A cow or a bull is a wonderful thing. In an ideal situation, she or he meanders along grassy plains or rolling hills, munching on newly sprouted grass shoots, while gently whipping its tail to shoo off some pesky flies. She or he somehow manages, within its four stomach chambers and a bit of magic, to turn grass into utterly succulent steaks… dense nicely marbled hunks of protein that our ancestors many thousands of years ago figured out tasted best when grilled, or later, pan seared and stuck in an oven. The animal’s tail is the main feature in stunning soups like Sop Buntot, the rear end in burgers, the shanks in osso buco, the testicles, flank, tenderloin, liver, shoulders etc. in a whole range of delicious dishes that carnivores partake in. And let’s not forget milk which then goes onto butter, cream, yoghurt, etc. While many would argue that we have evolved since the “cave man” days (I would argue that some of those caves were more spacious than these new-fangled studio apartments that cost several million pesos), I thankfully would argue that my love of a nice grilled steak is still firmly in place. And yes, I know the arguments against eating too much meat, that they are often raised in less than ideal situations, that they are slaughtered in a manner that would give most folks the chills, etc. I still like my beef. And besides, I think plants have feelings too so as long as we are eating something else, we are eating something else. And now that I have been on a diet for several days, I dream about steaks like this…
So many people I have met consider a steak dinner to be a special occasion kind of event. It’s someone’s (usually a man’s) birthday, or someone is celebrating a major milestone, or promotion, etc. They consider a trip to the nearest steakhouse to be a serious treat. And often, they would NEVER think to cook the steak for themselves at home instead. It’s a bit more western to see someone at a backyard barbecue grilling a steak than it is to see the same sight in Manila or elsewhere in the Philippines… or at least that is my personal impression. But let me tell you. Doing a superb steak at home is NOT hard at all. And it costs a lot less than if you eat it at a restaurant. Don’t get me wrong, we still occasionally go out to enjoy steak at restaurants, whether at Mamou’s, Elbert’s, Myron’s, etc. — but we also cook it at home with relative ease and pretty darned good results.
In this case, I hit my suki butcher at Santis delicatessen, asked for a Angus cowboy steak (a large steak from the prime rib) and when they said they didn’t have any, I asked if they had a whole prime rib, which they did. Suki takes out the prime rib, takes the large end and uses the electric saw to cut off two massive rib steaks, roughly 1 and 3/4 inches thick. These were thawed slowly and kept refrigerated until about half an hour before cooking. I heated up a large cast iron skillet, added a couple of drops of oil and brushed it all over, then very carefully dried the steak with paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible before sprinkling it generously with Maldon sea salt and some cracked black pepper. The steak was then seared on the hot pan, and after say 3-4 minutes, and nicely caramelized, it was flipped over. After two minutes or so, it was placed in a 375F pre-heated oven for a few more minutes until you get the desired level of doneness. We tend to like our steaks rare or medium rare so this doesn’t take long at all.
Take the steak out and if you want to do a little restaurant trick put a generous dab of butter on the steak and let that melt and form part of the juices. Sprinkle with a little more Maldon and let it rest for several minutes before slicing it. Yum. Two very good thick steaks cost some PHP2,400 which sounds like a lot. But this could feed 5 people very nicely. So for PHP480 per person, far less than a similar portion in a restaurant, one can eat rather luxuriously, if you ask me. Now if only they had absolutely no calories… :) When are they going to invent Diet Steak? Tastes and feels like really steak, but with zero calories? :)