method and the link to the very different "How to Cook a Fucking Steak" intrigued me. I fell in love, over the summer, with the simplicity of the little Weber charcoal grill we acquired from our former neighbors. Fire, salt, pepper, a little garlic powder, and we had amazing meat. It didn't matter if it was pork tenderloin or steak or venison or chicken legs, it all disappeared to a melody of nummy noises. So, I think, maybe there's just as simple a way to accomplish the burning of meat inside, in the winter? I've experimented with a combination of the methods on various pieces of meat and I'm going to go out on a limb and say:


I put a frying pan on medium heat and generously sprinkle Kosher Salt into the pan. A cast iron skillet works but I'm cooking for four and usually cooking enough meat for extra meals, so I'm using my 13" All-Clad French Skillet. Once the pan is hot, I place the meat of choice (seriously, chicken breasts, pork tenderloin, London broil, doesn't matter), fattier side down, Sprinkle the top with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Let it sear for 3-5 minutes, depending on thickness and intended doneness. Place a couple of pats of butter on top and flip, so the butter ends up under the meat when you flip it. It isn't magic, you just want to flavor that top side a little more and make sure it doesn't stick to the still very hot pan. The salt took care of the first side, but some of that will stick to the meat when you flip it. Cook an additional 3-5 minutes to sear the bottom, again depending on thickness and doneness.

For steak, that's it. We like it rare to medium rare (yes, even the kids) and a 2-pound London Broil was perfect after 5 minutes on the first side and 3 on the second. I turned off the heat and flipped it again, so the remaining melted butter and steak juices could coat the first side. Then I moved it to a cutting board (and poured remaining butter and juices over the top) to rest for 5-10 minutes.

For chicken, I turn the heat down a bit and put a lid on it, letting it cook through, for at least another 10 or 15 minutes. I want the flavor of the seared outside and I want it super tender inside. I'm usually cooking about 2 pounds of chicken breasts at a time, so we're only eating one that first meal. The rest (2# is usually 3 pieces of meat) is going to stay in the warm pan until we're done eating, then it will be put away and either sliced or pulled apart for future meals. Salads, tacos, in soup, or with sauce and pasta.

For pork tenderloin I want to cook it a little more thoroughly than steak, to medium-rare or medium doneness. Pork can be served almost as rare as steak with no ill effects, so make your own decisions, folks. I'm definitely going the full 5 minutes, per side, and then I put a lid on it to 'bake.' Typically, I will pull one of the tenderloins (they come in packages of two, at least from Harris Teeter) and let it rest. Again, I want it super tender and moist inside, but this one will be closer to medium-rare in the thicker part and we like it that way. Whether I'm putting the rest in the actual oven, or not, depends on how much time I have. Either way, it gets more done and will pull apart for 'barbecue' leftovers or taco meat.

This method is easy, it is fast, it is delicious. I promise, it really is as easy as it sounds and will make anyone seem like a rockstar cook. More involved stuff is completely ok, too, but when you're beat from fighting toddlers who won't nap or traffic or commercial developers, steam some frozen vegetable, add butter, salt, and pepper, and serve it along side your lovely meaty goodness. Enjoy with your favorite beverage and your favorite people.

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