Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ample Ventilation Needed

I vividly remember the first time I made blackened steak. It was during a cooking class and I caught my oven mitt on fire.

Who knew the combination of clarified butter and cotton would be that flammable? That day's lesson: Don't spill clarified butter on your oven mitt then get too close to the heat. Thankfully the professional grade oven hoods at the school were in good working order and I had the wherewithal to beat the fire out quickly..

The second time I tried making blackened steak was at my parent's, and we had to air out the house from all of the smoke emitted from the searing steak and burning herbs. No fire that time, but an interesting evening to say the least.

I have since perfected the technique, but that adrenaline rush sure does make one hungry!

Smoke and fire aside, this is one of my favorite preparations of steak other than a simple searing. The seasonings punch up the flavor, and extreme heat seals them in for a wonderful crust. Its a great way to make a less than appealing cut of steak into something spectacular.

Start with a spice rub on your choice of steak, anything from a skirt or flank steak to a NY strip.

The spice rub should consist of a combination of salt, pepper, and dried herbs like thyme.

Massage the spice rub on the sides of the steaks and allow to rest a moment. In the mean-time you can melt down butter and begin to clarify it. Heat a few Tbsp of unsalted butter in a small sauce pan over low heat. Allow the butter to almost simmer skimming off the foam periodically. The clarified butter should be like liquid gold, and crystal clear. We will pour a spoonful over the searing steaks once it's in the pan.

Make sure you have ample ventilation in your kitchen. Turn the hood fan on. Open the windows. Temporarily disable your smoke detector. There will be some smoke.

If you have a cast iron frying pan set it on the heat, and get it screaming hot. Way hot. (for the more prevalent non-stick pans do the same, but with the tiniest bit of oil in the bottom, so the pan doesn't scorch.)

Place your steak in the pan and don't move it! This is where the heat turns the spice rub into the yummy crust. Carefully spoon about 1 Tb of clarified butter over top the steak. The butter may flame up if the pan is hot enough.

After a minute or two you may flip the steak, and repeat the clarified butter bath. Cook the steak to the doneness of your preference. For a thicker steak, you may want to finish the cooking in the oven (350* F). (Make sure the handle of the skillet is heat proof, or wrap it in tin foil.)

Let the steak rest a minute or two so the juices can work their magic and the temperature come down and the juice to redistribute inside the steak. This is a very important step!

You can then slice the steak(s) for a hearty sandwich, or serve as an entree for dinner.

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