A Summery Steak Dinner

Sometimes people ask me if I barbecue and I say “no” and when they ask “why not?” I say: “Because I don’t really like my backyard.” And it’s true: we share one with our neighbors in our fourplex, and they’re all very nice, but it’s not very private and it also kind of looks out on to a gas station. So the idea of being back there for a long time with a pair of tongs and a brewski doesn’t really excited me much, even in summertime.

But that didn’t stop me last night from “grilling up” some steak. (“Grilling up” in quotes because, ya know, I wasn’t really grilling.) This dinner really was a triumph, if I do say so myself; I was welcoming Craig back from the Palm Springs Shorts Festival, where he spoke on a few panels. He was already glad to come home (Palm Springs is 105 degrees right now), but with this dinner he was even gladder. Let me tell you how I made it.

First things first: I bought two rib-eye steaks from McCall’s Meat and Fish. I recommend rib-eyes for home steak-making because they’re so laced with fat, they’re hard to screw up. (A leaner cut of steak can more easily turn tough.)

Take the steaks out of the fridge to come to room temperature while you’re prepping the potatoes.

Okay, the potatoes: listen how easy. Preheat your oven to 425 and open a packet of small red and white potatoes and put them in a cast iron skillet. Take a head of garlic and WHOMP it on the board so it splits into lots of little cloves. Throw those cloves, skin still attached, in with the potatoes and then glug on olive oil. Really, you can’t add too much here: think of this as potato garlic confit (but if I had to guess, I’d say 1/2 a cup). Sprinkle with lots and lots of salt and pepper.

Pop into the 425 oven and shake every so often; in 45 minutes (or up to an hour), the potatoes will start to shrivel, grow tender inside, and the bottoms will get crispy. Here’s what they look like when they’re done:

Make sure to hit them with more salt at the end (a lot of it falls off into the oil while cooking).

As for the garlic, you’ll serve that up with the potatoes and then you and your co-steak-eater can pull the garlic out at the table and marvel at how creamy and garlicky it is.

Now, while those potatoes are cooking, you can make a horseradish sauce for your steak. Behold the components:

You’re going to ask me “how much of each?” and I’m going to say: “As much as you want!” Seriously: start with about 1/2 a cup of sour cream. Then add big dollops of horseradish and mustard, stir around, and taste. Do you like it? Does it need more pop? Add more horseradish. Chop up a bunch of chives and stir those in too.

Now for the final bit before the steak: herbs. I bought a bunch of herbs at the farmer’s market yesterday morning — parsley, tarragon, chives — and I chopped a bunch of them up to sprinkle on everything at the end. I recommend you do the same.

As for the steak, it’s really this simple: take your biggest cast iron skillet, put it on a burner, and crank up the heat to high. While that’s blasting away, take your steaks out, pat them dry, and sprinkle them with an indecent amount of salt and pepper.

When the pan is very, very hot, you can add a little splash of grapeseed oil or other neutral oil (NOTE: I once told people to do this and someone wrote to me that their oil caught on fire! That person had their pan too hot; so don’t go crazy getting it hot, or do go crazy getting it hot and just don’t add oil. The fat in the steak should keep it from sticking).

Add your steaks and don’t touch them. You should hear a loud sizzle and you need to let them sizzle away like that for about two minutes; then you can peek underneath with tongs and if they’re GOLDEN BROWN (not at all gray, we’re talking GOLD) it’s time to flip them over. I forgot to take a picture when this happened, but it’s in my Instagram stories, so here’s a screenshot:

[Note: that knob is melted from the time I made 300 latkes. Now I think of it as a latke souvenir.]

At this point, you can add butter, garlic, and thyme to the pan and start spooning it over the steaks, basting it with the fat while it finishes. I thought I was going to finish in the oven, so I put the garlic, butter, and thyme on top thinking it’d all melt together:

But then I stuck a thermometer in and saw the steaks were already at 135 (medium rare) so I just took them out of the pan and let them rest on a plate for a good ten minutes.

The final thing that I did was that I took some lettuces from the farmer’s market (I buy raddichio and little gem leaves from a bulk bin and fill a bag each week and it’s kind of perfect) and tossed them with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

The final plate had the steaks — which I sliced against the grain, once rested — the potatoes and the salad, all sprinkled with lots of herbs. And I served it at the table with the horseradish sauce and a Bordeaux recommended by Lou of Lou Wine Shop who said it would taste like blackberries. It did.

So no, I didn’t get to stand outside like Tony Soprano, watching ducks float around in the pool while grilling steak. But I did make a summery steak dinner that hit the spot in all the right ways and I didn’t have to look at a gas station while I made it.