Two weeks ago I traveled a rather circuitous route to Penn State to attend an award ceremony for my father. I took a train from New York out to my parent’s house in Connecticut and was going to drive out to Penn State from there with my mother the next day; yes I traveled east to go west. Not forty minutes into our trip, the tire on her car exploded. I shit you not, the tire e.x.p.l.o.d.e.d. It felt like we were going over some pretty horrendous rumble strips, so I slowed down a bit while we puzzled it out when I noticed that controlling the car kind of really sucked. My mother started screeching, “PULL OVER AISLINN SOMETHING IS WRONG!!” So I calmly and deftly pulled over, avoiding a rotten ‘possum carcass, whereupon we were engulfed in a smoke cloud of stinking burning rubber. Awesome.
It gets awesomer (real word, I promise you). My mother’s tires are “run-flat” which means, ostensibly, you can drive on them for fifty miles going no more than 50mph if you get a flat. Too bad we ripped open the entire side of the tire and it was completely deflated. Like a really sad inner-tube. It also means, that BMW does not provide you with a donut tire and/or tools to fix it yourself. Nope. Nothing. If you don’t have AAA you call the BMW hotline or whatever, listen to a completely incompetent woman ask if you’re in a dangerous situation (“I’m stranded on the side of the highway in the middle of nowhere, you tell me how to objectively tell you if this is a dangerous situation.”), butcher the name of the highway you’re near (the Taconic, pronounced Tuh-con-ic, not Taw-son-ich) thus ensuring no one will ever find you, and then after half an hour tell you it’s going to be another two hours ‘til the tow truck comes. Awesomer.
So we both did some mental math and figured out that in order to make it to my father’s big dinner ceremony that night I needed to drive roughly 90mph for three and a half hours, pray for no traffic, and shower in 5.2 minutes, jump back in the car and run (not so gracefully, remember the lack of proprioception) in heels up several flights of stairs, down elbinty billion long hallways and screech into the cocktail hour two minutes before seating. So my mother dutifully buried her head in a magazine and tried to pretend that I was not hauling ass down the highway like a bat out of hell so we could make the dinner in time. We made it, barely and just as I was about to wander up to the bar to get a drink my sister tells me they’re carding. I don’t have my ID. Awesomest. She ever so sweetly supplied me with a giant glass of red wine and we enjoyed the rest of the evening.
The next day I attended a lecture my father gave to a very sleepy class of CommSci students at 8am, battling a mild hangover and the brightest lights I have ever sat under in my entire life. Seriously, I think that room doubles as a torture chamber for interrogations. It was brutal. But the talk was great, and I didn’t once feel drowsy, and even retained some information. If you’re going to be working in groups: DMAIC. I think that was the term. I don’t know what it stands for entirely. I think it’s something like Define, M….,Analyze…Fix. Or something. Also, large government sponsored groups can take anywhere from 12-30 years to get a project done. That’s called efficiency. Either way, I learned I’m not cut out for group work.
And that’s how it came to be that Thursday night I was standing in front of the meat aisle in my hometown grocery store on the phone with The BF who would be joining me that evening for dinner, completely lost about what to cook, except for a pack of asparagus I knew I wanted. I had been given strict instructions: no chicken. I was doomed.
I realize on this site I have very few non-chicken meat dishes. I have a very reasonable explanation for this: I am deficient in cooking meat. Except lamb, but lamb’s expensive and for special occasions and I haven’t had a special occasion yet, so you’ll just have to wait. As I was saying, I am deficient in cooking meat. I’m not sure what it is about non-chicken meat, but I seem completely incapable of cooking it. Bacon is a cinch: turn heat to full blast; heat pan; turn down heat; throw on bacon; cook until thoroughly burnt; consume; enjoy. I’ve discovered the same is not true for other meats. They dry out, smell terrible or don’t cook all the way through, which is horrifying.
I’ve tried a number of times to cook steak for The BF, but I’m only just starting to develop a taste for it. If it’s not cooked really well (like the filet at my friends’ Nick and Maria’s wedding in Newport) then don’t bother serving it to me. I have memories, either true or nightmares I’m not sure, of eating steak at home that was tough, grey and might as well have been rubber for it’s elasticity in one’s mouth.
The sad thing is, I know all these great flavor combinations that would go really well with steak, all these potential marinades and spice rubs. But then you put me in the meat aisle and they start throwing all these weird cuts at me: rib eye, flank, strip, etc. and I panic; my mind shuts down and I’m left staring dumbly at the wall of meat, possibly with a bit of drool hanging out my mouth. It’s pretty embarrassing.
So I once again pulled out my trusty iPhone and googled “how to cook steak.” Yeah, I did it, and I run a food blog. Sue me. The instructions told me not to season the steak at all except for a little pepper. I figured, to hell with it, if I can’t dress up a poor cut of meat to hide the fact that it’s inferior and I don’t know how to cook it, I might as well buy really expensive filet, not try to doctor it and cross my fingers it comes out well. So I threw in some $17 filets (highway robbery!), a really sad, limp salad from the salad bar and prayed to the steak gods.
It appears my prayers were answered. We had some delicious grilled filets, asparagus and rosemary sourdough bread, though I think the instructions I read on my iPhone were a bit off. I have finally cooked not just a decent steak but a good steak, and I’m hear to share it with you.
Grilled Salt and Pepper Filet Mignon
Adapted from a Google search for “how to grill steak” and a million random articles
2 small filet mignon rounds, about 1 inch thick
½ tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Turn the grill to high heat, if it’s gas, or light your charcoal and wait for the flames to die down and the coals to glow merrily.
Let steak come to room temperature. Rub both sides with the salt and pepper, you can season it more later. Once the grill is heated, place your steaks down on the grate and don’t touch for two minutes. Then rotate the steak 90° and don’t touch it for another two minutes. This is giving it those really pretty grill marks, and “sealing in the juices” (though this is now being widely debated over it’s effectiveness). Flip the steak and repeat the process on the other side.
If your steaks are thin, let them sit on the grill for five more minutes. If you like your steak rare-to-medium-rare it should be done. You can check by poking it; if it gives way too much, it’s not done, but if it just gives way a little bit it’s probably done. You can slice it a little if you’re uncertain. If you bought thick steaks like we did it’s going to take longer. Let them sit for five minutes with the lid open, then close the lid and cook for another five minutes. Flip, close the lid for five minutes and you should be set to go. Ours were a good medium-rare, just a little pink and really juicy at this point.
Remove steaks from heat and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Slice, and serve. Leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for five days.