Me: “Hey Jo, what shall we have for dinner?”
Jo: “No time for silly questions, the steaks are high.”
Me: “Right, ‘cos every missed steak is a mistake!”
Jo: "Salad - that's what my food eats."
And so continues the tradition of our pun-infused witty repartee on the jubilant occasion of Jo and I spending a weekend together and gorging on delicious food.
There is one staple that always remains unchanged - steak dinner.
Jo and I have been best friends for 17 years, but Steak Mates (as she coined it) - relatively recently. Through steak, our bond became eternal.
You see, I started perfecting the craft of cooking steak maybe 6 years ago. As any form of craftsmanship, the endeavour demanded continuous practice, and Jo became a keen steakholder in my new hobby.
But the origin story of our steakathons began in Brazil.
I’ve had steak before...but not like that. Not this dream-hauntingly good.
My Uruguayan colleague once said: “Argentinians have the best steaks, but it’s the Brazilians who know how to cook them!”
The steak in a small restaurant in Recife, Brazil, where we were having dinner, was culinary perfection in its simplest form.
Knife was gliding through it as if through butter…
The meat was crispy on the outside and medium-rare on the inside…
The taste buds were rejoicing in the delicate dance between the salty exterior and the juicy, sweet interior…
It was a mouthgasm.
I could marry it.
I remember that experience of eating a steak in Brazil as if it were yesterday, and I wanted to recreate that experience ever since.
This is how, today, while in Canada, I have a passion and a hobby that many, especially my best Mate, can enjoy - making the perfect steak.
The Secret Ingredient
If you’ve ever ventured into a Brazilian eatery or steakhouse, or have travelled to Brazil, you would have probably noticed that most dishes contain no more than 2-3 ingredients at most.
It’s their quality, pairing, and preparation that make them a mouth-watering fiesta on the plate. Take the grilled pineapple, for instance: It’s just caramelized pineapple flesh, but it could easily rival with a creme brulee any day.
The ingenuity of Brazilian cooking is making one thing the main event.
So, the secret ingredient is simplicity itself! It’s all about bringing out the natural flavours of that one food. Which, in my case of a steak, is the meat.
No need for marinades, sauces, or other complex embellishments. Even butter or oil is not necessary (as you’ll discover below).
It’s all about the perfect cut of meat and some heat! Boom!
Thankfully, living in Canada, we know good meat. And upon returning chez moi, I’ve been on a perpetual journey of perfecting my steak preparation.
Now let’s sink our teeth into this, shall we?
Splurge on a good grilling steak - it’s worth it!
What you want in your perfect cut of AAA beef is marbling throughout the meat and on the rims. This gorgeous web of fat will serve you as the tenderizer on the inside - and the needed lubricant on the outside in the pan, or better - on the grill.
Thickness: Put your index and middle fingers together, and that’s your quick-n-easy ratio. You can always go thicker, of course, but it will need extreme craftsmanship to get it perfectly medium-rare.
Now, pat this bad boy with some paper towels to get the excess moisture out - this will give you that crispiness that you want.
Frying: Get the pan very hot, as you’ll want to sear your meat and seal in the juices inside. Fry all the sides equally for 2.5 to 3 minutes per side, sprinkling some coarse salt on top (not too much!). Depending on the thickness, give it another couple of minutes on the pan - that’s the tough part to gauge, you just have to feel it out. (Channel your inner Brazilian carioca.)
Never cut to test your steak. All the juices will escape.
Then leave on your plate for 3 minutes for the steak to distribute the sealed juices evenly throughout the meat - and voila!
Pair with a good Old Vine Zinfandel or Cote du Rhone, and you’re golden!
Tip: Put on a good tune while you’re at it.
Obviously, the timing of everything is the part that requires rigorous practice - which I love to do on a regular basis, especially when Jo and I are together. (We sure love "practicing".)
Good company and conversation are always the best binding agent, so enjoy your culinary adventures with some hearty banter, eh!
As I’m wrapping up this article and drooling, my steak is already out on the table, readying for some of my usual rituals, so I’d like to say good night and adieu for now.
Hope you enjoy your steaks like a Canadian who learned from Brazilians!