The PERFECT Pan Seared Steak
I’m a snob when it comes to steak. It has to be juicy, tender, medium rare and charred to a crisp. If you asked me last summer how I liked my steak, I would have told you grilled, or not at all. We’re a carnivorous family and eat steak at least once a week, and this winter has made it impossible to grill outdoors. So I needed a solution.
We have a George Foreman Grill, that leaves the meat chewy and lacking in the flavor department. I tried broiling, same results. Finally I looked to the internet, desperate for something, anything, that would make my steak taste like STEAK.
What I found was a video, Good Eats: Steak Your Claim. The host, I believe his name is Alton Brown, is like the Bill Nye of cooking. Entertaining to watch and you can really learn something.
Finally a method of cooking steak that is SIMPLE and tastes great.
So I broke out the old cast iron frying pan, and let me just state that I have been cooking with it every day since.
I knew I wanted a nice thick cut of steak. I think the first time I made it I had used a nice sirloin that was very lean and marbled and about 1 1/2″ thick. I always tenderize my steak by repeatedly stabbing it with a fork on both sides. My mom teases that what I’m doing is overkill, literally, but my steak always comes out tender and juicy. Then, just like the video says I sprinkled sea salt on both sides and poured on some cooking oil. I also found that cracked black pepper is a nice addition, but will make for a zesty sauce if used.
I was just experimenting, throwing things together on a whim. I knew we were going to serve mashed potatoes and green beans, so I knew I wanted some kind of gravy/sauce and I also figured caramelized onions would be a tasty garnish.
So I started by caramelizing the onions, about two medium sweet onions, in the cast iron pan. I then transferred them to a bowl and brought the pan up to temperature over high heat. Then the steak went in, about 4 minutes on each side and then 4 addition minutes in the oven at 500 degrees cooked it to a perfect medium rare.
A GREAT TRICK I learned while researching pan seared steak, to tell if your steak is done, make a fist. That’s right, take your hand, with fingers tucked into your palm, and squeeze. The meaty part right below your thumb will be your tool, squeezing as hard as you can, press on that area with your other hand, it’s very hard with a lot of resistance. That is what “well-done” feels like. Then try squeezing just a little, this is “medium-rare”, firm with a little resistance. And not squeezing at all, just holding a fist, this is “rare”, very soft, not much resistance.
When the steak was done, I melted butter over the top, and put it on a plate under aluminum foil to rest. We have a wood stove that makes a great place to keep food warm, or you can just cover with foil and let it sit.
There was a bit of juice in the pan, and I added a little more water to bring up any flavor that was cooked on, then I strained the liquid from the onions I caramelized into the pan and added about two cups of white cooking wine. I had read about wine reductions and wine sauces and decided to give it a try. Usually red wine is paired with steak, but white was what I had on hand. I’ve since made this sauce with both red and white wine and I do prefer the flavor of the white. The wine reduces and thickens the sauce just enough to give it substance and the onions give it such a wonderful flavor. My husband thinks I should bottle it.
I was so pleased with the results of this method it is my new favorite way to prepare steak. I’m torn between grilling the meat, or savoring the juices in the pan. And still trying to come up with a way to combine the best of both for summer cooking.
So here it is.
and…. Mandy’s SUPER DUPER SWEET AND TANGY, (not so secret anymore) STEAK SAUCE
Seasoned cast iron pan
1 1/2 lbs. Steak (I like sirloin or new york strip)
2 tbls. Olive Oil
Coarse Sea Salt
Butter for melting
2 med. Sweet Onions (sliced)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cups white cooking wine
Optional: Cracked black pepper, mushrooms*
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees
Set steak on plate or platter and coat with sea salt and olive oil. Let rest.
Begin by slowly caramelizing the onions with two tbls. butter in the cast iron pan over medium heat. Cook until softened. Add brown sugar and cook an additional 2 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
Bring pan temperature up over high heat. Add steak to pan and allow to cook 4 minutes per side. Flipping only once.
Top steak with 1 tsp butter and place in preheated oven for an additional 4 minutes. Remove from oven and test if it is done.
Remove steak from pan and place on a warmed plate. Cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest at least 5 minutes while you prepare the sauce.
Place pan back on stove top over medium high heat. Pour 1/2 cup water into pan and allow to lift any cooked on flavor from the meat. Strain liquid from caramelized onions into pan and add white wine. Bring to a rolling boil. Cook over medium high heat 10 minutes, or until liquid is reduced by half.
Remove foil from steak and pour any juices into sauce. Cut steak into 1/2″ strips, cutting against the grain. Pour additional escaped juice into sauce.
Cook sauce over medium heat another 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add 2 tbls. butter. Serve.
*Mushrooms can be added to sauce during the last 5 minutes of cooking if desired.
This steak pairs great with buttermilk mashed potatoes and green beans, steak fries and spinach or a rich salad of spring greens topped with peppers, red onions, goat cheese, caramelized onions and apple spears