Thawing Out

January 25 – January 31, 2021

Monday:                   Reverse Seared Sirloin with Savory Beans and Salad

Arlo, Billy and Emily’s dog, hankering for some garlic bread

Tuesday:                   Gumbo from the Cornerstone – Salad

Wednesday:            Steak salad with arugula, parmesan and avocado

Thursday:                 Yucatan Chicken and Rice Soup

Friday:                       Norwegian Salmon

Saturday:                  Dinner with the Harts:  Rigatoni with Pork Ragû, Salad,                                     App of Fig and Brie on Crusty Bread, Dessert of Chocolate                                               Rosemary Syrup Cake

The BLTs we have every Sunday after Mass

Sunday:                     Leftovers

Alas, “Thawing Out” refers not to the weather, but rather to our refrigerator which seems to collect a vast miscellany of things (chicken necks – half-empty bags of frozen corn and peas – gift-box steaks – nearly empty pints of ice cream – and solid blocks of protein which would require spectrographic analysis to identify).  Thank heavens, we don’t have one of those enormous freezers into which villains on tv detective shows regularly deposit their victims.

All this is by way of explaining that we resolved, at the beginning of February (next year’s first resolution will be not to procrastinate on resolutions), to begin thawing out and cooking the accumulated mass – much of it frozen together – in our freezer.  This way, we figured, we could save money, eventually clean the freezer and, in the meantime, pose all sorts of cooking challenges for ourselves.

Well, the challenges were there, and we’ve taken a small step, but, based on our current progress, if we put nothing else into the freezer, we should have it cleaned out by Spring of 2052.*

*By “we” here. I mean the Duffy Stewarts or, to be more precise, our children, who will clean it out, unless of course, along with our frozen food, that have inherited our retentive approach to the same.    Beez and I will be calling our lawyers next week to insert a ‘frozen food’ codicil into our will.  We’d hate to see those short ribs with what looks like hair growing from them, or those bags of freezer-burned shrimp go to waste.

But, at least the steaks that we found in the freezer won’t go to waste.  Aside from the king’s ransom in frozen grey meat which had to be pitched, we had some lovely strip steaks and filets two weekends ago, and on the following Monday a top sirloin that was superb.

We had forgotten how good top-sirloin, this now out-of-favor cut of meat, can be.  And perhaps you have, too.  So, go through your freezer, and if you find some top sirloin that hasn’t turned grey or green, use the recipe below to cook yourself a tasty dinner.  But really, this way of cooking steak is so good, that you can use it on other cuts or even go out and buy a fresh top sirloin to enjoy.

Reverse Searing – the Easiest Way to Cook Great Steak

This way of cooking steak works superbly with any cut of quality steak – it’s virtue is that it allows you to bring the interior of the meat up to temperature before searing the outside, so that when you do sear, you will find perfectly-rare ruby or medium-rare rosy meat just beneath a juicy crust – heaven to us carnivores.

You can use this technique with any edible steak – strips, rib-eyes and filets will be great, but don’t overlook top sirloin.  You don’t need a list of ingredients – we’re talking steak, salt, pepper, and vegetable oil (grapeseed or peanut are perfect, but plain ‘vegetable oil’ will work).

Get your steak out of the refrigerator, salt and pepper it aggressively on both sides and place it on a rack set inside a sheet pan.  [Look, if you don’t have a rack, get one, it helps in cooking all sorts of things, in cooling pies and breads and even it resting toast while you make a BLT.  You will notice that, if you put a piece of hot toast directly onto a plate it will moisten the plate and eventually get soggy.}

Let the steak sit while you preheat your oven to 200 F.

Meanwhile, place a cast-iron skillet or pan over high heat – you want it to get searingly hot (about 600 F), so it can sit there heating, while you put the steak in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes.

Take the steak from the oven and brush a light coat of oil onto both sides, then sear the steak for 1 to 1 ½ minutes for the top and bottom and another 30 seconds or so for the sides.*  Rest the steak on the rack again for 5 minutes.  Then slice and serve.

*Wear an apron or a t-shirt you don’t mind getting spattered.  Oil in a very hot cast-iron pan is going to splatter, no matter what you do.  Oh, and turn your fan on high and maybe open a window.

Note:  You want the steak to be about 120 F when it comes out of the oven.  If you have a probe thermometer, you can check this – but, unless your oven is off by a lot, it will probably be close to 120.

Obviously, if you’re dealing with steakhouse-thick steak, you’ll want to cook a bit longer in the oven and take a bit longer to sear, though not much.  Filet mignon should be good with a light sear, but take a minute to sear all around the sides.

Your on your own for side dishes, though potatoes and a salad suggest themselves.  Two Mondays ago we sautéed some onions, then added some drained cannellini beans, salt, oregano, pepper and cayenne, dressed some lettuce with lemon and oil and had a lovely dinner.

2 thoughts on “Thawing Out

  1. I second the fan and window step – I have often terrified my pets by setting off the smoke alarm if I broil or sear without doing so!

  2. I’ve missed entirely too many Casa Stuarti meals recently. Need to remedy that. Given the picture of Arlo that you included, I have to shout out my girl Tamara at Nicky’s Grant Street (diner) in the Grant Building (that was her chicken penne and garlic bread). While Nicky’s has been closed during the pandemic (sadly, along with the Grant Street Tavern until very recently), Tamara has been coming in 4 days a week to cook hot meals for hungry downtown office workers with few options for lunch that aren’t pre-made. Yesterday’s meatloaf sandwich special was probably the best meal I have had in 2021 so far (mainly because I haven’t been out to Fox Chapel much for the old man’s dinners) and a few of her others are contenders. If anyone else still comes downtown these days, do yourself a favor and stop by the newsstand kiosk in the Grant Building to order one of Tamara’s hot specials and you will enjoy a meal on par with those featured in WWCLW.

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