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Manfood Extreme: Steak Sous-Vide - Elf M. Sternberg
Manfood Extreme: Steak Sous-Vide

My victim!
I promised myself at least one meal this week where I went completely nuts, cooked absolutely for myself, and enjoyed the fruits of my labor. My experiment was to try and create the perfect environment for the Maillard reaction in steak, a chemical reaction in which the surface of the steak is covered in the caramelized sugars that give steak its characteristic smell and taste, but the core of the steak is heated just enough to kill any bacteria, and no hotter, thus giving my primitive man-brain as close a sensation to eating the raw flesh of the animal as possible and still be safe. This technique is known as Steak Sous-Vide. I bought, for this experiment, the best NY cut I could get from a local butcher.

Kouryou-chan's dinner in ramekins.
Since Kouryou-chan is not a steak fan, she asked for macaroni & cheese. This worked for me because one of the things that you eat alongside the manfood known as steak is broccoli (steamed, with drizzled olive oil, crushed garlic, and a dash of red pepper flakes) covered in a light cheese sauce. As a cute experiment, I decided to make her mac&cheese in ramekins, just to see if it would work.

(Grief, there's a part of my brain saying "Real men do not 'drizzle' oil, worry about crushed garlic or 'dash' red pepper flakes! Next you'll be using the word 'fabulous' in a non-ironic way!")

The sous-vide process!
Sous-vide is actually very, very simple. First, you take an excellent cut of steak. Then you spice the outside according to your wishes; I chose to rub in a very coarse sea-salt on both sides. You put your steak into a ziplock bag and push or (if you're brave (or stupid)-- and I am) suck as much of the air out of the bag as possible. You let it sit while you bring a pot to about 140°F, and then you put in the steak. You carefully monitor the steak until the water is back to 140°F, and then you make sure it stays between 140° and 145° for at least 30 minutes (but actually, it's okay to leave it there for up to three hours-- really!).

I made Kouryou-chan's cheese sauce while monitoring the steak closely, poured the sauce over the macaroni and topped it with freshly crumbed bread from last night's French loaf. I put the ramekins into the oven to toast the bread topping. I slow-bake my potato, so the temperature needed to toast the ramekins was the same, no big deal there.

Ramekins and searing steak.
The timing was nearly perfect. Just as the ramekins came out of the oven, it was time to sear the steak and the potato was just six minutes behind. I brought my cast-iron skillet to the hottest temperature the oven can put out, slathered the pan with canola oil (olive oil won't put up with that kind of heat), and browned both sides of the steak to utter perfection. The remaining cheese sauce from Kouryou-chan's mac&cheese went over the broccoli, and the potato came out of the oven. I had a small heel of bread left from yesterday, so I warmed it in the oven, cut it in half, and shared it with Kouryou-chan.

Kouryou-chan's meal.

Extreme Manfood
Oh, my gods. It was fabulous. (See?) That has to be the most perfect steak I've ever had at home. About the only thing that could make it better is if I cranked up the grill to maximum and did the searing outdoors. Now that would be excellent. It was like steak ecstasy. Steak orgasm. Steak nirvana. (And yes, that's a nice glass of New Belgium 1554 Black Ale, which is perfect for this meal.)

Steak nerdvana? Definitely a geeky exercise, but oh, so worth it. Go ahead, kids. Try this one at home! And if you're very daring (note: I have not tried this yet!) you might also try Steamy Kitchen's save a bad steak by oversalting it experiment.

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22 comments or Leave a comment
edichka2 From: edichka2 Date: January 18th, 2008 04:30 am (UTC) (Link)

A friend of mine worked as a cook in a decent restaurant in L.A.... He gets an order for a London broil, VERY rare. Cooks it very rare. Steak comes back -- "overdone." Being a smartass, he grabs another London broil, holds it with tongs over the open flame for a few seconds on each side, plates it and sends it out. Stands there satisfied with himself, waiting for it to come back. Steak doesn't come back.

Half an hour later, a little old lady comes to the kitchen window, saying, "Yoo-hoo! Are you the cook? I just wanted to thank you for cooking my London broil rare, just they way I like it. I guess you don't get too many customers asking for that, do you?" He responds, "Not too many walking erect."

- E
elfs From: elfs Date: January 18th, 2008 05:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, she didn't get to being a little old lady the easy way, I imagine.
solarbird From: solarbird Date: January 18th, 2008 05:01 am (UTC) (Link)
It occurs to me that Foodsaver technology could be an aid in getting all the air out for the water-heating stage. The foodsaver bags are specifically boiling and microwave-safe.
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 18th, 2008 05:25 am (UTC) (Link)
That sounds very similar Hog's Breath Prime Rib:


"We slow cook our Prime Rib steak for up to 18 hours, then finish with high temperature searing on a char grill to seal in the maximum flavour for your enjoyment."

