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Monday, September 15, 2008

Steaking it Out

After London Mayor Boris Johnson's little outburst about reducing our meat intake, I felt it was time to talk a little bit about meat. The write-up was carried by the Dominion Post last week, who, to their credit, made a somewhat ironic point of the title, "A Load Of Bull." Which is what it really was. Morgue has paraphrased this little diatribe quite succinctly, and to borrow his words directly:

"Some UN chappie says I should forgo meat one day a week to cut carbon emissions. But the world is overpopulated! The end."
The point is not that an excess of people on the planet drives up demand for beef, therefore people are the problem. The problem is that people demand it in the first place. Now, I'm no vegetarian, nor do I pretend to be. But life is about balance and moderation. Johnson's bellowings about "vast Homeric barbeques" of "chops and sausages and burgers and chitterlings and chine and offal," smacks of the typical Western arrogance and overconsumption that shames us all in the eyes of the rest of the world, even if he is making a wildly weak attempt at humour. Whick-Whack was funny, Boris. Quit while you're ahead.

Would it really hurt to not eat red meat every day? We certainly don't. We've been making an active effort in our house to reduce the amount of red meat we're eating and to eat vegetarian at least once a week. We also prefer to buy quality meat in smaller portions over big dishes of cheaper meat.

The point that Boris Johnson misses is that his desire to feast on red meat purely to spite Dr Rajendra Pachauri of the UN comes at a huge cost, both in terms of the environmental damage being done to the planet to farm the millions of cows and sheep and pigs that we eat, and in the food miles racked up to bring it to the market. Is Mr Johnson a fan of New Zealand Lamb? Does he plan to offset his carbon footprint by planting a few native bushes in our backyard? Probably not.

We're not perfect. We recycle, reuse,and compost; we use cloth nappies, eat all our leftovers (most the time), and have made a conscious effort to only eat produce grown in NZ whenever we can. But we still drive about 600km a week and we still eat meat. So what can we do about that? I say, we respect the meat. We outlaw huge barbeques of sausages that won't get eaten, and we make it a criminal offence to overcook a steak. We legislate for serving sizes, and we educate the masses on how to make the most out of less meat.

Where am I going with this? Perfect Steak. Yes, after all that invective, I'm going to write a post about cooking the perfect steak. We got this steak on special and so it was a bit of a treat. We eat steak about once a month, and we always appreciate it. So we make sure that it's cooked well and that it tastes delicious. The cow deserves no less (apologies to any vegos out there - I admit I have my weaknesses, and steak is one of them).

Steak (It's That Simple)

(Serves 3)

Take 300-400g of good frying steak, either Porterhouse or Scotch Fillet. With the blunt side of a heavy knife, tenderise the steak in a crosshatch pattern. Finely chop 3-4 cloves of garlic and spread this over both sides of the steak, along with freshly ground salt and pepper and olive oil. Leave to rest for at least half an hour if possible.
Heat 2T of olive oil in a heavy iron pan until almost smoking. Slice an onion and put aside. Lay the steak in the hot oil and spread the onion over the top. Keep the heat high for the first 3-4 minutes, lowering slightly when the steak is ready to turn.
Here's the secret that can make the difference between a steak and a perfect steak: Only turn it once. Lift the steak and peek underneath to see if it's done and ready to flip. Once you turn it there's no going back. Follow this rule and your steak will always come up well, whether you like it rare or well done. Remove the onions to the pan and turn the steak over, then replace the onions on top of the steak. Cook the steak for a similar time on the other side, with the heat a wee bit lower. If you want to know if your steak is done, don't cut into it - this will just undo all your hard work. You can judge the done-ness of a steak just by prodding it. If the steak feels as soft as your cheek, it's rare. Soft as your chin, its medium. Soft as your forehead, its well done. Ah, all the secrets are coming out now!
Remove the steak to a warm plate, leaving the onion in the pan. Add a little water to the pan and scrape all the good stuff off the bottom to make a gravy.

EDIT: Also add about 2T of tomato paste to give the gravy a bit of texture and colour - Just found my notes on this!

Reduce the onion gravy rapidly and spoon over the steak. Serve with mashed kumera and pumpkin and steamed greens. Perfect.


Patrice Farmer said...

You're making me cry! I miss being able to eat steak...and that would be the perfect steak dinner for me. Can you eat some of it for me???

Anthony Epp said...

Or, instead of water-assuming one consumes alcohol, try using a nice dark beer or you favorite wine to deglaze the pan. After the liquidof choice has reduced by half or more, turn off the heat, add a pat (or so) of butter and stir in the butter by moving the pan in a circular motion or stirring in with a whisk. Quick and easy pan sauce with a LOT of richness. This can also be done with margarine or some other butter substitue, but it won't be near as rich.

Dan said...

Thanks Anthony - I often use wine to deglaze the pan when making stew, but I hadn't thought of using butter.

Patrice - I hope that with your new diet you'll be able to eat steak again soon, and I hope the new place is working out for you. Do you miss the chickens?