Julia Moskin’s Steak with Sam Sifton’s Potatoes

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The New York Times is having a tough moment and though some are basking in the scandal, I’d rather take the Ira Glass route and turn the other way. Well not so far that I stop actually reading the Times; it’s still the paper of record, as far as I’m concerned. And though I’ve griped about the Magazine food section growing a bit stale (can’t we get a few other writers into the mix?), I still read it regularly, along with the Dining section where many of the recipes–particularly those by Melissa Clark–earn a bookmark in my browser. Last week, though, two recipes earned a bookmark in my brain; Julia Moskin’s steak recipe–which involves cooking a high-quality steak in a cast iron skillet with no fat, just salt–and Sam Sifton’s smashed potatoes, both of which I made on Sunday night for Craig who’d just arrived back from screening The Skeleton Twins at the Seattle Film Festival.

Let’s start with the steak. My normal go-to technique–featured here and here–involves adding some high-smoke oil (usually Canola) to a cast-iron skillet (essential for making steak because it retains its heat), pumping up the dial to max, and getting it as hot as I can without the oil erupting into flame (that happened to a reader once; sorry reader!). But that oil was always the problem; I could never get the pan as blazingly hot as I wanted to for fear of it catching fire. That’s what makes Julia Moskin’s technique so appealing.

First, get a good-quality steak. I went to McCall’s and bought a Porterhouse for two. Then, put a good amount of coarse kosher salt into your cast-iron skillet, crank up the heat, and let it get so hot that it pretty much hurts to hold your hand over it (or until you see smoke).

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Add your steak.

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To reiterate: it’s important to get a high-quality steak with good marbling. I mean, just look at that picture above; you know that’s going to turn out well because of the meat itself. That’s the key.

After a minute, flip it over.

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OK, OK, some color… let’s keep it going. After a minute on the other side, flip it back.

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Now we’re looking good. Keep turning it back and forth, every 30 seconds or so, also rendering the sides, until pressing into it feels like the fleshy part over your thumb when you make a fist. There should be some resistance, but not so much that you can’t press down (then it’s well done). Take it off the heat, put a pat of butter on top, and sprinkle with some parsley. Behold: my new favorite way to make steak.

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As for the taters, these gave me more trouble. Mostly because I’m an idiot.

Preheat your oven to 450. Then boil some small red potatoes or gold potatoes; make sure you boil them until they’re creamy inside. I was dumb and took ’em out when a knife just went through…

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Which is why the next step proved so tricky. You’re supposed to oil a cookie sheet with Canola oil and then smush the potatoes and put them on the sheet. My smushing was impaired because (1) the potatoes weren’t soft enough inside; (2) I did the smushing on the oiled sheet itself, so the potatoes shot around everywhere.

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Still, I knew an oven-fried potato would still taste good even if the smushing wasn’t successful. You just drizzle on more Canola oil, toss them around, sprinkle on salt and pop them into that 450 oven for 20 – 25 minutes and out they come looking all brown and crunchy. On a lark, I chopped up some parsley and garlic and tossed them with the hot taters. This, it turns out, was a good idea.

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What can I say? The Gray Lady didn’t disappoint; this was an undeniably wonderful dinner–especially paired with some robust red wine from Lou Provisions (which is connected to the NYT too; Lou’s wife is Manohla Dargis). This meal is a testament to all that the Times does well. Let’s hope this scandal blows over soon so we can all keep eating pretty.

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