This afternoon, I prepared and ate a steak covered in butter.
Then all my arteries immediately hardened and I died.
Kidding! I didn’t really die, I just feel like I might. At any moment. But I will soldier on until the very moment my last drop of blood becomes butter, shutting down my heart and other internal organs. There are worse ways to go.
You can see now why I just couldn’t make this after yesterday’s hamburger nausea; steak covered with butter is a lot to take and is not for the weak constitution. In this case, the steak and butter in question were a rib-eye covered in bearnaise butter from The Bon Appetit Cookbook, served with mashed potatoes (with more butter) and some lightly-dressed baby spinach. Granted, it’s not the most inventive meal in the world, but I had these steaks in the freezer that had to get used up and no time to get to a good grocery store for anything different, so steak with bearnaise butter it was.
Bearnaise is kind of like hollandaise, but with shallots and tarragon vinegar instead of lemon juice; if I’m being honest, it’s never sounded appealing to me. It also doesn’t always look appealing: witness this nausea-inducing photo. What the hell is that shit? I’m supposed to eat that? Why is it fucking purple? And I already know that I’m not a big tarragon fan, so one might wonder why I chose to make this at all.
One will be forced to continue wondering, for I have no adequate answer other than already having the ingredients. Which is a lame answer, and therefore inadequate.
The bearnaise butter is a simple affair: shallots and dried tarragon are simmered in white wine until the wine becomes little more than a glaze on the aromatics. In the non-snowstorm world, this mixture gets folded into some room temperature butter along with some fresh tarragon; in the snowstorm world, one does not go out in search of fresh tarragon and makes due with a little extra dried.
It then gets rolled up in some parchment paper into a little log and wrapped in foil. One might choose to label one’s butter log, even though one is not likely to forget what said log is in the 45 minutes that will elapse between the making and the eating. One might do this if one were an anal-type person who was really into labeling. Shut up. But thank god all the letters came out well-formed, or I would have had to re-wrap the whole thing and start over again.
While the butter chilled, I put on some yukon golds to boil for mashed potatoes, because I needed another vehicle for butter in this meal and because having decided not to make the creamed spinach recipe with THREE KINDS OF CHEESE (contrary to what this meal may say about me, I DO like living through dinner) I was also in need of a vehicle for heavy cream. I pulled out the cast iron skillet for the immanent steak-searing.
At this point, the meal almost became a parody of itself: I had no non-olive oil in the house, and wanted to get the skillet really smoking hot to get a good crusty sear on the meat. The only fat I had in the house that was up to the job was bacon fat. So yes, these steaks are seared in bacon fat and no, I am not sorry. Would you have me use olive oil, forcing me to keep the heat lower and resulting in an inferior sear? Is that what you want? IS IT? Maybe YOU are satisfied with an inferior sear. I’m sorry for you.
Be sure that when photographing your steak you accidentally leave the camera’s aperture wide open so that nothing is actually in focus except a one square centimeter area in the center of the photo. Tastespotting, here I come!
When it came to plating, I consulted the recipe one last time and did become a tad bit concerned: The bearnaise butter uses five tablespoons of butter and this was indicated as making two servings, meaning that each 12-ounce steak (I know, right?) should have two and a half full tablespoons of butter smeared across their tops.
Even though the whole Smackdown typically turns on a slavish attention to the cookbook’s directions, I don’t have enough of a death wish to put that much butter on my steak. I probably ended up using half that amount if not slightly less. I’m sorry if this disappoints you or makes you think less of me but COME ON, Bon Appetit, what are you trying to do to us with this recipe? Nearly three tablespoons of butter on top of all that red meat? It seems to run counter to your interests, because I can’t buy your magazine if I’m in an animal fat-induced coma.
For once, I timed everything perfectly: the steaks were done resting, the chill was off the butter, the potatoes were hot, the spinach was dressed and Brian was just walking in the door after having shoveled out the car.
This will never happen again.
My meh-ness about tarragon aside, this was disgustingly, decadently delicious; it was so good, it drives me to be obnoxiously alliterative. I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I am the steak master – perfect crusty sear, perfectly pink insides, evenly cooked all around, tender. The butter, as intended, melted into the meaty juices on top of the steak and imparted a subtle but noticeable sweetly herbal hint that played oh-so-well with the sweetness of the meat and was a nice contrast to the charry bits (which were the best bites, of course). The spinach (dressed in a simple vinaigrette of champagne vinegar, mustard and olive oil) was an agreeable companion, and ain’t no one don’t like no mashed potatoes.
If you know someone who DOESN’T like mashed potatoes, you might want to consider an intervention. I would.
The only off thing about the meal was the hour at which we ate it: 3pm. Look, I slept late, so lunch was late, and I didn’t realize how big the steaks were, and hey, wait a minute, I don’t have to explain myself to you.
And now DAMN, do I need a nap.
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