Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Message in a Bottle: Delicious Grilled Steak (Courtesy of Garrett Blake)

"So what's so special about these steaks?"

Our leading man, Garrett, has invited Theresa to his beach house for a steak dinner. They've only just met a couple of days earlier, and he wants to impress her by cooking something delicious. He shares the secret recipe for grilled fliet mignon that his father had passed down to him. When Theresa asks what it is about HIS steaks that make them better than most, Garrett is happy to demonstrate.

Clearing his mind, he poured some brandy into a shallow bowl. "There's a few things. First, you get a couple of thick filets like these. The store doesn't usually cut them this thick, so you have to ask for it special. Then you season it with a little salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and you let them soak in the brandy while the coals are turning white."

He did this as he spoke, and for the first time since she'd met him he looked his age. Based on what he'd told her, he looked at least four years younger than she was. "That's your secret?"

"It's only the beginning," he promised, suddenly aware of how beautiful she looked. "Right before they go on the grill, I'll add some tenderizer. The rest of it involves how you cook them, not what they're flavored with."

As I've been skimming and speed-reading Nicholas Sparks' novels these last few weeks for ideas for this blog, I'm discovering that Nick very rarely specifically describes how to cook something. Even though people often cook and share meals together (and I suppose if I paid attention to most novels I read, that would be true for just about any story, no matter who the author is), most of the time it's just a casual mention of the food that's on the table. What's eaten isn't as important as the drama. When I cooked these steaks, I wanted to follow Nick's--er, Garrett's--method as closely as I could. (I already cheated with Noah's crabs. I wasn't about to do that this time.)

Now, I NEVER use meat tenderizer, EVER. I don't have anything against it, mind you; it's just not something that I do. But I reluctantly plunked down 6 bucks for a package of it the other day, thinking to myself, "This sure as heck better be worth it." (See what a loyal fan I am, Nick? You know that when I finally break down and buy that dang crab pot, I'll be thinking of you.) When I went to pick out the meat, the store only had three filets in the meat section, and since New York Strip was on sale, I bought a little of both. I don't think Nicholas will begrudge me for trying to save a little money, especially since we were cooking for five people instead of two. Anyway, I already had some brandy on hand (I have no idea why. Probably leftover from some exotic concoction we were trying to make last New Year's or something.)

Following Garrett's directions, I seasoned the meat, put them in a shallow dish, and poured the brandy--cognac, to be precise; I still don't remember why we had it in the first place--while my husband fired up the gas grill. (Garrett cooked with charcoal, so no, I didn't cook it EXACTLY like he did.)

"Will you show me the rest of your secret recipe?"

"With pleasure," he said, as they rose from their seats. In the kitchen he found the tenderizer and sprinkled some on top of the steaks. Then, removing both filets from the brandy, he added some to the other sides as well. He opened the refrigerator and removed a small plastic bag.

"What's that?" Theresa asked.

"It's tallow--the fatty part of the steak that's usually trimmed off. I had the butcher save some when I bought the steaks." "What's it for?" "You'll see," he said.

Of course, the steaks I bought were already cut, and there wasn't much fat on them to cut off. I managed to find a little bit on the New York Strips, though, and cut it off and saved it just like Garrett had. When I explained to my husband the Grill Master what he was supposed to do, he thought I was nuts, but he humored me. I love my husband.

He took the tallow, which had been cut into smaller pieces, and put the pieces on the briquettes, directly below the steaks. Then he leaned over and blew on them until they burst into flame.

"What are you doing?"

"The flames from the tallow will sear the juices and keep the steak tender. That's the same reason you use tongs instead of a fork."

This didn't quite work as it should have, probably because we use propane instead of charcoal. The tallow pieces that we managed to get under the steaks did not burst into flame, and some of them fell down underneath the heat source.

I don't know if it was the brandy, the tenderizer, or that they were pretty good cuts of meat--but let me tell you they were AMAZING. Our youngest son Moe (for the record, that's not his real name. For blogging I call our boys Larry, Curly, and Moe, and my husband is called Joe. That's not his real name, either) was particularly impressed. This is definitely going in my "To Definitely Cook Again" pile. As for the meat tenderizer I bought, it will NOT go to waste.

Garrett served baked potatoes and salad along with the steaks. He had a store-bought bag of salad in his refrigerator and Theresa added some tomatoes. I wanted to put one together myself, so I used some things I happened to have: lettuce and watercress I had picked up at the farmers market, plus I still had some red cabbage leftover from our picnic. I found this recipe online for a watercress salad with oranges; my version was a lettuce-watercress-cabbage salad with mandarin oranges. That one wasn't the big hit that the steaks were, but that's because the men in my life are picky eaters. I thought it was yummy, especially with honey-mustard dressing. (Unfortunately I was so excited about the watercress and oranges and honey-mustard that I forgot about putting in tomatoes. Shoot!)

I found these great potatoes at our local farmers' market.

Easy-peasy honey mustard dressing. Larry ate the salad only because he liked the dressing.


When they'd finished eating, Garrett and Theresa took a walk on the beach. We don't have a beach, so we went trick-or-treating instead.

(See my other blog, Musings of a Catholic Mom, for more adventures from last weekend. The italicized passages in this post are from Chapter 8 of Message in a Bottle.)

I think my next project will come from one of my all-time favorite Nicholas Sparks books, The Rescue. There is a lot of cooking and eating going on in that one, so I'm not entirely sure what I will be sharing with you next. Maybe--just maybe--a champagne brunch? Stay tuned!

No comments:

Post a Comment