"We actually eat less meat now than we did before," Schatzker says. He knows the good stuff now, and the good stuff from Idaho runs more than $25 a pop. (The commodity beef had put him out $8.60.) But the cause of taste is worth paying for. Schatzker believes his mission is akin to that of author and food localist Michael Pollan. "He's just about the environment, whereas I'm about flavour. So much of our food is about industrialized product, and it has lost favour."
We stay another hour, talking about meat and all the other subjects a good meal inspires: theatre, children, writing, books, what's funny and what's not, the Nazis. "Flavour is, primarily, a personal experience that is very difficult to communicate," Schatzker says. Fortunately, it's easy to taste.
Mark Schatzker's weekly humour column can be found in Globe T.O. on Saturdays.
How to cook a steak in 15 easy steps
Step 1. Find a source of tender, juicy, and, above all, flavourful steak. This is by far the most difficult step in this recipe.
Step 2. Decide on a cut. There is a rather large selection to choose from: strips, flank steaks, rump steaks, tenderloins, rib eyes. Get to know each cut as intimately as your pillow. If you follow Step 1, any and every cut will be eminently palatable.
Step 3. Choose a thickness. Don't fall into the trap of believing that bigger steaks are always better.
Step 4. Examine the steak. Prod it. Poke it. Pick it up and waggle it.
Step 5. Choose a cooking surface. It can be a grill or it can be a pan. Both are fine. That's right, both are fine.
Step 6. Let the steak warm to room temperature. Don't cook a cold steak on a hot grill or pan.
Step 7. Pat the steak dry with paper towel. A wet steak, no matter how it's cooked, may end up tasting boiled.
Step 8. Salt the steak. Sprinkle both sides. Only experience will tell you how much is enough, and it's always better to err on the not enough, because too much salt is a disaster.
Step 9. Figure out how you want it cooked. Don't be one of those people who run around uttering bombastic statements like "I have no respect for anyone who eats a steak over medium rare." Roughly three quarters of all Argentines eat steak well done, and they probably eat more steak than you do. What matters is your preference. Figure it out. Stand by it.
Step 10. Cook the steak. Make sure your pan or grill is hot. You want to brown the exterior, but you don't want to burn it. Browning starts at 70°C (158°F). Burning happens when rich men with big barbecues - loudmouth types, usually - cook thick steaks on a torrid grill for too long.
Step 11. Flip the steak. After the first side has browned, which could take anywhere from one minute to eight minutes, flip.
Step 12. Assess doneness. Poke the surface. As a steak cooks, it becomes firmer. Pick up the steak with your tongs and waggle it. It should show signs of stiffening. When beads of red liquid start to form on the surface, the steak is approaching medium rare. If your steak feels like a cutting board, you've overcooked it, in which case you might try moistening it with the tears dripping off your cheek.
Step 13. Rest the steak (optional). Resting allows heat from the exterior of a thick steak to radiate inward and cook the meat in the centre. But resting is overrated. It is acceptable and often quite enjoyable to cut into a steak that's raw in the middle.
Step 14. Resist the temptation to smother your steak in a sauce or rub. Steak sauce is like crystal meth - habit forming and ruinous. If you're dealing with good steak, the flavour of steak will be the best thing on your plate.
Step 15. Eat the steak. A fine steak knife is not essential, but using one is fun.
Adapted from STEAK by Mark Schatzker. Reprinted by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright © 2010 by Mark Schatzker
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