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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Think Like A Chef - Pan Roasted Sirloin

In order to Think Like A Chef, it seems to me an important thing to think about is ingredients.  In the past, I have been okay with using ingredients from grocery stores.  I mean, let’s face it:  It is much easier to go to your local grocery store down the street, rather than go hunting for fresher ingredients.  And even if you do find a farmers market, how do you really know where their food came from?  That being said, when the next recipe in Tom Colicchio’s book was for a pan roasted sirloin steak, something told me that better ingredients would make this taste better.

There is a small butcher shop in Winthrop that I have avoided going to because, the only time I had visited, it seemed to me that they were more interested in selling cold cuts than good meat.  But I figured, “What the heck, let me see what they have, if they don’t have what I want, I can go to Whole Foods.”  As it turns out, they had a beautiful 14 ounce sirloin steak.  I will have to take a closer look at them in the future!

Now, I know that part of my “quest” was to cook as low fat as possible.  The fact of the matter is this was basically unrealistic given the cut of meat.  Normally, I cook on Sunday.  I decided to do this on a Saturday, which is our “free day.”  Cathy and I eat super healthy Sunday through Friday, and then we indulge on Saturday. 

The ingredients were, again, very simple.  A 14 ounce sirloin steak cut that was an 1 ½ to 2 inches thick, cut in ½ so there would be two square medallions, some rosemary, peanut oil, salt, pepper, and butter.  I used the butter/olive oil spread. 

Now, in the past, whenever I have cooked a steak, I have seared the sides on high heat and finished it in the oven.  This called for pan roasting the entire steak on a burner, over medium heat.  I chose to use my cast iron skillet.  So, after bringing the steaks to room temperature, patting them dry, seasoning them, and letting the pan with the oil in it get hot, I cooked each side of the steaks over medium heat or slightly lower, so the oil would sizzle, not sputter.

After three minutes on each side, the directions called for me to brown the fat on the steaks.  I have to say, I’m not sure why I had to do this.  I tried to find something in the internet on it, but couldn’t find anything.  Was it to render some of the fat?  Was it simply for appearance?  I really don’t know so if anyone does know, I’d love for you to tell me.  In any case, we don’t eat the fat anyway.

Next the steak goes back on the side first cooked for another two minutes, adding the butter/olive oil spread, and continues to cook for a total cooking time of 13 to 15 minutes, basting occasionally.
Now the recipe called for two tablespoons of the butter.  I used 1 ½ tablespoons, and I think next time, I would even cut that down to 1 or maybe less.  While it did add flavor, I like my steak to taste like…well…steak.

In any case, I wanted the steaks to come out medium rare.  I use the “chin, nose, forehead” technique for testing doneness and at the 13 minute mark, it seemed as if I had slightly overcooked it to medium, so I got them out of the pan and let them rest for 10 minutes.

In addition, I got a comment on my last post about side dishes, and the writer suggested roasting some root vegetables.  So I got baby carrots, a potato, parsnips and a turnip, cut them up and roasted them with extra virgin olive oil and salt.  Ultimately, I should have cooked them on a higher heat than 350, and to be honest, I didn’t like the turnips or the parsnips, but on the other hand, I had never tried them before, so I am glad I tried them.

After waiting 10 minutes, I plated the steaks and the vegetables, and sprinkled a tiny bit of coarse sea salt over the steaks.  They were cooked a perfect medium.

This appears to be the end of the basic roasting technique.  Chicken, fish, and meat.  Now comes some slightly higher level roasting, including leg of lamb and salt-roasted salmon.  Should be exciting.
We will be busy over the next couple of weekends, so I may not get to that for couple of weeks, but I will try. 


  1. Sounds like great results! I'm not a fan of sauces, but I do like "accompaniments"---and you may too. Think about flavors that enhance dishes. Sweet caramelized onions with this steak would be great. Are you a fan of steamed vegetables? If so, there is nothing better than steamed Brussels sprouts (or spinach) with red meat...just ask all of the NY steak houses that do it! :) Keep on cooking!

  2. I think the browning of the fat on the side of the steak is for those who eat the fat (so it's not gummy), as well as it improves its appearance (so it's brown like the rest of the steak and doesn't look white and mushy).