There are only so many proteins you can throw on a grill. Trust me, I am halfway through the food chain and it is not even August. So last weekend, I decided to get my science on and do a little experimentation. The subject? Boeuf!
My grill space is in the leafy suburb of Wilmette, Illinois, where I have been commuting for the past 14 years to visit my wife, a professor, Ph.D. and person worthy of every last mile I have flown. I also like her back yard, where my Weber grill is happily ensconced.
How many ways can you grill a steak, you ask? I am not a beef snob. I purchase my meat at the local grocery store, which has an enormous glass case packed with prime cuts: ribeye, New York strip, flank steak, hangar steak, filet mignon. Something is always on sale for an absurdly low price (especially compared to New York). I assume it is because the Jewel-Osco, like Costco, who also deals in quantity), buys so much meat that they just want to move it in and move it out, like an old-fashioned cattle drive.
So last weekend I got to thinking about that age old question: when do you salt your steak for the grill? A quick visit to the Web provided more analytical data than a technology conference. Since you all own a computer I will save you the leg work. Either salt right before meat hits fire, or hours and hours in advance. The theory on The Long Salt is that properly done, it permeates the cut while not drawing out too much juiciness. I went deep on this, rubbing in healthy dollops of kosher, then setting it on a rack in the fridge on top of a plate, uncovered, to allow the process to unfold.
In the meantime, with a six-hour curing period on hand, I raced to the local farmer’s market and grabbed a basketful of Michigan peaches so fresh and bursting with soft juiciness that I nearly felt an Andre Aciman moment coming on (if you have to ask, trust me you don’t want to know!).
I cut the peaches into chunks and plopped them into a 1.75 litre bottle of Pinot Grigio. People wax poetic about which wines to use for Sangria but I consider that as useless as buying premium gasoline. When the cold infusion period is over and you pour your first glass over ice, all that matters is the marriage of fresh peach flavor to a white wine kick.
I like to grill after dusk. The air is refreshing. The smoke of the fire keeps the bugs down. Dew moistens the thick glasses that hold our Sangria. Friends gather and imbibe. People who don’t smoke, do. And best of all, I get to be grill master – a role I cherish. Cut up some tomatoes, throw a few ears of corn on the fire, carve up your meat and be sure to leave a few coals going for the post Bacchanalian marshmallows. It’s summertime and the living is most assuredly easy.
Grilled Steak with Garlic Butter
• 2 lbs, filet mignon, ribeye, flank or strip
• Kosher salt
• 4 tbsp butter
• 3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1. Liberally sprinkle coarse kosher salt over all surfaces of the meat, rubbing the crystals gently into the flesh.
2. Place meat in fridge for 2 to 8 hours in advance, lightly covered and sitting on a wire rack so air can circulate.
3. Scoop 4 tbsp of butter into a glass dish and keep out until soft. Mince the garlic and mush it into the butter with a fork. If you are Martha Stewart-esque you can roll it into a pretty little log. I just keep it in the fridge for later use.
4. Get steaks out to room temperature, at least 30 minutes before cooking.
5. Light a hot charcoal fire, being sure to leave room on the sides of your fire.
6. Sear steaks for 2-3 minutes max and then flip. You are going for that deep brown delicious char. Once achieved, let steaks cook minimally on the side of the grill (not on direct flame) until desired doneness. Medium rare is fine. Leaving one cut rare will have takers. Anyone who wants well-done should be encouraged to throw their meat back on. Or enjoy the corn.
7. When steaks are off, smear pats of garlic butter all over the hot meat. It will melt into the flesh, giving you that perfect salt/garlic/beef bite.
Start this at least 4-6 hours before serving. Making it over breakfast is fun!
• 1.75 litre bottle of any reasonable white wine
• Small bottle of peach brandy, schnapps or liqueur
• 3 or 4 large juicy fresh summer peaches
• Chunks of lime or lemon
• Seltzer water optional
1. Chop the peaches into small rough chunks and fill a large jug with them.
2. Pour wine over peaches.
3. Add a couple of jiggers of peach liqueur to taste.
4. Stir gently with a long wooden spoon and refrigerate.
5. Serve in tall glasses with ice, squeezing in chunks of lime or lemon for a bit of zing.
6. If bubbly is your thing, add a spritz of seltzer to the glass.
Do not discard your peaches from the jug at night’s end. You can add another bottle of white and a few more peaches (blueberries go well, too) before you go to bed and do it again the next evening.