Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Steak, Caveman Style

For those who like a steakhouse-style piece of ribeye or sirloin, Dirty Steak is a revelation. The technique is basic, if dramatic: Build up a charcoal fire and let it burn down to coals. When it is "honkin' hot" (in the words of my grillmaster) you lay your sirloin or ribeye directly on the coals. I kid you not. Have faith and be rewarded.

I first heard of this style of cooking steak on Julia Child's Cooking with Master Chefs program. The chefs at Al Forno in Providence, RI developed the technique and dubbed it "Dirty" (I have seen this style elsewhere as "Terrorized" - I think Dirty Steak sounds more fun). Go here to find a link to the original video with George Germon, Johanne Killeen and Julia Child (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

Dirty Steak (adapted from Al Forno's technique)

Take your steaks out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking to help them lose their chill. I recommend ribeyes or sirloin/strip-type steaks, cut an inch thick. Use good-quality beef. (My local Shaw's supermarket carries Prime beef and you can really taste the difference.)
Make a charcoal fire (do not use briquettes, please use real hardwood charcoal which you can find easily at any Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. For charcoal ratings, take a look at the Naked Whiz's Lump Charcoal Reviews).

Let the fire burn down until the coals are red hot and covered in grey ash. (If you put you hand a foot over the fire, the fire should be so hot that you need to pull your back within a second.)
Dry the steaks well with paper towels and then salt and pepper them generously. Using tongs, put the steaks directly on the hot coals. You will have left all the fat on the steaks so they will smoke a lot, this is a fine thing unless you get a snootful of smoke.
After about 3-4 minutes turn the steaks over. Knock off any charcoal that sticks. Cook the steaks for another 3-4 minutes or so.

3 minutes a side will give you rare, 4 minutes a side will be medium-rare. (See below for a medium-well/well variation.) Let the steaks rest, uncovered for about 5-10 minutes, slice and serve. The exterior of the steak will be crusty and charred and the interior will have a great smoky flavor. What's amazing about this technique to me is that considering what it's just gone through, the steak does not taste burned at all.

For well-er done temps: Take the steaks off after 4 minutes per side. Put them in an oven safe pan or skillet and place them in a 400 oven for about 5-10 minutes, depending the thickness of the steaks and your desired doneness.


nick said...

How many chimney's worth of coals is that? I have a 18.5" one touch gold, and a whole big assed Weber starter doesn't even look like half that much when I pour her into the kettle. More is better, right?!

Sunday Cook said...

Hi Nick, we don't use a chimney starter. That's a standard Weber kettle into which we poured charcoal onto a base of newspaper. It was a fair amount of charcoal, but this isn't a steak we make often.

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