Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Spiced Ribeye with Caper and Chive Balsamic Vinaigrette

Oh you heard me. I've got for you on this fine sunny day spices, capers, chives, balsamic reduction, and STEAK. I said ribeye because that's what I used, because that's what I had in my freezer, because that's what form of steak was included in the part-of-a-cow that we went in on with my sister-in-law and her husband. (They buy either a quarter or half of a grass-fed, free range cow annually from a local farmer in their town, which is about an hour from the Twin Cities. They ask us what we want, give us a list of the cuts they have available and are willing to share, and we end up with a couple hundred dollars worth of really great, really lean meat that we gradually use throughout the winter.)

This was the entree I served for our homemade Valentine's Day dinner. We started with two ribeye steaks that weighed - with no bones, mind you - 1 pound 13 ounces. That is a huge amount of meat, but it cooked down to a bit less. We each ended up having a generous 6-ounce serving on Monday night, and then the leftovers were used the following night in a steak sandwich (for MC) and steak salad (for me, restricted carbs and all) - each using a 3-ounce portion of meat, sliced thin and trimmed of all fat. There was a 3-ounce chunk leftover. (I am kind of obsessed with my kitchen scale lately. Can you tell?) So anyway, what does that give us? 12 + 6 + 3 = 21 ounces, divided by 16 ounces per pound = 1 pound 5 ounces after cooking and trimming of fat. Why am I telling you all this? Because maybe, like me, you are a steak rookie. Maybe you've never used a real outdoor grill in your life. Maybe when you search for "ribeye" recipes online and encounter ingredient lists calling for 'four 3/4-inch ribeye steaks', you have to call your mom for instructions on how to reconcile the need for a certain thickness of steak with the fact that you have two massive steaks in your freezer that weigh nearly 2 pounds and are over an inch thick, and why, oh why, don't all recipes use weights rather than inches? Maybe I'm going into seemingly unnecessary detail about my steaks so that you will feel confident using whatever kind of steak you can get your hands on. Maybe my point is that the rub and the vinaigrette that I'm about to describe for you are so freaking delicious that it doesn't matter what kind or size of steak you use. (Although I think the kind that comes from cows who had a great, free range life and just maybe one bad, final day is the best kind.)

spiced ribeye collage
ribeye close up

Appropriate adjectives/phrases to define this meal, in all capital letters, which is highly appropriate in this instance:

FLAVOR-FORWARD
COMPLEX
JUST SPICY ENOUGH
ROMANTIC
PERFECT

It pairs nicely with an avocado-bibb salad, some humble poor man's scalloped potatoes*, and a nice cabernet.

Valentine's Day Dinner

Based on the comments for this recipe on Epicurious, the rub alone serves as a perfect steak complement. And the original rub is way less sexy and spicy than the new and improved one I came up with. Point being: you might not even need to make the vinaigrette if you're just looking for some nicely accented steak. But, um, the vinaigrette is REALLY FREAKING AWESOME.

Spiced Ribeye with Caper and Chive Balsamic Vinaigrette
Adapted from Bon App├ętit
Yield: 4 servings, with plenty of sauce leftover

For balsamic vinaigrette
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2-4 tablespoons rinsed capers (depending on how much you like capers)
2 tablespoons chopped chives or green onions
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper

For steaks
1.5-2 lbs good quality steak (2-4 big ones)
1 teaspoon butter
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
3 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon pure chili powder (e.g. ground chipotle or ancho - not a chili powder blend)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Simmer balsamic vinegar in small pan over medium heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Add red onion, 1/4 cup oil, crushed red pepper, and thyme; return to simmer. Remove from heat; whisk in chives or green onions, capers, salt and pepper.

Rub both sides of steaks with butter and then garlic. Mix paprika, chili powder, peppers, and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle generously on both sides of steaks. Let stand at room temperature for about an hour.

Prepare barbecue (or cheap grill pan) - you'll want medium to medium-high heat. Brush grill rack with oil to coat or spray grill pan. Grill steaks until cooked to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. (For my giant steaks, I cooked them for about 6 minutes per side and accomplished medium or medium-well rather than medium-rare. I'm not a steak pro yet.) Transfer steaks to plates. Spoon vinaigrette over.

* Poor Man's Scalloped Potatoes: Layer 2 pounds of potatoes, sliced 1/8" thick (Use that scary mandolin of yours! This is what it's for!) in a shallow baking dish. Top with a can of cream of mushroom soup. Bake in 350 degree oven for 60-90 minutes (until potatoes are cooked through), then broil for another 10 minutes (until top is browned).

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