Monday, 2 April 2012

Steak and chips for one

There's something about steak that frightens people a lot about cooking it at home. It's actually not that hard to get it right with only a little practice, but I'd bet many people are scared of potentially ruining what could be quite an expensive slab of meat and instead settle for enjoying it in a restaurant instead. 

In the absence of doing a roast for several people, or making a nifty substitute, a piece of quality of steak for your Sunday supper, with homemade chips, is a lovely treat. I think it's well worth handing a fiver over for it once in a while, and that's certainly cheaper than on a restaurant menu. You don't have to buy organic but it's a good idea to buy the best you can afford. Instead of chips, I make wedges as I don't have a deep fryer but you could always resort to frozen oven chips if you're feeling very lazy (as I do sometimes).

What you need: 
Steak
Potatoes - as many as you need for your hunger
Olive or vegetable oil
Seasoning

What to do: 
Make the wedges first. Heat the oven to 200C. Cut the unpeeled potatoes into wedges and put in a bowl. Pour in a glug of oil - enough to coat them liberally - and toss them well. Season with a little salt and pepper and spread them out in a roasting tin. Bake for about 35 minutes, turning them halfway through, until they are golden and crispy.

As soon as the potatoes are in the oven, take the steak out of the fridge and put it on a plate. Rub it with olive oil and set aside so it can come to room temperature. 10 minutes before the potatoes are ready, heat a ridged cast iron griddle pan on the hob. Get it as hot as you can - you should be able to feel the heat with your hand at least 6 inches above it. Put the steak on and grill it for 2-3 minutes. Turn it with a pair of tongs - the meat should lift up easily. If it doesn't it still needs sealing so give it another 30 seconds or so. Grill for another 2-3 minutes on the other side. Take the pan off the heat and let the steak rest for a couple of minutes before dishing up.

Cook's tips: 
How to tell when your steak is ready - after the steak has had 2 minutes on the other side, press your fingers onto the meat. A rare, bloody steak will feel very soft. For medium rare, the flesh should spring back up quickly. If the meat is well done, it will feel almost rigid. There's no hard and fast rule, as much depends on the cut of meat and its thickness. This is why the finger test matters - giving the steak a prod is more reliable than using a timer. (My 2-3 minutes a side above is about right for a piece about 2cm thick (a little less than inch) with some fat on the meat if you like it medium rare, as I do.)

Choosing a cut is down to preference. Rib eye, rump and sirloin all have fat on them, which adds plenty of flavour and stops the meat drying out. Fillet steak, the most tender cut, has no fat so oiling it in advance is even more essential.

When to season - I prefer not to season my steak until it's on the plate with the chips. If you're going to season it raw, do it just before you slap it on the griddle. Any sooner and the salt will draw all the juice out of the meat, leaving you with a piece of tough shoe leather for dinner.

On the side, I'll either make a mixed leaf salad with tomatoes or cook some seasonal vegetables. To accompany the steak I like a good dollop of horseradish sauce or a little Dijon mustard.