8 Steps to Grilled Steak Perfection

steak and wine 2One of my very first restaurant jobs was working on an outdoor charcoal BBQ, as patio grill chef. I learned how to build two-zone fires (hot side and cool side of the grill), how to tell the doneness of the meat by poking it, (not so easy!) and what cuts of beef were best for grilling. Since it was my job to schlep the 50 pound sacs of hardwood charcoal down from the patio’s rooftop, my arms were beautifully toned that summer. The only downside was the black soot that stubbornly remained under my nails, even after scrubbing with bleach and a nail brush. The kitchen staff nicknamed me Cinderella. The smell of musquite in my hair became my signature scent and excited my husband. It was a fun summer!

It was around this time that my husband revealed something to me that made me rexamine our relationship. He told me that when he was in University, he and his friend Joel would get together in his dorm room on Friday night and cook dinner. The night before he’d marinate rib steaks in red wine. Then Friday night, he dumped the steaks and wine it into an electric frying pan, added some dried spices and a tin of sliced mushrooms. He covered the frying pan and  basically braised the rib steaks! They thought they were quite the gourmet men about town! Braising rib steaks is a crime. A tender, well marbled piece of beef should never be braised. Luckily I have schooled him in meat cookery and he is now quite skilled in grilling.

I thought I would share with you some of the wisdom I picked up from my Cinderella summer. Here are the Eight Steps to Grilling the Perfect Rib Steak (my personal favourite).

1. Make friends with your butcher. Don’t buy those skinny steaks lined up in the display case. Ask the butcher, very nicely, to please cut you some well marbled steaks between 1 1/2 and 2 inches thick. Yes, that is a big hunk of meat, over a pound, but one of these behemoths will feed 2-3 people,. The only issue might be the fight over who gets to gnaw on the bone. Most butchers won’t mind doing this for you. Some of my favourite people are butchers (Hi Joel and Gabe!)measuring steak2. Salt early and heavily with Kosher salt. It used to be thought that you should never salt meat ahead of time because it was thought that would cause the juices to leak out and make the meat dry. Turns out that isn’t true. When you first salt the steak, the salt dissolves and sits in a little puddle on top of the meat, but within about an hour, the salt begins to break down the meat’s muscle fibres and the juices will be reabsorbed, along with the salt. The salt contributes to a juicer steak since it helps the cells hold on to water. By salting ahead of time you get meat that is seasoned all the way through and very tender and moist when cooked. The steak does not taste salty, it tastes properly seasoned.salted 33. A Chilling Nap: Once salted, the steak should be set on a wire rack over a baking sheet and refrigerated for at least 4 hours and up to 2-3 days. (I usually do it for overnight). The wire rack allows the air to circulate around the meat and lets the surface get nice and dry. A dry steak will brown much better than a wet one.

And while we’re here, let’s address the “Let meat rest on the counter for 30 minutes, so it can come to room temperature before grilling” myth. Yes, I said myth. First of all, this is a honking’ big piece of meat. After 30 minutes, it may have warmed up by maybe 3°. What really helps with even browning is having a dry piece of meat. And salting it and letting it sit on a wire rack in the fridge overnight is going to do that work for you. So go ahead and cook fridge cold meat. Tell them I said it’s ok.

4. Make it hot! I am only going to address gas grills here. The debate about gas vs. charcoal continues to rage on with the same ferocity as Montreal vs. New York style of bagels. I have cooked on charcoal and I will admit that, if you know what you are doing, you will end up with a stellar steak. There are plenty of tutorials online for how to grill with charcoal, but, “been there, done that”. These days I am all about the ease of a gas grill.

Turn both burners on the gas grill to high. Close lid and give it 15 minutes to it get rip roaringly hot. After 15 minutes, turn the other burner to low.

5. Start High and Finish Low. Start the steaks on the hot side of the grill and cook each side for about 3 minutes, until it is well charred. Then, move it over to the cool side of the grill, close the lid and let it go for another 5 minutes, before checking the temperature.

There is a school of thought out there that advocates for the reverse sear, starting low and finishing high. Meathead Goldwyn of amazing ribs.com has me almost convinced to give it a try.

