July 1, 2011

Cast Iron Seared Steak and Salad with Bacon Dressing

Mmmm... Salad with seared steak... We had a particularly delicious wine class this past weekend- it was a tour of the wines of Spain. I truly, truly, am not knowledgeable at ALL about wines of Spain. I couldn't even tell you what makes a rioja archetypal- until now! Great class, my favorites were the mencia (so delicious and dramatic, unfairly tasted with an archetypal rioja) and a very crisp and refreshing txakolina (pronounced 'chocoli'). So... after wine class I thought- we need a great meal!

Cast Iron Seared Steak and Salad with Bacon Dressing
NY strip steaks (1 per person or a little less)
4 Tbsp olive oil
sea salt
freshly cracked pepper
2 garlic cloves (through a press or finely minced)
large zip lock bag

3 pieces bacon
2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
4 Tbsp olive oil
freshly cracked pepper (black or white)

mixed greens or another lettuce of your choice, mache would be delicious
1 plum tomato
1 ear of corn
avocado (optional, my husband doesn't like avocado)
Gorgonzola crumbles

Let's talk cast iron skillets for a second. Do you have one? They might seem like a superfluous item (outside the South perhaps), but they are quite useful- for searing things on top of the stove at a high even temperature. Maybe you don't feel like lighting your big green egg or BBQ, maybe it's too cold, or the mosquitoes have taken your backyard hostage... Not a problem! Just fire up the cast iron skillet :)

First, let's get our steak ready. This is a cinch- just put those two beautiful strip steaks in a large zip lock bag, add the oil, sea salt (two or so generous pinches), freshly ground pepper, and the garlic. Seal the bag with a relatively small amount of air, and then, from the outside of the bag, use your hands to work the marinade over the meat. You can do this a good bit ahead of time, and put them back in the refrigerator, or just a few minutes while you heat up the cast iron skillet- they will be DELICIOUS either way, I promise. So fire up the cast iron skillet.

We're not cooking the steak first, though, we're going to take care of the bacon dressing- AND leave some bacon grease in the pan to cook the steaks. Nice. Bacon fat and steak. Could it get any more right? Ok- so once the cast iron skillet has been heating for a while at medium high heat, add some canola oil (not olive oil- you want something that withstands heat better than olive oil), and then place the three raw strips of bacon in the pan. They will cook fast at this heat, so pay attention and flip them over when they are crisped nicely on one side, and when both sides are nicely done, remove the bacon from the pan and put aside on a plate to cool. Now, without emptying the pan of the bacon grease, get those strip steaks in the pan- I cook them about 3 minutes each side at medium high heat- cook them to your desired doneness, this will vary depending on several factors, your burner, your pan, the temperature of the steaks to begin with... Be conservative, you can always cook longer, but once overcooked, you can't do much except chew chew chew. Ok! Once your beautiful steaks are done- place on a plate and let sit. You may cover them with foil if you like. Just let them sit at least 5 minutes before cutting them into slices.

In the meantime, take that gorgeous bacon, chop it into small pieces, and place in a small ball jar. Add the vinegar (use white wine vinegar if you don't have white balsamic), olive oil and pepper. Why no salt? Your bacon is made primarily with salt and pork belly, so you already effectively have salt. Close the jar and shake to mix thoroughly- congratulations, you have made bacon salad dressing- yum!

Ok- assemble that salad- washed mixed greens, some ripe plum tomato- cored and cut into small pieces, and with the ear of corn- this is how we did it in the summer salad recipe with chicken- husk the ear, then, cut in two. Cut off the 'handle' end. Hold one half vertically against the cutting board and using a small knife, cut off the kernels going toward the cutting board. This is so great- it's fast and easy, and the corn doesn't need to be cooked. It's sweet and delicious and just wonderful.

Arrange this salad on plates, sprinkle with gorgonzola crumbles, avocado is optional, then top with thin slices of steak. Using a spoon with the salad dressing, spoon dressing and bacon bits over the top. Just delicious- this will be a weeknight favorite for you, I promise. And, since you had a salad for dinner, have some CAKE!!!! Yes, cake decorating is still going on. Yum, yum!

Cleaning your cast iron skillet- we bought ours 'preseasoned.' What does that mean? It means that it already has some grease / oil worked into it, which is what makes it so great. Here's the deal- a great cast iron skillet has grease and oil in all the little tiny cracks and holes on the inside of the pan. That's what makes it useful to cook with and also imparts great flavor. How do you clean something that you want to stay basically, well, greasy? Well, pour off the excess grease. Then, using a stiff brush, and running water, scrub the large pieces off the bottom of the pan. Don't use soap. Then, wipe out with paper towels (they'll get dirty, so don't use a dishcloth). Store, then use again for something delicious.

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