Thursday, May 6, 2010

Steak for a crowd:

Choose the right steaks. The most common steak choices are rib-eyes, strip steaks and filet mignons. Regardless of the cut, choose thick steaks, preferably 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick. Thinner ones are more likely to overcook by the time they've had a chance to sear. Thicker rib-eyes and strip steaks usually weigh 12 to 16 ounces, so consider splitting one steak between two people. Filet mignons range in size, but 8 to 10 ounces is common. Make sure the steaks aren't ice-cold. Start by bringing them to room temperature. You can do this very quickly in the microwave. Working two steaks at a time, microwave them, uncovered, on the defrost setting for about two minutes. But if you plan to sear the steaks and let them rest awhile, you can skip this step.

Choose your searing method. Either a grill or a skillet will work, but the surface should be piping hot. If using a gas grill, turn all burners on high until fully preheated, 10 to 15 minutes. Lightly brush the grill rack with oil. Close the lid and let the grill return to temperature. If searing the steaks stovetop, use a heavy-bottomed non-stick or cast-iron skillet that comfortably holds the number of steaks you plan to cook. The steaks should not be crammed together (which could cause them to steam) or set too far apart (which could cause the pan to smoke excessively). About five minutes before cooking, set the pan on the burner over medium-high heat. When smoke starts to rise, turn on the exhaust fan. If serving a large crowd, use a large heavy-bottomed roasting pan set over two burners to sear up to six filet mignons or four large rib-eyes or strip steaks (serving up to eight) at one time.

Keep the seasoning simple. While the pan or grill heats, rub both sides of each steak with oil, and season each side with salt, pepper and sugar. How much sugar? For large strip steaks and rib-eyes, sprinkle on a scant 1/2 teaspoon per side. For filet mignons, about 1/4 teaspoon per side. Wait to season the steaks until you are ready to sear them, because the sugar melts quickly. Set a timer, and sear the steaks for two minutes per side. They should end up with an impressive crust that has a few blackened spots around the edge; grilled steak should have nice grill marks.
Transfer the steaks to a wire rack set over a shallow baking pan. That keeps them from steaming and lets them cool faster.

Brush them with garlic oil. I often do this, because I remember how good the soft, yet potent, garlic tasted on my dad's steaks. The oven heat tames the garlic just enough to lose its bite. Figure about half a medium minced garlic clove and one teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil for each steak.

Gently cook the steaks in a 325-degree oven until done. Once seared, all the steaks need is 25 to 30 minutes to reach a rosy pink medium. Don't worry too much about time. The low heat cooks the steaks slowly, gently and evenly. An extra 10 minutes' oven time will not hurt them. They are done when an instant-read thermometer, plunged deep into the steak from the side, registers 140 degrees, but it will not hurt them --especially filets--to cook to an even higher internal temperature. If they're ready, but you're not, simply turn off the oven and crack the door. That'll buy you at least another 10 minutes. 

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