When you start with high heat, you load up the exterior, and by the time you are done you have a thick band of overcooked meat. If you reverse the order, start the food in the indirect zone at a lower temp, warm everything until it is close to uniform on the inside, and then hit it with Warp 10, you get both a better interior and exterior. That’s reverse sear, and this is another technique you should master. It is the best approach for many foods.

I will report back to you as soon as I try it.

6. Don’t Poke! If you take anything away from this post today, let it be this. Buy yourself an instant read thermometer. This is a great one, and I see that they have just come out with a little sister. Poking the meat to see if it is done is a fool’s game. A thermometer takes all the guesswork out if it, and makes you look like a rock star.

Blue (very, very rare) or, as we call it around here, “Steak for Ed” 105°F
Rare 115°F
Medium Rare 120-130°F
Medium 140°F

Stick the thermometer in the steak from the side into the center, not from the top.IMG_06597. Let it rest. Put the steak on a plate and cover with foil to let it rest for 5-10 minutes. According to Nathan Myhrvold, James Beard Award winning author of Modernist Cuisine, the resting time down not really allow the the juices to redistribute themselves and get sucked back from the edges to the center. What is really going on here is that as the meat cools, the juices  thicken up, so that they stay in the meat, rather than flooding out into your plate.

8. Slice steak, and arm wrestle your partner for the bone.

Click here to print recipe for Perfect Grilled Rib Steak.

sliced 625 2 sq

Ultimate S’mores

We are living in a time of some amazing culinary experimentation. While culinary mashups are nothing new, witness the Turducken, which has it’s roots in ancient Roman times, some creations have gone a bit too far.

While I love nothing better than a bowl of Cheetos and a glass of wine for dinner, I am not keen to give Cheetos Macarons a try anytime soon. Nor will Goat Cheese and Peanut Buttercup Fries be passing these lips… not ever!

However, I firmly stand behind Donut Ice Cream Sandwiches, and will even stand in line for the Cronut (and anything else that genius Dominique Ansel dreams up!).

So, in the spirit of culinary creativity, I bring you The Ultimate S’moretoasted 2 625 sqready for smores 1Because it’s summer! Because it’s crazy delicious! Do I really need an excuse for taking my favourite Passover snack, Matzoh Crunch and turning it into that summertime staple, the s’more? Instead of using matzoh, I substituted Saltine crackers.saltinesI cooked butter and brown sugar until it resembled molten hot lava and poured it over a layer of saltines.molten gold spreading caramelI baked it until it was bubbling and then I covered it in bittersweet chocolate and marbled in some white chocolate, just because it’s so freaking beautiful.chocolate

Then I toasted some marshmallows and sandwiched them between the caramel chocolate coated crackers.  toasted 625 sqIf you are a purist, like my youngest son, you may prefer them raw!raw 3If you are watching your carbs, perhaps an open faced sandwich is the way to go.open facedHowever you enjoy summer, including the Ultimate S’mores in your celebrations is bound to make it a lot sweeter.

Click here to print recipe for Ultimate S,mores.

stacked smores 1

Warm Broccoli Salad

three broccoli headsthree small and one large black plateWhile broccoli might not be the first vegetable you think of for a summer salad, let me be the one to convince you otherwise. With the addition of a warm garlic vinaigrette and a garnish of grated hard boiled eggs and crunchy salty rye bread croutons, it’s the perfect warm weather side dish.

Start with hard boiling the eggs. I am a hard boiled egg pro. No green or grey rim around the yolk ever! It was my responsibility to hard boil a gross (don’t see that word used very much anymore! ) of eggs every morning at my very first restaurant job. Here’s how to make perfect ones every time. Place eggs in a pot. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Put lid on pot and remove pot from the heat. Let sit, covered for 12 minutes. Drain, rinse eggs under cold water and peel as needed. hard boiled eggsNext, dissect the broccoli. three preparationsPeel the stems and cut into diagonal coins. peeling stemsslicing stems on diagonalCut the head of the broccoli into thick 1/2 inch planks. These broccoli planks remind me of the storybook character Flat Stanley. If you have never heard of him, check out this link. I have always wanted to possess this super power of making myself totally flat so that I could slide under locked doors and snoop where I shouldn’t! What super hero power do you wish you had?slicing planksAs you slice the planks, little bits of florets will fall off. Set them aside for boiling or steaming. They are too tiny and tender for roasting. 

