One of the happier recent developments in retail around here has been the inclusion of local, grass-fed beef in the offerings of a proximate but otherwise lackluster market. The selection is usually limited to a few sirloins and rib eyes, but those happy few vastly exceed the earlier number of zero; I used to have to drive 20 minutes to get any good meat, which necessitated stocking up the freezer on infrequent trips. Now, when the freezer is getting low, I can just swing by and pick something up for dinner without having to plan ahead or make a special trip. What a concept, right?
I’m partial to the sirloins, because they’re affordable and have a richly beefy flavor that rewards an attentive cooking: brown and crusty without, deep pink and sexy within. In this case, because I skipped lunch, I bought two of them for dinner. Normally I use one steak to feed the three of us; it works out to be the perfect amount. But this time I was really feeling the steak-on-a-plate thing, and heard the voice of Sam Cooke reminding me not to fight the feeling. You gotta feel the feeling.
As is so often the case, prep began in the garden, where I picked a variety of bitter greens: pan di zucchero, escarole, radicchio, and frisée, all getting ready to bolt in the winter salad bed. (Their summer compatriots are coming along nicely, so there will be no break in the action). All this greenery got spun with garlic, olive oil, mustard, and cider vinegar to make a splendid green mash, that very best of condiments for rich meat. I salted the steaks and dropped them squealing into the hot iron skillet with a knob of butter. Every minute or so, I flipped them over until they had a good crusty color, them removed them to a plate and covered them with another to rest. I scraped–literally–together a pan sauce with more butter, red wine, and miso. There was polenta bubbling, too, and I stirred in a generous dollop of pesto as it neared readiness. And I groped a chilly stack of pickled radishes from the jar in the fridge.
Man, did we enjoy this meal. The tactile attack of knife and fork on a sturdy piece of meat like this, followed by a satisfying swab in condiments both decadent and austere and then the complex and contented chewing of beef with real character is one of life’s perfect pleasures. As many of you know, I am a big fan of elegant presentations and small plates, but sometimes you just want to wreck a plate of meat and wash it down with a bottle of wine. A 2011 Les Agaves Côtes de Provence fit the bill handily, and added a third pink to balance out the otherwise rather masculine heft of the food. Rosé season is here; I plan on drinking little else until fall.