|Excerpted from Charred & Scruffed by Adam Perry Lang (Artisan Books). Copyright 2012.
Photograph by Simon Wheeler.
Marbled, full-flavored strip steak is what most people have in mind when they think of the classic steak. Even a thousand miles from Manhattan, the cut is often referred to as a New York strip, bringing to mind the era of the speakeasy, free-spending gangsters in loud pinstripe suites, big jazz bands, and cigarette girls walking among the tables in heels and revealing outfits.
The atomization produced when the fat and juices from the marbled meat make contact with the hot coals creates an intense blast of superheated flavor that infuse meat, fish, or fowl.
When cooked medium-rare, these steaks take only 9 minutes or so. In order to be able to properly time and manipulate them, I'd say four steaks is the limit that you can prepare at one time.
Four Seasons Blend
- Four 10-ounce boneless strip steaks at least 1¼ inches thick, fat trimmed to ¼ inch
- ¼ cup Four Seasons Blend (see below)
- An herb brush (see below)
- ½ cup Butter Baste (see below)
- Board Dressing (see below)
- Finishing Salt of your choice or sea or kosher salt
Makes approximately 1 cup
- 1 cup sea or kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Combine the sale, black pepper, garlic salt, and cayenne in a small bowl. Transfer to a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder and pulse to the consistency of sand. Store in an airtight container for up to1 month.
Herb Basting Brush
Rather than using an ordinary basting brush, I prefer to make my own by securing a bunch of herb sprigs (rosemary, sage, or thyme, or a combination, or other herbs, depending on what you are cooking) to a dowel, the handle of a wooden spoon, or a long-handled carving fork. The herb brush flavors the baste, releases oils into the crust as it builds, and eventually becomes a garnish for the Board Dressing.
Makes 1 cup
- ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 5 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until the butter melts, then bring just to a simmer and simmer gently for 2 to 4 minutes. Let stand for at least 1 hour to bring out the flavors.
Reheat over low heat to melt the butter before using.
For a basic board dressing, combine 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, and sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. You can improvise here, adding grated shallots or garlic (use a Microplane), finely chopped chiles, chopped scallions, and/or other chopped herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, and sage.
The secret flavorful ingredients is the tip of the herb basting brush, chopped very fine and mixed into the dressing. After being in contact with the hot meat while it cooked, the rosemary, sage, or thyme will have softened a bit and released some aromatic and flavorful oils. I mix the herbs into the board dressing, then slice the meat, turning each side in the dressing to coat. Then I pour the resulting board juices over the meat when I serve it.
Allow the steaks to come to room temperature, approximately 1 hour straight from the refrigerator.
Prepare a "mature and level" coal bed, with a clean thin grate or rack set over it if you like; the fire should be very hot.
*When cooking on coals, it is important to even them out, lightly tamping them down to a uniform height of 4 to 6 inches. A cast-iron skillet or a roasting pan will serve you well for this task. Then, just before placing the meal on the coals (or grate), use a hair dryer or a piece of cardboard to fan the coals sufficiently to clear away bits of ash.
Season the steaks on both sides with the seasoning blend, then lightly moisten your hands with water and work the seasonings into the meat. Allow to stand for 5 minutes to develop a "meat paste."
Fan or blow-dry excess ash from the coal fire.
Using the herb brush, brush the steaks lightly with the butter baste. Put them on the grill grate or directly on the coals and cook, without moving them, for 2 minutes. Turn the steaks, baste lightly, and cook for 2 minutes, then repeat two more times, basting the steaks each time they are flipped.
Lean the steaks up against one another, on their sides, fat side down, and cook for 1 minute. Repeat on the other side (two sides in total), until the steaks reach an internal temperature of 110° to 115°F.
Meanwhile, pour the board dressing onto a cutting board (or mix it directly on the board). Finely chop the tip of the herb brush and mix the herbs into the dressing.
Transfer the steaks to the cutting board and turn them in the dressing to coat. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.
To serve, slice the steaks ½ inch thick, turning each slice in the dressing to coat, and arrange on plates. Pour some of the board juices over each serving and finishing with a sprinkling of the salt.