A few glugs of extra virgin olive oil, a liberal sprinkling of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and the sliced stems and flat planks ready for roasting.ready for roastingToast some rye bread croutons while the broccoli is roasting. croutonsWhisk together a warm garlic-mustard vinaigrette.garlic vinaigretteArrange the roasted and steamed broccoli on a platter. Drizzle with the tangy dressing and garnish with the egg and croutons. Each bite is a perfect combination of textures and flavours. The roasted broccoli brings a charred, smoky bite. The verdant steamed broccoli adds a bit of freshness. Hard boiled eggs add creaminess and the rye croutons add salt and crunch, always welcome at any party. The tangy Dijon garlic vinaigrette wakes up your taste buds. round black platter

Click here to print recipe for Warm Broccoli Salad.

white rectangular plate

Maple Macadamia Milk Chocolate Cookies

Milk and Cookies 3My husband arrived home from work last week with a gift for me. From the sound of my squeal when I opened the package, you would have thought the box held a large square cut diamond ring. Nope. Just a jar of maple salt.

Yes, I said maple salt!! Who knew? My mind was reeling with the possibilities. Maple glazed chicken thighs finished with a sprinkle of  maple salt, salmon with a maple soy glaze and strewn with a light dusting of maple salt, maple salted pecans? I settled on maple macadamia milk chocolate cookies, finished with a fine mist of maple salt. mise en place 2Maple syrup would be the natural addition to give these cookies a serious maple bent, but too much syrup would make the dough too soft and liquidy. The solution was to add maple extract to the dough. I added almost 1 1/2 teaspoons and it was perfect.

This recipe was adapted  from the Lindt chocolate web site.  The dough came together quite quickly in my stand mixer.adding flourI formed one round log and one square log (check out this video if you need help forming a square log). If you are impatient like me, freeze for 2 hours. If not, chill dough in fridge for 6 hours or even overnight. rolling into a logforming square logSlice, top with maple salt or just regular fleur de sel, and bake.slicing 2sprinkling with maple saltBe patient and let them cool completely before tasting. They spread quite a bit in the oven. They are quite thin and you will be utterly surprised that such a thin and delicate cookie can pack such a wallop of deep maple flavour. Buttery and crispy, these cookies are really unique. The tiny crystals of maple salt crunch delicately between your teeth and keep you craving more. Milk and Cookies 1You can find maple salt online at Saltworks (in the USA), or at Maison Côté in Canada.

Click here to print recipe for Maple Macadamia Milk Chocolate Cookies.Milk and Cookies 2

Smoky Roasted Gazpacho Soup

2 green bowls FIt probably wouldn’t shock you to learn that I am a very organized person. Each spring, I dump out the stale spices in my alphabetized drawer and buy fresh ones. The only one I never have to toss is the smoked paprika. I go through that stuff on a stunningly regular basis. It make everything taste better. It typically sneaks it’s way onto roasted vegetables, like cauliflower, sweet potatoes, squash and carrots. I recently made a smoked paprika and garlic vinaigrette  that took roasted broccoli to another dimension.

Smoked paprika has that transcendent ability to take a dish to a very delicious new height.3 bowls on yellow platesThis soup was adapted from a roasted vegetable gazpacho that I stumbled upon while browsing through Donna Hay’s Modern Classics: Book 1. I have most of her books and regularly use them for styling and photography inspiration. Her collaboration with photographer Con Poulos has created multitudes of awe inspiring images.

Donna’s soup was heavy on the roasted red peppers and light on the roasted tomatoes. I flipped this because I love tomatoes way more than peppers. When I saw the addition of smoked paprika, I knew I had to try it.tomatoes and peppersquartering tomatoesroasted pepperspeeling peppersblendingAfter blending I took a taste and decided that the heat and smoky flavour needed to be boosted. A teaspoon of my favourite chipotle tabasco made all the difference! Additional smokiness without painful heat.one white bowlI diced up some red peppers and cucumbers to garnish the soup and served it with some grilled    sourdough for dipping. After chilling in the fridge overnight the soup was even richer and deeper in flavour the next day. one green bowl

Click here to print recipe for Smoky Roasted Gazpacho Soup.

one yellow bowl F