Which is by far the best steak I've ever had in my life.
elfs From: elfs Date: January 18th, 2008 06:32 am (UTC) (Link)
It looks from the restaurant's description that they use a slow roaster; this pushes the meat in and out of a "hot zone" (usually just a simple rotating conveyor of some kind) so the temperature differential between the surface and the core of the meat is allowed to equalize very slowly without having constant heating of the outside, which would overbrown the meat and ruin it. It's a very respectable cooking technique, but I don't have the patience for it.
hydrolagus From: hydrolagus Date: January 18th, 2008 06:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Maybe it's manfood, but I could go for that once a month. Might have to skip the fork and knife, though.
elfs From: elfs Date: January 18th, 2008 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hah! That's just what Omaha calls it. "Uh, oh, girls. Daddy's making manfood again!"
From: codeamazon Date: January 18th, 2008 07:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Now that is a cooking tip I'd never encountered!

My stepfather didn't eat red meat so I rarely saw it prepared as a kid, and I was a vegetarian for almost the first decade of my young adulthood. I learned several new things -- thanks for sharing!
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 18th, 2008 07:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Now that's a serious meal.....I want a closeup shot of that finished steak!!

I love steak porn.
trinsf From: trinsf Date: January 18th, 2008 08:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, Elf! Such wonderful food porn. I admit to a serious fondness for the simplicity of a great steak, rare as possible on the inside, with a nice sear, and a salad of dark greens. Nothing else needed.
spiralsong From: spiralsong Date: January 18th, 2008 02:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Unrepentant carnivore approves of this post.

Dammit... now I have to go to the grocery store.
bayushi From: bayushi Date: January 18th, 2008 02:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
(Grief, there's a part of my brain saying "Real men do not 'drizzle' oil, worry about crushed garlic or 'dash' red pepper flakes! Next you'll be using the word 'fabulous' in a non-ironic way!")

I will point out that most of the chefs in the country are male, and do, in fact, drizzle and dash. Few of them 'bam.'

That said, those meals look INCREDIBLE.
elfs From: elfs Date: January 18th, 2008 06:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have never bam'd food in my entire life. Man, if you're going to have a signature, it should at least be dignified.

And thanks. It's really good.
edichka2 From: edichka2 Date: January 18th, 2008 03:09 pm (UTC) (Link)


Real Men do not say "ramekins."
- E
wendor From: wendor Date: January 18th, 2008 06:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love sous-vide, it's one of my favorite cooking methods.

I assume you are aware of and keep in mind the risks? Anaerobic bacteria can consider it a party, so it carries a similar botulism danger as home canning. (get your mind back on food - I said canning, not caning - home caning has its own risks)

I don't worry too much, I figure the odds are about as remote as winning the lottery. (so if I ever win the lottery I have to IMMEDIATELY stop using sous-vide)
elfs From: elfs Date: January 18th, 2008 06:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
The FDA apparently considers the risk low too; their big concern on the "food safety" website is about surface bacteria picked up in the slaughtering process. So making sure to brown the outside well and completely is important, but other than that, I wasn't too worried.

And if playing the lottery is a tax on people who can't do math, what's cooking sous-vide?
wendor From: wendor Date: January 18th, 2008 07:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
mg4h From: mg4h Date: January 18th, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Huh. That's one way to cook a steak.

I prefer Pittsburgh Rare, however. So long as it's a good enough steak. It doesn't work well with anything cheap nor too thin.

Gah. I suspect I'm going to be dragging Marc out tonight now for rare filet mignon. :) All your fault.
pandakahn From: pandakahn Date: January 19th, 2008 02:37 am (UTC) (Link)

Blue Rare Steak

I liked the way that sounded.

I take a steak and let it marinade for a day or so in oil and spice, keeping it well chilled.

When dinner time is ready I heat my griswold (heavy cast iron skillet) until it glows red (orange) and then slap the steak in and count to 10 or 20. flip the steak onto a new part of the griswold that is still glowing and do it again.

slap that on the plate and serve with garlic herb butter or a garlic anchovie butter (maybe mushrooms).

If this is done correctly, and yes it is an acquired taste (I acquired it years ago!) then the outside will be dark caramelized brown and the center will be cool and colored blue.

I usually serve this with a Ceasar salad and a nice merlot.

bon apetite'

From: (Anonymous) Date: February 7th, 2009 03:56 am (UTC) (Link)
So I tried the great steak experiment tonight. Loba liked it, but for me it was made of fail. Our stupid stove won't go under 150 degrees. So, it came out a nice medium. I like rare. Still tender and good flavor though. Apparently if you want a more done piece of steak, just up the temp a little. It was real pretty on a bed of green beans pan fried with the oil left after roasting some garlic a few days ago and topped with mushrooms sauted with a dry red wine.
lisakit From: lisakit Date: February 7th, 2009 03:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Oops. That was my experiment. :p
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22 comments or Leave a comment