Sunday, May 22, 2011
Steaks on the Grill
Ahhh menu planning, such a sweet fantasy! Every week I plan meals, and every week the plan changes at least one night. Tonight was going to be garlic chicken breasts on the grill with couscous and roasted veggies. There were two problems. 1.) I’m out of the garlic chicken breasts from Aldi that are already seasoned, and it’s a seasonal item they don’t have in stock right now. 2.) I changed my regular routine and didn’t get to talk to The Rev’s secretary this week. Why would that matter? Well, there’s a reason that I don’t rely on The Rev to tell me what his weekly meeting schedule is. This week I got thrown off because I was on a field trip all day last Thursday with Oldest, and so I couldn’t call while she was in the office. Instead, I asked The Rev to open his online calendar and let me know what evening commitments he had this week. According to him, he has one meeting, on Tuesday. Great! I planned my menu with that in mind. What he neglected to tell me is that he will be at a charity golf event all day Monday. It’s an event that includes dinner. Doesn’t that seem like an evening commitment? It does to me. Somehow, it didn’t to him. So I planned steaks on the grill for Monday night. When he’ll be eating at the golf event. See the problem? So I switched it up and we had the steaks tonight. I realize that there are a lot of people in the world who wish they have this kind of problem. Maybe problem isn’t the right word. It’s more of a dilemma, and really not much of one at that. Actually, it worked out pretty well in the end since I didn’t ever get around to marinating chicken breasts myself (see #1 above.)
Shopping for this meal was as easy as walking down the basement steps and opening our chest freezer. We order beef in bulk from a local beef farm which is owned and operated by a wonderful family in our church. In fact, I need to place an order for another quarter of a beef this week. These were some of the last steaks from the beef we ordered just about a year ago. If you live in the area and are interested in great beef and friendly service, check out Clarion Beef Barn. We’ll get our homegrown sweet corn there later this summer, too. When our new order comes in about a week from now, I’ll post about it to let you know everything I get. We’ll fill our freezer and eat well for another year.
Our cuts of choice tonight were two rib eyes and one porterhouse to feed our family of five. Rib eye is The Rev’s favorite steak by far. I’m less picky. I’m happy to have just about any kind of steak. The rib eyes were packaged in pairs, and the porterhouse as a single, which works out to just about the perfect amount for us. All three kids can put away an amazing amount of steak (their former-meat-packer-and-butcher great-grandpa would be proud.) To be fair, so can both their parents. With steaks, I always serve potatoes. Tonight they were baked, with watermelon and steamed broccoli as sides. I got out the sliced strawberries and angel food cake for dessert.
I don’t really have a recipe to go with this meal. We go pretty simple with grilled steaks to just let the great flavor of the steaks shine through. I do have a couple of techniques to share. Since I wasn’t planning on having the steaks until tomorrow night, I had to quick-thaw the steaks. I have a couple of tricks for that. One is to leave the steaks out on an upturned cast iron pot. The cast iron is an excellent conductor of heat, so it speeds thawing. I don’t worry about leaving these steaks out on the counter because I know where they are grown and butchered, so I know the chances that they will have dangerous bacteria internally are slim to none. The cast iron trick works if you have a few hours; I didn’t, so I also used a warm bath. I put the steaks in a gallon-size freezer bag, press out as much air as possible, and immerse them in hot tap water. This is an imperfect method—it doesn’t make for the best quality steaks, so I only use it in emergencies. And I never, EVER thaw steaks in the microwave. I’d rather go for takeout than ruin a perfectly good steak like that. Once the steaks are thawed, I pat them dry and salt and pepper both sides. Lots of salt is key both to flavoring the steaks and to drying the outside, which helps make a good char. When I have time, I put the steaks on a wire rack over a baking sheet and pop it in the freezer for about 30 minutes, which is a trick I got from Cook’s Illustrated. The idea is to further dry the outside of the steaks. They also rub the steaks with a generous amount of cornstarch and salt, but when we tried that once the steaks were a little too salty (we didn’t think that was possible!) The actual grilling is up to The Rev; maybe he’ll comment and let you know how he works his grill magic (hint, hint.)
I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you how I bake potatoes, but I will say that until very recently, I made them so seldom that I literally had to look up in my Betty Crocker Cooking Basics cookbook just exactly how to do it. (Seriously. I could never remember how hot to make the oven or how long to cook them.) Broccoli is on the menu at least once a week here because it’s the one vegetable every member of my family will eat happily. I learned from my MIL that broccoli needs nothing but a little salt water to steam in if you start with fresh florets. Aldi makes it affordable to eat fresh broccoli, and it really is so much tastier than frozen. I simply trim the florets (I like the stems so I leave them on) and pop them in a pot with about ½ inch of water and about ½ teaspoon of salt. I cover it and bring the water to a boil and let it go until the broccoli smells good, looks good, and is fork-tender. Dessert only required slicing the strawberries, coating them with a little sugar to draw out the juice, and spooning them over angel food I bought at Wal-mart. Since I prepped the berries on Friday and they’d been in the fridge since then, they were nice and juicy, just how I like them. We ate everything al fresco, which is fancy talk for “on the back porch.” Summer really is on its way!