Feb 18 2014

Simplicity is Beauty

…and most people somehow manage to spoil it. Follow James’ simple and insightful steps on how to cook the perfect steak and you will be greatly rewarded. Promise.

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James: This dish is a staple at our house. If you are a competent shopper and semi-competent barbecue manager, it is delicious. It is also infinitely variable.

Watch this: you’re a calorie counter? Skip the steak, use chicken breast and less butter. You’re vego? Tofu. Pesco? Salmon. Asparagus out of season? Bok choy. For a growing teenager? Add rice. For guests? Add toasted sesame seeds. Time poor? No egg. Et bloody cetera.*

*For more fun rhymes check out James’ rap tracks here.

The sauce – again infinitely variable: butter, something salty, something sweet, something vinegary – is the solution to almost any protein problem you might have. I promise. Riff on it.

The particular version of this dish I made for WDTD happened by accident. I was driving to one of The Big Two Supermarkets on a Sunday morning before Lucy was due to arrive. I had in mind that I would purchase some of The Big Two’s (surprisingly acceptable) salmon and some of their (surprisingly acceptable) Chinese broccoli.

As I drove, a handwritten sign for a farmer’s market at a local school caught my eye. Easy decision. The steaks are scotch fillet from Isis River in the Hunter Valley. The asparagus was grown near the Hawkesbury.

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Some of you probably have a pretty good knowledge on how to cook the perfect steak to your own liking – with your very own dos and don’ts. But for those of you who haven’t got this under their belt – this post is for you, so read on! I always learn a thing or two (or even three) when I meet the fellow cooks. And this lesson from James is sure one that will stick with me forever.

First of all, it is very important to remove the steak from the packaging, pat dry evenly with paper towel, season with salt and let it come down to room temperature for about an hour. This will allow the steak to cook through more evenly and brown better. Please vary the ‘sitting at room temperature’ according to the thickness and size of the steak as well. The salt that has dissolved creates a delicious crust as the steak hits the hot barbie. You can of course cook this in the kitchen, best use a cast iron pan if you own one.

The salting process.  This helps the meat to 1) maintain a bit more internal moisture in the long run – meaning, the moisture drawn out to the surface by the salt has time to be reabsorbed back into the meat; 2) tenderise the meat by breaking down the proteins, resulting in a softer and juicier steak. This process happens very slowly which is why it takes a while. Trust me, your patience will be greatly rewarded.

The last finishing touch. Brush your steak with a small amount of cooking oil. These days I am in love with truffle infused olive oil, so I might give this a try.

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Cook the steak simultaneously from all sides (until springy to the touch for medium) at a gentle pace around 10-15 sec on each side for more even and fast cooking

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  • Who: James d’Apice
  • Home is: My childhood home is in the Sydney suburb of Greenwich. That’s where these photographs were taken
  • Family origin: Basically Anglo-Celtic but with an exciting, spicy surname
  • I can’t live without: Family, the only people in my life obliged to listen to me complain
  • Occupation: Solicitor
  • Dream Job: Solicitor, but working fewer hours for more money
  • Currently I am obsessed with: Drake
  • Childhood taste: My Mum’s tortellini with cream, parmesan and bacon
  • I will always have in my pantry: Oats
  • I learnt to cook from: Partly my Mum and partly television chefs I used to watch with my Mum and now I gossip about them with my Mum
  • Currently I’m listening to: Drake
  • One day I must visit: Drake’s house
  • Go to meal: Protein and greens
  • I am really good at: Being a member of my family, cooking (duh), my job and finishing novels even if I am not enjoying them
  • The unforgettable meal: My partner took me to Arras for my birthday one year. This is when it was in its old location in Walsh Bay. We’d been to better restaurants before and we’ve been to better restaurants since, but there was a little magic in the air that night. It was a Friday and the place was near empty. We slid through the courses and concluded with the patented (it’s not patented. Just a figure of speech. Be cool.) Arras tray of lollies. “Take as many as you’d like,” we were told, “and here’s a box for you to take some home for later.” I nearly cried. We’ve since been back a few times. If you like excellent all you can eat lollies, then go
  • My piece of Sydney: There’s a rock near where I grew up in Greenwich. You jump from it into the harbour. I only plucked up the courage to make the leap after seeing my childhood neighbour Ben do it. We called it Jump Rock. Still do
  • Guilty Pleasure: Watching Youtube clips of cricket from thirty years ago
  • Who does the dishes: My partner and I. It (hopefully) works out around 50/50
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The creamy egg yolk brings the already juicy and succulent steak to another level!

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With a kitchen like this, I’d be doing the dishes all day

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Steak

Ingredients - Serves 1

  • 1 piece of steak – used here is Scotch fillet, the ribbons of fat that run through the meat keep it moist and tender while cooking
  • 1 bunch of asparagus (or other seasonal greens)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • cooking oil
  • butter
  • salt
  1. At least an hour in advance if possible, remove the steak from packaging and pat dry evenly with paper towel. Sprinkle over lots of salt. Leave steak out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
  2. For the seasoning sauce. Mix the sugar, vinegar and soy. Add a teaspoon of water. Taste it. If you like it, that’s your sauce, done. If not, vary your proportions.
  3. Turn on your barbecue or cast iron pan on the kitchen stove until smoking hot.
  4. Pat your steak dry again then cook it simultaneously from all sides (until springy to the touch for medium) at a gentle pace around 10-15 sec on each side for more even and fast cooking.
  5. Put your asparagus onto the barbecue (or a separate sauté pan with a bit of oil if cooking in the kitchen) with a generous sprinkle of salt.
  6. The most important bit! If you skip this step then you don’t really deserve to cook or eat steak – just so you know. Take your steak off the barbecue and let it rest at least six or seven minutes to seal in the juices and keep the steak tender.
  7. Poaching the egg. Put some water on to boil on medium heat. Get it just below boiling. Crack your egg into a strainer (this means you will avoid all the stringy bits you normally get when you poach an egg), get the egg from the strainer into a small bowl then into the pot of just below boiling water, turn the heat off the pot and put the lid on. Come back in five minutes.
  8. Get the asparagus off the barbecue and put some butter on them.
  9. Slice up your steak after it has rested (this is not necessary, but helps if you are serving steak to people who ‘don’t like steak’). Serve asparagus on the plate and your steak on top. Season with the mixed sauce then top with the poached egg. Unbelievable!

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