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.
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.
A few months ago, when I first conceived of Sauce Week, I set out to make a dinner for myself that promised to be so outrageously decadent, I’d have to close my blinds before eating the first forkful. The premise was pretty basic–steak and potatoes–with one key difference. I was going to drench the whole thing in that most indulgent of French sauces, a sauce that contains more butter than most people eat in a month, yet a sauce so rich and sultry it’s pretty much the height of sophistication and elegance: I’m talking, of course, about Sauce Béarnaise.
Pull up a chair, I’m going to tell you a funny, though slightly depressing, story.
See, on Valentine’s Day, I was alone in New York. Craig would be coming a few days later and, in the meantime, I decided to spend the night seeing a play I’d always wanted to see: David Ives’ “All In The Timing” at 59E59. (A terrific production, by the way.) I figured seeing a play by myself on Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be a big deal; once the lights go down, who cares that you’re alone? The real issue was getting food before the show started. Eating out alone on Valentine’s Day, now that’s a different story.
Some restaurants are like living museums. Musso and Frank is one of those restaurants: it’s a memorial to and a celebration of Hollywood’s rich cultural history. The Musso & Frank website explains it best: “In the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, the golden years in Hollywood, almost everyone in the entertainment business dined or drank at Musso and Frank. Through the years, waiters served Mary Pickford, Greta Garbo, Edward G. Robinson, Claudette Colbert, Bette Davis, Cesar Romero and many more. But the restaurant was also known for it’s clientele of famous writers. The famous back room was home to William Saroyan, John Fante, Scott Fitzgerald, Nathaniel West, William Falkner, Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway and many more.”
With Craig’s parents in town (along with more family), we knew Musso and Frank might be just the spot to take them for a taste of Old Hollywood.
[When the P.R. e-mail came offering me a free dinner at Robert’s Restaurant at Scores Gentleman’s Club, my first thought was: “Ew, boobies!” And my second thought was, “I can’t take a free meal and write a solicited review, I’m an ethical food blogger.” I was about to click “delete” when I realized that it might be pretty hilarious to send my gay comedian friend Cole Escola to do the dirty deed for me. And Cole, as you’ll see below, happily obliged. This is the story of his dinner at a steakhouse in a strip club.]
When it comes to my tastes, I’m an American through and through. I like deep-fried twinkies, chocolate with peanut butter, and bacon on everything. This patriotic love of decadent combinations is exactly what made me say “yes” when Adam asked if I’d like to review Robert’s Restaurant inside of Scores Gentlemen’s Club. Even though I’m gay (and I mean gay) I couldn’t resist the temptation of gourmet steak paired with topless women. Like I said, I’m an American.
In the comments for the perfect steak video I linked to yesterday (which is already a big hit, thanks for watching it!) someone wrote: “What is w/ the spoon? Where [are] your tongs?” It’s a great question because it IS a little unusual to flip your steak over with a spoon, isn’t it? The answer is that I got the spoon idea directly from the chef, Chris Lim, who uses a spoon in almost all of his kitchen activities. Think about it: with a spoon, you can flip the steak over, you can baste it with the fat, you can taste the accompanying sauce, you can stir in another ingredient, and you can neatly deliver the sauce to the plate. A spoon, used well, is a powerful cooking tool, especially when you’re making steak.
I don’t want to toot my own horn, so I won’t: I’ll toot the horn of Chris Lim of BLT steak. In our latest Food2 video this genius chef teaches me a technique for making steak at home that is so perfect, so dead-on that I will never ever ever make steak any other way again. It’s a brilliant technique, an industry technique that steakhouses across the country use to make steak that forces you to say, “Why can’t I have steak this good at home?” But now the secret’s out and steakhouse quality steak is yours for the making. You can thank us later!