Properly scorching a steak adds a tremendous amount of flavor.
SCORCHING A STEAK
A big, thick, char-grilled T-bone or Ribeye, a pile of hot garlic or bleu cheese mashed potatoes, a hot buttered sourdough biscuit and an ice-cold drink-that's my idea of Texas cowboy cuisine.
Lots of highly trained chefs wouldn't be caught serving this kind of simple, old-fashioned food, but I get away with it because I'm not really a chef, I'm just a cowboy in the kitchen.
I once had the privilege of having an editor of a food magazine eat at my wagon during a catering job. We served three meals a day for four days at a ranch's cattle sale. This lady was from the North, and she was shocked by all the red meat, butter, cheese, and cream in my recipes and by the way we heaped things on a plate. " Nobody eats like this in New York or Chicago" she stated. Your menus are such a throwback it would seem new she told me.
She was right; chuckwagon cooking really is a throwback. Steak and potatoes, brisket, pork chops, stew sourdough biscuits, cobblers and bread puddings-these were all standards on Texas tables as well as chuckwagons. Everyone likes these foods-even the magazine lady cleaned her plate at every meal.
That I really never set out to become a chef has turned out to be an advantage in some ways. All I ever wanted to be was a chuckwagon cook. I learned what I know about food from being in the kitchen of my grandmother, mother and my aunt.
What I know about chuckwagon cooking and dutch ovens was learned from hanging around the campfires with cowboy cooks. Scorching a steak over hot coals was their idea of gourmet cooking.
The old dough punchers had a different way of thinking about cooking. They called southern cooking "soul food" because they never had all the ingredients they needed, so they always had to add a little bit of their soul to make up for what was missing. What they had was a lot of beef and simple staples like flour, potatoes, beans, cornmeal and whatever they could find along the trail.. What they didn't have was just about everything else. Western cooking evolved from this short list of supplies.
Granted, steak and potatoes are not on everybody's health food hit parade, but that's another part of tradition. Cowboys lived on beans and biscuits and other such health foods most of the week. When a cowboy went into town for dinner he was looking for a big, thick, juicy steak.
Steak isn't for every meal, it's a special event, a big treat! So while you are eating one of these steaks, think of it as your reward for eating beans and biscuits all week.
ON THE GRILL
Remember on the chuckwagon the heat source is wood, and most of our cooking comes from that-something grilled over a wood fire. We use native woods like oak, hickory, pecan and mesquite because it is our native Texas wood. We cook with the coals, which means we take a pile of wood, burn it down to coals and then shovel it underneath the grill. What determines the method of cooking is the height of the meat above the coals. If you're cooking a steak you want it on a grill right above the coals and I believe in cooking a steak with a little bit of flame, you don't want a gray steak. Keep it hot enough so it seats the outside of the steak and gives good grill marks with a little char, which will add a tremendous amount of flavor. This really complements the flavor of your beef.
Clean your grill with a wire brush and then when it gets hot, oil it with a little vegetable oil or steak fat. Let your steaks reach room temperature before putting them on the fire, cold meats will really stick to a hot grill but will release some after cooking a bit so you don't have to tear your meat off the grill if it does stick. Use a pair of tongs to flip it because you don't want to puncture your meat with a fork.
We like to cut our steaks a good inch and a half thick so they average 16 ounces. Season the meat with steak seasoning on both sides before grilling. It is not a big project, no need to marinate for hours, just rub them and put on fire. You need to turn a steak only once. Put it on a really hot fire and leave it alone for a couple of minutes. Then it's just a question of how long to cook. On the trail they might cook meat pretty well done so it would keep, but when you cook a good steak beyond medium you're jeopardizing the quality of the steak because you cook the juices out and that's where the flavor is. I personally like my steak medium rare, Most people overcook a steak, which is a shame because they miss out on a wonderful steak and wonder why it's tough and doesn't have any flavor.
It's important to remember that all meat has a hangover or carryover temperature, and the bigger the cut the more hangover temperature. A steak doesn't stop cooking as soon as you pull it off the frill, it retains a lot of heat and takes a little while to cool down. A steak that is an inch and a half will cool down quickly compared to a 15 pound roast.
So you need to take it off a little before it's really ready. A lot of people cook a piece of meat until it reaches the desired temperature, take it off, but when they cut into a half an hour later it's well done. They think they overcooked it but they didn't, they just didn't take the hangover temperature into account.
CUTS OF STEAK
Ribeye-The ribeye is a steak with quite a bit of marbling. It's really the same cut as the prime rib, only it's cut into steaks and grilled instead of roasted and sliced.
Filet-The filet is cut from the tenderloin and it is the leanest cut of meat. It's a dainty steak, and also the most tender.
Strip-The strip is a good, lean cut, but you pay a price for that leanness, which is flavor.
Sirloin-The sirloin is a larger it of meat with wonderful flavor due in part to the bone in it.
Porterhouse or T-Bone-Aporterhouse is your classic cut of steak and it's like having two steaks in one. There is a bone running down the middle, and on one side you have the strip and on the other side you have the filet. This steak needs to be cut at least one and a half inches thick.
RIBEYE STEAKS WITH HORSERADISH SOUR CREAM
4 ribeye steaks
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups Horseradish Sour Cream
Heat grill until hot-place steaks on grill and cook for 3 1/2 minutes on each side for medium rare. Serve with Horseradish Sour Cream.
HORSERADISH SOUR CREAM
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup horseradish
Pinch of paprika and kosher salt to taste
Combine all ingredients and stir well
This is how we scorch a steak. Hope this helps you out. Don't forget about the hangover time.
Until next time.............Adios!
Remember this is not from a real chef--just a cowboy in the kitchen!!!
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