Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Steaks Are High

Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello
Steer Me to the Best Steak

Calabrese Broad Beans and Roasted Potatoes
Jan's Cowboy Steak with Tomato Relish
Prime Rib-Eye Steaks with Mustard Parmesan Crust
Michael's Italian Manhattan

To get the recipes:
Click here

Michael C. and his buddy,
Chef Jan Birnbaum are getting their steaks on at their steak off. Oh, boy, we're having a manly man competition about who can make the better steak. WOW, those look good. I'm all for an intense rivalry where the results benefit gourmets everywhere.

"You always hear me talking about cooking potatoes in cold water, so they don't get fuzzy." Michael begins. Well, I must have missed those shows, but your blue shirt IS stunning. I like those fine stripes running every which way across your chest...

SLICE the garlic for the bean and potato dish, so it's not so pungent, MC instructs. Remember THAT and if you're ever in a situation where you want just a soupcon of garlic flavor, you may even leave it whole. Good amount of olive oil goes in the pan. He's crisping up the cooked potatoes.

This is the single most useful tip I have ever gotten from my Easy Entertaining chef. When browning stuff in a saute pan, put it in and LEAVE IT ALONE and THEN turn it. You'll be amazed at how brown and crusty things get when you're not constantly fussing with them.

Now he's roasting many cloves of garlic in a pan - not the oven - for his mustard Parmesan crust. It's faster this way. Good trick, too, when you don't want to turn on your oven. Moves back to the potatoes to add sliced garlic then chili flakes and salt to pan. I have never seen anything so beautiful as this. I'm moving closer to the TV. Oh my. I can almost smell the garlic, hitting the oil. Michael, be mine. The dish is finished with toms and a bit of water and the broad beans. He does allow for a green bean substitution if you can't stomach....I mean find broad beans.

Chef Jan begins the tomato relish and produces beautiful minced shallots. Throws in a couple of tsps. of eucalyptus bark. (Where do I get that?) I quickly look at the recipe online. There ain't no eucalpytus bark in it. He's obviously showboating for Michael. Boys will be boys. Into the bowl goes "1/2 cup oil - we're not afraid of oil." Then "Don't be too neat with your parsley and coriander." After chopping them roughly (remember it's boy's night), they too get thrown in with the tomatoes. Jan FLIPS the ingredients together in the bowl in lieu of stirring to show off to the flip-meister himself, Michael. This topping "is going to DROOL all over the steak." Yummy or gross, we'll have to see.

They take turns admiring their steaks. Ok, we could be in a locker room now. Jan remarks, "I wasn't sure if I was supposed to eat it or ride it." Way to go! (I just love it when men put their god-given, testosterone-induced, war-mongering aggressiveness to good use for the rest of us, not that a woman couldn't produce a steak with the exact same rough and tumble results.)

Jan coats his steaks with olive oil. The rib eye is a great balance of flavor and texture, he tells us. Michael coats HIS steaks with oil and gets the grill pan going to smokin' hot. 5 minutes on each side then 15 minutes in the oven. Giddy up pardners, now we're cooking...

"The doctor is in." Michael exclaims as he spreads the roasted garlic and mustard mixture on top. Cover with lots of cheese.

While they're waiting for their meat, they prepare Italian Manhattans with Campari and vermouth.

Steaks are out. Michael: "The secret to the juiciest steak ever. It's all the way you slice it." Jan pipes in, "Let it rest, baby. Let it rest before you eat it."

They serve the cocktails BEFORE the judging begins. Is that a good idea? The steak is plated. Michael goes first. (Beautiful wine glasses by the way.) He may have made a tactical error, though, by neglecting to serve those perfect potatoes WITH the steak. They get put on the plate after. They do like it all, but I don't feel the bean and potato dish was properly exclaimed about.

Onto Jan's. Cut it thick - the rib eye. "A manly cut", says Jan and he states, "Half the cooking happens out of the oven." Cut ACROSS the grain. Jan creates an edible sculpture of thickly cut steak slices stacked sharply on top of each other with pieces of steak bone jutting out at acute angles. The tomato salad is piled atop the whole thing which results in an extravaganza of flavor AND vision.

And the scores:

Michael: 9.2 9 3/4 9.5

Jan: 9.8 10 12

Michael pretends to impale himself on a steak knife. Don't do it. You'll live another day to face the fanning flames of grill rivalry, my friend. Frankly, Michael, I think it was the presentation that got you, but whatever...I'd steak my claim on either chef as having the best meat in the land.

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