For me a steak dinner is something I don’t have that often, but when I do get the taste for a hunk of bloody beef, I make sure to get it spot on, in terms of the cut of steak, the sauce to go with and choice of accompanying potato. Everyone has their own preferences for a steak dinner and it’s surely a subject that can cause much debate, but this is how I like my steak dinner. Could this be my death row meal? I’m not sure, but it’s definitely up there…
For many years I was an advocate of Sirloin, and I had no desire to change. I did enjoy the odd Fillet steak, but recently I’ve discovered Rib-Eye, and now there is no going back. In hindsight Sirloins can be a little too lean, with not enough marbled fat running through the meat and Fillet may be the most tender cut, but for sheer flavour and beefy texture it has to be the Rib-Eye. I visited the Angus Farm Shop in Greyabbey, specifically to buy two thick cut Rib-Eyes from their own Angus beef cattle, hung for 28 days for maximum flavour. This was an excellent starting point, and with such good quality beef, it left little for me to do, but to make sure they were seasoned properly and cooked just beyond rare.
Now just on the topic of how a steak should be cooked, and I don’t care who I offend, but anyone who eats their steak well done, shouldn’t be allowed to eat steak, it is a travesty and a waste of good beef, for which an animal had to die. Rare or medium are all that is acceptable. A steak should be juicy, bloody and a little bit fatty, so for all those steak police out there, get over yourselves and give your mouth a holiday. Rant over.
In my mind the only sauce to have with a bloody rare steak is a piquant Bearnaise sauce, which is so easy to make and adds a touch of luxury. If you haven’t tried a Bearnaise sauce with your steak, then I’d recommend it, you might end being a convert like me. The buttery, silky, sharpness of the sauce goes so well with the beef, and it starts to get really interesting when the bloody juices from the steak mix with the buttery sauce – this is pretty close to heaven on a plate as far as I’m concerned.
Of course there’s the big question as to what type of potato to have on the side to mop up all the juices. Thinly cut frites are hard to beat, but I like to lay it on thick with a tray of roast potatoes, golden and crisp, roasted with garlic, rosemary and lemon. I mean why should the roast potato only be reserved for Sunday lunch, a perfect roast potato is a beautiful thing and a steak dinner is taken to new lofty heights with a bowl of ‘roasties’ on the side, served with a big dollop of sour cream on top. I find the best potatoes for roasting are a floury variety such as Maris Piper or Kerrs Pinks. These allow you to achieve a golden crisp exterior, with a soft pillowy centre. I serve some wilted spinach on the side too, more out of guilt than anything else. Lashings of red wine are a must, each bite of the steak should be chewed slowly and washed down with a sip of wine.
For the roast potatoes
6 medium size potatoes, peeled and cut in half
1 whole bulb of garlic, cut in half
1 lemon, zest removed in thick strips and the lemon cut into slices
2 sprigs of rosemary
Salt and pepper
For the steaks
2 Rib-Eye steaks 200g each
Salt and pepper
For the Bearnaise sauce
1 shallot, finely diced
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
6 whole black peppercorns
4 stalks of Tarragon
2 egg yolks
1 tsp Dijon mustard
150g soft butter, cut into cubes
Get the roast potatoes on the go first, pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C, cover the bottom of an oven proof dish with a thin layer of vegetable oil and put in the oven to get the oil hot. Par boil the potatoes for about 10 minutes, you just want to cook the outside of the potato slightly, drain and allow to steam dry. Shake the potatoes around, to roughen the edges up, which will get really crispy when roasted. Then put them into the oven proof dish in the hot oil, scatter in the garlic cloves, lemon zest, lemon slices and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper and roast for about 45 minutes, until they are golden brown.
When the potatoes look crispy and nearly ready, turn the oven temperature down, just to keep them warm. Now you can get the steaks started. Whenever I cook steaks I oil the steaks first with a little vegetable oil on both sides and season well with lots of salt and black pepper. This seasoning is what gives the steak the charred crust that gives flavour and also seals the juices in. Get the frying pan on a high heat and when the pan starts to smoke, put in your steak. I like to cook my steak for about a minute on each side and then finish off in the oven for a bout five minutes. After five minutes remove the steaks from the oven, cover with tin foil and leave to rest. Resting is probably the single most important part of the process in cooking meat, as it is the rest that allows all the juices to flow back into the fibres of the meat.
While the steaks are resting you can make the Bearnaise sauce. Put the diced shallot and white wine vinegar into a small pan, along with the peppercorns and Tarragon. Bring to the boil and allow to reduce by about half. Put the egg yolks and the mustard into a glass bowl, and place over a pan of gently simmering water. Pour the vinegar through a sieve to collect the shallot, tarragon and peppercorns, then whisk the vinegar into the egg yolks. Add the soft butter, a cube at a time, whisking continually, until the sauce becomes, thick and silky. You can take the bowl off the simmering water and add a pinch of salt. Give the sauce one final whisk just before serving, to loosen it up.
To serve, place the steaks onto two warm plates, pour on some of the Bearnaise sauce and add a spoonful of wilted spinach. I like to serve the roast potatoes in individual bowls.