Saturday evening marked the collision of two events:
- The last weekend before the in-laws/babysitters leave for Myrtle Beach (home to two Hooters on the same street).
- The seeming lack of recent Saturday dinner.
When I thought about it, I hadn’t cooked a Saturday dinner of any particular note in weeks. There has either been takeout, going out or quick-and-easy. And, let’s be honest, there’s no fun with quick-and-easy. It’s not Saturday dinner unless you have to run the dishwasher twice.
The Wife, as usual, was no help in deciding what to make (“You don’t have to do anything complicated.” Nearly 10 years of marriage and it’s like she doesn’t know me.), so I consulted the cookbooks for inspiration. Tom Colicchio yielded a side from his book Think Like A Cook. The Palm‘s cookbook offered an idea for a main course. You can never go wrong with steak.
Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, cooking a steak on a grill is as sacrilegious as eating Chef Boyardee. Fact: None of your appliances (indoor or outdoor) can create enough heat to adequately cook a steak. (That’s not completely true. Your clothes dryer coils can get to about 750 degrees) The Palm, Morton’s, Ruth’s Chris all have industrial ovens built for their restaurants that heat to 1200 degrees. The only chance you have is to set your house ablaze with a raw steak on the counter and ask the fireman to bring it out to you in about 5-7 minutes (for rare). I can get my grill to 600 or 700 degrees, but I need to start a grease fire. That’s out. The best shot you have is in an oven that is cranked to capacity. The garden variety home range will go to 500. Mine goes to 550.
The perfect steak is seared at a high heat to seal the exterior, then blasted at a higher heat to finish cooking. Grill lines and charring mean nothing more than burned flesh (or a dirty grill). Trust me when I say that I was skeptical, but Colicchio and The Palm were spot on.
Colicchio’s risotto could have been a meal on its own for simple preparation sake. It took about 75 minutes from start to finish, mostly stirring and adding broth. That said, it was well worth it. It was almost better than the steak.
I wanted flank steak, but Wegmans was out. Instead I took a two-pound sirloin and did a soak. I don’t have a vacuum marinading system, but I did okay squeezing as much air as possible from the bag. I don’t always marinade beef, but when I do it’s either with bock beer or a Cuban-style mojo. Last night, I opted for a modified mojo: mixing lemon and lime juice, garlic, salt and pepper with blood orange juice. The red hue tinted the exposed fat that, when heated and melted away, created a tangy, tart juice.
The kale? That was left over from the other night and I didn’t want it to go to waste. I’ll spare you a formal recipe on that. Heat garlic in a large pan, add the kale, liberally drizzle with olive oil, stir frequently until the end of the leaves get crispy, and serve.
Pan-roasted mojo sirloin
By Jared Paventi
- 2 lb. sirloin steak
- 4 blood oranges
- 3 lemons
- 3 limes
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- sea salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Halve each piece of fruit and ream the juice. In a medium-sized bowl, gently whisk together the juice with the minced garlic, 2 tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the meat to a gallon-sized freezer bag and pour in the marinade. Do your best to squeeze any excess air from the bag. Refrigerate for at least two, but up to 12, hours.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the middle position.
Heat the butter and remaining olive oil in an oven-proof saute pan over high heat. When the butter foams, transfer your steak from the bag to the pan and discard the marinade. Sear 3-4 minutes on one side and turn. Sear that side 2-3 minutes.
Transfer the pan to your oven and roast 5-7 minutes for rare, 8-9 for medium or 10-11 minutes if you have absolutely no sense of taste at all. Remove from the oven and transfer to a plate. The steak will continue to cook. Wait five minutes before slicing and serve with any accumulated juices.
- 6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 1 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 3 roasted tomato halves*, chopped
- 5 roasted garlic cloves*, chopped
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
Note: starred ingredients can be found on the olive bar at most grocery stores, namely the Mediterranean Bar at Wegmans. 10 oz. of drained sundried tomatoes can be substituted in a pinch.
Simmer the stock in a medium saucepan and keep warm over low heat.
In a separate saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high. Add the onion and stir until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add the rice and toast, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes.
Ladle enough stock into the rice so it is just covered. Cook until the stock is almost completely absorbed, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes and more stock, and stir, allowing the broth to be absorbed by the rice. Continue this process until you are out of stock. Colicchio writes, “The risotto is done when the grains are just tender and bound with a creamy sauce, about 25 minutes in all. Stir in the butter and Parmesan, season with salt and pepper and serve.”