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The Chef’s Perspective: Freezing outside or not, the steaks must go on


By Murray Schulman

It was freezing cold outside that night, but who cares? Those giant steaks required time on the grill and I was going to make it happen. I had the butcher cut two Angus bone-in ribeye steaks for me. Each one weighed in at well over 2 pounds. They had perfect marbling and the eye fat was just right. I seasoned each one in the Italian style with kosher salt, coarse black pepper, Italian seasoning and thin slices of fresh garlic stuffed into every nook and cranny. Then the steaks got rubbed down with fresh lemons. Once this process was completed, I just covered them up and set them aside to let all that flavor soak into the meat.

Throughout the entire process, our company and Liz were hanging out in the kitchen with glasses of wine that never seemed to get empty. Stories that we shared a hundred times were re-told and we laughed just as much as we did the first time we told them. The ladies were enjoying a bottle of Beringer Pink Moscato that I opened for them. I paired this with Brie and honey
on crostini and some DB Cinnful Cocoa Pecans. Sandy and I opted for a ’16 Cabernet Sauvignon from Chaddsford Winery. I paired this with some Pepito Goat Cheese that had ben smoked and lightly coated with coarse ground black pepper. The Cab also pairs well with chocolate and we made sure that we got our share of those cocoa pecans. The combination of flavors was mind blowing. It was shaping up to be a great evening.

I decided that it was time to get back to work in the kitchen. I had picked up four gigantic baking potatoes. These I cut into thick wedges. Using my handy oil sprayer, I hit the potatoes with a little spritz of oil. Then, just a sprinkle of kosher salt, black pepper, granulated garlic and just a pinch of paprika. On a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, I lined up the wedges like soldiers standing at attention. I added another light spritz of oil and the potatoes were ready for the oven.

Did you know that you can purchase cleaned and fresh-cut Brussels sprouts in the produce department of your supermarket? Well, you can and I did. I took them straight out of the bag, dipped them into boiling water that was laced with just a hint of sugar and lemon for a couple of minutes. From the boiling water right into ice water. Then drained and patted dry. I arranged the blanched Brussels sprouts on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan. I added a touch of kosher salt and a pinch of black pepper finished with a light spray of olive oil. I set my convection oven to 350 degrees on the convection roast setting. While the oven preheated, I diced one sweet onion and a package of thick-sliced bacon. In a large sauté’ pan, I began to render the bacon. At about the halfway point, I drained off some of the bacon fat. While the bacon continued to cook and more fat was rendered, I added in my diced onions. This way, the onions had enough time to sweat without getting overcooked and the bacon finishes to the perfect texture at the same time. I added in a splash of good aged balsamic vinegar, gave it a quick toss and let it reduce a bit. I set this mixture aside for later. It was time to put the potatoes and sprouts into the oven to roast. Everyone was already drooling from the aromas that are coming from my kitchen.

I decided to be nice and brave the cold on my own. Out onto the back deck to fire up the grill I went. That cold wind hit me smack in the face. But I toughed it out and got the grill uncovered. On my deck I have one of those motion-sensing lights. The moment that it sensed me moving around out there in the cold, it turned off. Anyone have a large hammer? That would fix it. Anyway, I managed to get the grill lit by feel. I turned it up to full blast and ran back inside while it and I warmed up. I checked everything out, took a long drink of wine, grabbed the nicely seasoned steaks and headed back outside.

In my younger days, I used to eat my steaks rare and bloody. Now, however, I find that I prefer my steaks to be just warm and bright pink on the inside. Plus, they have to be beautifully caramelized and deliciously juicy. It is that sweet spot right between medium rare and medium. With steaks this thick, I have found that combining the high temperature grill with the convection oven is the way to go.

So, here I was back outside in the freezing cold with a set of long tongs and my steaks. I positioned the steaks just so over my fire. Once set, I left them alone. To get the diamond-shaped markings that I want, it would take about three minutes before I rotated the steaks 45 degrees for another two minutes. Then I turned the steaks and repeated the process.

While all of this was going on, I was trying to get as close to the fire as possible without self-igniting. It was the only way to keep my fingers and nose from freezing off in this wind. Finally, the steaks were seared to my liking. I cut off the gas and let the flames die down while removing my steaks to a lined sheet pan. Back in my warm kitchen, I found that my timing was perfect. I removed the sprouts and the wedges from the oven and replaced them with the seared steaks. I should have about eight minutes until the steaks are done. Liz has the table set and ready and the ladies are still working on that big bottle of Moscato. I popped the cork on another bottle of the Cab to go with those steaks. Once the steaks reached the proper temperature, I pulled them from the oven and let them rest. I had just enough time to finish the Brussels sprouts by tossing them with the bacon mixture. At my house, I plate steaks whole and carve the size piece as requested by each guest.

All of the food arrives at the table hot and ready to eat. Those huge perfectly prepared steaks and the delicious looking and smelling accompaniments get quite a reaction. Everyone digs in.

We all enjoy the food and the company. Dinner lasts for hours and we reaffirm that life is good.

I want to wish all of my readers a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. Remember that while we are all striving to stay in shape and to eat in a healthier way, every once in a while, we just need to indulge ourselves with our favorite.


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