But what else is someone to do when they just graduate from university with a nonsensical degree (sorry all you international studies students out there) and an continuing economic stupor which has heralded thoughtful headlines like 'Uh Oh' in Politics Daily, and 'The Worst of the Pain' in The New York Times.
Sad. But, as many say when there is a depression - let us eat meat! Spending will help the economy right? So why not throw more meat in our grocery carts! Don't worry - I still purchase the cheaper cuts (while helping the economy, I also have to help my wallet). This will be the day of experimentation! A new day! And a first post.
A year ago I was living, what many of my friends and family considered, a 'dangerous' lifestyle. That's right - I was vegetarian. For a full four years. Four years without meat. A travesty.
I've since come back to the light where there is iron and protein and succulent pieces of meat cooked medium rare. But achieving that perfect center of a steak, that strip of perfection, has always eluded me. I don't know whether it is my hands which are too used to kneading the water out of tofu or my brain which tells me my bean veggie burger patties should be cooked all the way through - all I know is vegetarianism has tainted me. Not to say that I can't cook a damn good meatless meal, I just can't cook meat as well as my carnivorous counterparts who have never strayed from the path of a good steak. So I researched a fail-safe method which even those of us raised on the meatless spectrum throughout our lives can not screw up.
It is called 'sous-vide'. The answer to prayer.
Turns out all those 'perfect steaks' that you are served in the high-falutin' restaurants are all cooked this way. This is the way that no moisture is released and the inside is cooked to perfection ([per-fek-shuhn] 1. the highest or most nearly perfect degree of a quality or trait.). This concept makes my knees waver, my stomach howl, and my brow release little specks of moisture that I have to wipe off with a tentative hand. I need this steak.
Good ol' Wikipedia gets it right in the sous-vide definition - "Sous-vide (pronounced /su vid/), French for "under vacuum", is a method of cooking that is intended to maintain the integrity of ingredients by heating them for an extended period at relatively low temperatures. Food is cooked for a long time, sometimes well over 24 hours. Unlike cooking in a slow-cooker, sous-vide cooking uses airtight plastic bags in hot water well below boiling point (usually around 60°C or 140°F)."
Unfortunately, those flawless steaks are given birth from machines that are astronomically out of my price range - a thermal immersion circulator and a chamber-based vacuum sealer are, let me just say, stainless steel dreams (they factor among the pony and the house with a white picket fence).
But, like anything that is good, a knock-off can be created for a fraction of the price! A good meat thermometer in water on the stove can suffice for the thermal immersion circulator (unfortunately, since you are the one keeping the temperature steady instead of the machine, you constantly need to check the temperature and give a good stir). Don't go lower than 55°C or 130°F or there might be the risk of bacterial growth. Luckily, for that good med-rare steak, 130°F is perfection. If you lack the meat thermometer, are just plain lazy, or perfection is not your forte, a good slow-cooker's 'low' is around 130°F.
To seal the deal, or really to seal the steaks, ziplocs are a cook's best friend. Place the steak in a ziploc and lower it into a bowl of water (carefully so excess water from the bowl does not dribble into the plastic bag) to seal it (you can also use your hands to aid this process by pressing out all the air). Don't forget your aromatics! Personally my favorite steak marinade is chipotle peppers in adobe sauce with a bit of lime, oregano, cumin, shallots and garlic. But that's just me - people might have other leanings concerning their marinades. . . don't worry, I'm a non-judgmental person concerning small differences in the kitchen. However, if you put ketchup on pasta, I don't think we can ever be friends. A tangent, but true.
Be sure to cook that darling of a steak (and trust me, it need not be fillet mignon or even t-bone, I would do this with a chuck steak - that's right you heard me, and yes, I am that poor - because there is hardly any loss of moisture and a normally tough yet flavorful steak will melt on your tongue) for at least 45 minutes. Technically, you can leave them in the water bath for 12 hours but honestly, even if it was fillet mignon, I would equate it with high school 'mystery' lunch meat by that time - you have no idea what could be growing in it.
For 'la grand finale' (does this use of French make me slightly pretentious?) add a generous glug of sunflower or canola oil to a pan (they both have high smoking points) and sear that steak on high for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until nicely browned.
And there it is. Perfection. Attainable for once.