Friday, September 7, 2012

Not Steak Diane, but Steak for Diane

August 26, 2012
  • Pan seared rib eye steak
  • Baked potato
  • Grilled asparagus
  • Green salad
  • Guglielmo 2008 Private Reserve Zinfandel

Diane was home for the weekend. She has been out of town, caring for her mom who has limited mobility while recovering from an injury. Our nephew, Kyle was  thankfully able to fill in for a few days, giving Diane a chance to spend a weekend at home. Since it had been almost a month since I had cooked for her, I wanted to fix a special meal featuring dishes that were sure to please her. I was thinking steak and when I asked her for suggestions the answer I got was steak, settling the question for the main course. Selecting side dishes that go well with steak and are Diane's favorites was then easy to do.

I went to Whole Foods to buy some really nice steaks. After perusing the contents of the butcher case, I decided on two one-pound rib eye steaks. They were expensive but I comforted myself at the register by remembering that I could have spent more if I'd selected dry-aged rib eye steaks. I was pretty sure we wouldn't consume both of these in one meal but I anticipated some really good leftovers. The steaks were about 1½" thick and well marbled with fat so they promised to be tender and juicy, so long as I cooked them properly. The pressure was on.

The longest-cooking item on the menu was baked potatoes. Two large russet potatoes were scrubbed with a vegetable brush and placed in a 350° oven for 75 minutes. I never checked them for doneness, I trusted the time and temperature and just took them out after 75 minutes. Fortunately they were fine, perhaps a little underdone, but not so much to be a problem. I could have cooked them in much shorter time in the microwave but they wouldn't have been as good. Oven baking is especially good for producing a nice, crispy skin.

To prepare the steaks I used instructions in The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook in the recipe for Steak Frites, I just skipped the Frites (a.k.a French Fries) part. I followed the directions for cooking the steaks and I made a simple yet rich and tasty herb butter which we used to garnish both the steaks and the baked potatoes.

The steaks were pan seared. I used a cast iron skillet which is ideal for searing because it holds heat so well. My directions had me add a tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. I am never sure which setting on our electric stove, which has a dial marked 1 through 10, corresponds to "medium-high". I tried 6½ but this was too hot as it produced copious amounts of smoke from the oil. I retreated to 5 before adding the meat which seemed to work out well. I cooked the steak for 4 minutes then turned it over, cooking for 6 minutes on the second side. At this point the the internal temperature was about right. I was shooting for 120°-125° for medium rare got reasonably close. The thinner parts of the steak were a little more done and the thicker a little less. All in all, though, the steak had a nice crust and was pink and warm in the middle.

Asparagus was cooked on the grill and nothing could have been simpler. The thick ends of the stalks were cut off and the spears drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with some kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. (I use only freshly ground pepper, I believe it's been years since we had a can of ground pepper in the house.) I didn't get the timing quite right with the asparagus, it was done too early and so was overdone when served, being a little limp without the crispness that you would like with a fresh vegetable.

We had some lettuce and tomatoes on hand and so we had a little green salad on the side. We opened a nice bottle of Zinfandel from the Guglielmo Winery which is just down the road in Morgan Hill.

I enjoy making elaborate dishes but I think I enjoy even more the simpler ones which take less time to prepare but are still wonderful to eat. This meal didn't take a lot of time, there was minimal prep needed, and it was all wonderful. I think Diane enjoyed it.

What about Steak Diane? Well, she is partial to that too, but it will have to wait for another day.

Herb Butter from America's Test Kitchen 


  1. Thanks, Deenie, it wasn't perfect but it came out pretty well. Read next week's blog for an interesting story about the leftover steak.