Better Late Than Never

With the show up and the opening last night done and dusted, I can now return with something like regularity to this food blogging thing.

Oh, sorry, “Internet Content Providing in the Culinary Sector.” Silly me. I get paid by the word, after all.

So the other night I was working, and the clock was ticking, and when it came time to make dinner I realized there was hiding to nothing on hand in the easy or even intermediate dinner categories. It has been a busy week. But then, as is so often the case, the freezer swooped in to the rescue, except in this case what it provided was not the sort of thing that one would normally associate with a quick save: two and a half pounds of local, grass-fed chuck of a size, shape, color, and frozen hardness most closely resembling a brick.

A while back I wrote a post about how, contrary to all advice from experts, I sometimes like to cook frozen steaks and chops on the stove. The coldness allows for putting a ferocious crust on the outside while keeping the inside a glorious shade of bleu, especially with the thinner-cut offerings found at many markets. This brick-sized slab–or so I figured–would allow that same principle to work, only over a somewhat longer time frame, and with massive margin for error given that it sounded like ceramic when I knocked it on the counter top.

So threw some peanut oil into the big pan and lit a fire under it. The meat was too frozen to hold any salt, so I did an initial thaw/preliminary browning on all four sides and then sprinkled salt onto the softened, glistening meat. I kept turning it every few minutes until there was some full-blown maillard action happening all around, at which point I added cubes of the solitary vegetable to be found within both drawers of the fridge: a big-ass turnip. I shook the cubes around in the beef-infused oil for a bit, adding thyme leaves and another hit of salt, letting them also caramelize some, then covered the pan on low heat for a spell, flipping the meat once or twice to even out the thawing/cooking.

While this all cooked, I thought for a second about a sauce. Beef loves mustard, obviously, and since turnips are in the mustard family that made a connection. So I mashed equal measures of white miso, dijon mustard, and butter together until smoothish and set the bowl near the stove so the errant chunks of butter could soften a little. Once the meat was pliable and offered the telltale resistance of rare, I pulled it out and put it on a plate with a lid over it to rest and finish cooking. I added the miso-mustard-butter to the now tender turnips, turned off the heat, and stirred to coat them and let the sauce fully melt and envelop them.

The meat sliced up nicely into perfectly cooked rectangles that would have made for a pretty splendid carpaccio. Thoroughly brown and crusty on the outside, with all the attendant steaky flavor, and fully bleu within, offering that almost puddingy texture and meltingly yielding chew that tougher cuts possess when barely cooked at all. And the turnips with their sauce were a mighty accompaniment, with a creamy texture, sharp tang, and deeply minerally umami that played off the almost metallic flavors in the rare meat. I finished each bowl with the meat juices from the resting plate. For a cut that is normally ground into burgers, this beef was astonishingly hedonistic.

Dinner was quite a lot later than normal, but despite the late hour it received abundant grunts of approval from the resident critics. I basked in their approval and the splendor of this humbly elegant meal. And the meat made for wicked steak and eggs the next morning. There’s still more left, waiting to become a steak sandwich or the savory salvation of a soup or stirfry later this week.

4 comments to Better Late Than Never

  • Janet

    I saw a video in the New York Times, Dining & Wine section about cooking a steak from frozen. Nathan Myhrvold (Modernist Cuisine) was showing how to sear a steak on the stove and then placing in a cool oven (200F or lower) to cook. He also seared another steak by blow-torch and again finishing the cooking process in the oven. I have yet to try this cooking method.
    I found it interesting that you did the whole thing on the stove and in one pan. Each item providing flavour to the other. A question: How long did did it take to cook the beef after covering and lowering the heat?

  • Peter

    A covered pan on low heat is an oven. I can’t give you a specific time, but I opened and prodded it every few minutes until it yielded the way I have learned means rare.

  • Susan

    The miso sauce works nicely using red miso as well, though it’s a bit more… assertive than it’d be with white. Thanks for livening up my dinner with this suggestion!

  • Peter

    Any time. I’m always happy when people try my various concoctions.

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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