Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cooking: Steak Dinner

Many people don't realize how easy it is to make a decent steak dinner at home. Now, don't expect superb NYC steakhouse quality here. Why? I don't have convenient access to their prime dry aged meats. And my stove nor oven goes up high enough for that quality. However, making steak at home is much cheaper and can rival some of the more mainstream places that you or I may frequent. So on the menu this night: steak with mushroom marsala wine sauce and a side of tator tots.

I actually started off with heating the toaster oven for the tator tots. I won't show you the steps to do that because they were frozen tots and I followed the instructions on the bag. Easy said and done. And now onto the more difficult portion, the steak. Please keep in mind that this steak recipe works best for fattier cuts of beef like rib eye and strip. If you like filet mignon, do not use this recipe. It will come out tough and dry. Okay, enough of the warnings, now onto directions.

Take the meat out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. It takes about an hour. While the meat comes up to temperature, turn on your oven to 450oF. Yeah, it's high but it's what you need. Then liberally salt and pepper the steaks on every exposed surface. Also add some olive oil for grease.

Here's a nice tip: using a larger grained salt here works best. So think sea salt instead of table salt. This also goes for freshly ground black pepper.

Heat up a pan until screaming hot. I mean so hot that when you put your hand over (not on) the pan, it's too hot to keep it there. Add your oil. Use an oil with a higher smoking temperature like canola or peanut. Please your steaks carefully in. If you're afraid of burning yourself, use a pair of tongs. Once the meat touches the pan, you should hear it sizzle and see some smoke/steam. This is good. It's forming that lovely crust already. To keep that crust, do NOT touch the steaks. I mean do not move them at all. Do not take a peek to see if it's browned enough. Do not poke at it with the tongs. Just leave the damn things along so they can work their magic!

Helpful tip: use a regular (not non-stick) or cast iron pan with low sides. I find that non-stick pans cannot produce the kind of crust that you want. And pans with higher sides tend to steam the food as opposed to letting the water/moisture evaporate.
After a few minutes (about 5 or 6 depending on how thick your meat is and how you like it cooked), flip your meat. Again, do not touch the damn thing. Let the crust form on the other side. Now take a look at that beautiful caramelized color there. Looks Burned? No fool! It's not black. It's brown. Brown, flavorful, and delicious! Now carefully take the whole pan and put it in your pre-heated oven. A few minutes later (3-4 minutes or so), take it out.
Take the steak off of the pan, and let it rest on a cutting board or plate. This allows the meat juices to run back inside. This keeps the steak juicy and flavorful. Patience is a virtue when it comes to food.
While the steaks rest, make the sauce. Skim off any excess oil from the pan. Be sure to keep all the juices and browned bits on the bottom.
Chop up some mushrooms. I used baby bella here. I find that they have a deeper flavor than regular white button mushrooms.
Into the got pan they go! Slowly cook them down until softened.
And then add your wine. I'm using marsala wine here which is sweeter, but a red wine would also work.
Pour some wine in until the mushrooms are slightly covered. Be sure to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Then let the sauce simmer until reduced and thickened. Keep in mind that the sauce will be thicker once cooled.
And here's my finished sauce. Look at those loved mushrooms that has absorbed all that beef and marsala wine flavor. And that sheen! Yes kids, that sheen is from lovely steak fat.
Plate your steak and tator tots which should be nicely golden and crispy now. Spoon the mushroom mixture over the steak liberally. Viola! Steak dinner!
So this is the inside of my steak. I would think that's medium which is a little more than what I would have liked. I'm more of a medium-rare type of steak lover. Not bad though. Next time, a little less cooking time.
The steak was juicy and so good. The mushrooms and marsala wine just made it so much better. The thick crust that formed on the steak held up to the sauce really well. So happy with this meal. It's nice to have a proper dinner once in awhile. And it wasn't difficult nor expensive. Good eats, indeed!


  1. Wow, steak and tots sounds like a wonderful dinner! Mmm mushroom sauce.

    Marge: Homer, I have to go out to pick up something for dinner.
    Homer: Steak?
    Marge: Money's too tight for steak.
    Homer: Steak?
    Marge: Ah, sure...steak.

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  3. I definitely agree with you! Cooking your own food can be fun! You surprise your loved ones with sumptuous dishes from your own pan and oven! And they will surely appreciate the gesture. I think your steak can even rival those served in plush restaurants! The steak is cooked perfectly, and the mushroom sauce is thick and succulent. That dish would definitely make you eat dinner at home, rather than dine out.


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