So Annie and Pierson recently bought a new house and will soon be moving. A moment of silence. I'm going to miss that cute little duplex. We've had so many good times and triumphs as well as a few fiascos. But the good news is, Annie and Pierson's new house has a great kitchen with lots of counter space and storage and a nice size back yard. Perfect for al fresco dining. There's even an avocado tree and there's talk of putting in a fire pit. Needless to say, I can't wait to cook there. I think I have that thing that women get when their friends start having babies and they are still without child, except for me it's with houses. A number of my friends have become proud home owners over the last year or so, and I am still stuck in my teensy little apartment with the kitchen the size of a telephone booth. Sigh. Someday.
With the big move fast approaching, we realized that this 4th of July would be the last opportunity Annie and Pierson would have to host a gathering at their apartment. So Annie and I invited a couple friends and quickly slammed out a menu. To start Annie whipped up some black bean hummus which we served with pita chips and washed down with Blackberry-Thyme Margaritas. The meal was made up of grilled corn on the cob with a jalapeno-lime compound butter, Sweet Potato Salad (which seems to have become a 4th of July tradition), a big bowl of arugula tossed with thinly sliced red onion, crumbles of Cotjia cheese and a roasted poblano vinaigrette, and of course this steak. For dessert Annie made Gingered Blackberry and Black Plumb Shortcakes.
The steak recipe comes from smug ginger Bobby Flay, although I added the accoutremonts to it. The combination of steak and salsa is inspired by the steak houses Mark and I go to with his mother when we go up to the central coast of California for a visit. One joint in particular, named the Hitching Post, makes a fantastic steak grilled over oak coals. The steaks have a charred, smoky crust with a beautiful pink interior, and they always serve them with a dish of sweet tomato salsa. The chunks of avocado is my little twist. I mean it's classic to serve butter on a steak, right? And avocados are buttery, right? See where I was going?
(For the spice rub)
1 cup ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
(For the steak)
The number of steaks you want to make depends on how many people are eating, but keep in mind that one steak can pretty much feed two people. You can use either bone-in or boneless.
A small handful of cilantro
1 or 2 avocados, diced into large chunks
Fresh Tomato Salsa
First make the spice rub. In a medium bowl, combine all the spice rub ingredients. You will end up with way more spice rub that you will need for this. Just store the rest in an airtight container and use at a later date.
Next prepare the steak.
At least 40 minutes before you plan to grill the steak, season well with kosher salt. Cover with cling film and them place in the refrigerator. Don't wait until right before you cook it. If you've never tried this method, do it. What happens is that the salt draws out the moisture, but then as it sits, the moisture reabsorbs and the salt sort of soaks through and seasons as well as tenderizes the meat. For more specific information about this phenomenon, check this out.
About 20 minutes before you plan to grill the meat, take the steaks out of the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature. Then rub the steaks on each side with the spice rub.
Heat grill or grill pan to high. Take a couple paper towels and fold them into a small square and drizzle with a little olive oil. Wipe the grill or grill pan with the olive oil and then grill the steaks for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown, turn over and continue grilling for 4 to 5 minutes for medium-rare doneness.
Let the steak rest for 10 minutes and then cut against the grain into thin slices. Pile the slices on a platter, spoon over any juices that may have run out and then scatter over the cilantro and chunks of avocado. Serve with the Fresh Tomato Salsa.
Making this recipe represented a couple firsts for me. I had never worked with rib-eye before (it's fantastic!) nor had I experimented with this salting technique and let me say, I'm sort of hooked. Even if you cook the meat to medium, rather than a bloody pink, somehow it's still really tender and juicy. It's like magic. Rib-eyes are typically well marbled and during cooking, the fat renders and sort of soaks in and seasons the meat even more. The results are so flavorful, to be honest you really don't need the spice rub, salsa, et al, although it does sort of elevate it to the next level. The spice rub is sweet, smoky, a little spicy which is complimented by the light, fresh salsa and contrasted by the buttery, rich avocado. Meat and avocado are fantastic together.
Leftover meat (if there is any) is great in an arugula salad, tossed with corn, more avocado, perhaps some black beans, and radishes sliced paper thin and then tossed with a simple dressing of olive oil and lime juice. So summery.
Serves 4 to 6