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Friday, March 19, 2010

Steak and Potatoes, It’s What For Dinner

On Wednesday, I went shopping at Costco and looked to see what I thought would be good for our dinner.  I looked at the seafood and passed, and then I got to the meat area and saw the steak.  I remembered watching a steak cooking challenge on The Food Network and how one of the contestants used a cast iron frying pan to cook her steak in the BBQ.  I thought that was an interesting way of cooking steak.

While at Costco, I looked at the Kirkland set of stainless steel cookware for $169.  I thought it looks like a good possibility to purchase.  It has a 5-ply construction with a copper heat spreader on the bottom.  It’s something for us to consider because $169 is much better than $1599!

When I arrived home, I took a trip into our attic.  Even though our house is only 21 years old, it still has about 1000 square feet of walk-in attic space, so even after multiple trips to Goodwill; we still have quite a few “treasures” stored away in the attic.  In December on one of my trips to get some Christmas lights, I remembered seeing an old cast iron frying pan that my mom had given me 25 years ago or so.

In the attic, I quickly located the #8 cast iron frying pan and took it downstairs to take a look.  I had to wipe out chunks of wood and dirt that had fallen into the pan when we had the wood shake roof removed and a composition roof put on the house.  I thought I remembered that the pan might be cracked on the bottom, but so far it looks fine – no crack.

I used a wet paper towel and wiped out some of the grime and what I thought might be 25-year-old egg on the inside of the pan.  I put about two cups of water in the pan and put in on the range top on high heat to boil for a bit.  This was a good test to see if the water foamed which would be an indication that soap was used to clean the pan in the past (would not be good).  No foaming was present and the boiling water loosened the remaining food in the pan.

I dried the pan and then wiped the pan with a thin coating of canola oil and placed it back on the burner on medium high.  Once the oil started to smoke, then I wiped the inside of the pan with a good coat of Crisco.  I let the pan sit on the heat (with our vent fan on full) for several minutes, then turned off the burner and let the pan cool.  I repeated the process with the Crisco a second time after about an hour.  This provided the inside pan with a very nice protective non-stick coating.

While cleaning the pan, I took the top round steak from Costco and trimmed off the fat and filleted each steak in half to make them thinner.  I placed two of the steaks (now four pieces) into a zip lock bag with some salt and pepper seasoning and a little (1/4 cup) Paul Newman’s Caesar Salad dressing.  Closing the bag, I gave it a good shake and then massaged the contents to work the oil and seasoning into all the pieces, then tossed the bag in the refrigerator to marinate.

My wife and I went to exercise and when we returned home it was kind of late, so quickly decided to pass on lighting briquettes for our Weber BBQ as it takes a good 20 or more minutes to be ready to cook.  I thought why not use our Coleman stove, and cook outside without making a splatter mess on our range top.

Out came the Coleman stove and I placed the newly seasoned frying pan on the burner to heat.  I went inside and washed two potatoes and placed them in the microwave to cook for nine minutes while I cooked the steaks.  I also washed and trimmed some asparagus and placed it in a pan to steam on low heat.

I put the steak in the cast iron frying pan and let it cook (flipping once) until it they were cooked to medium.  I took my potatoes and sliced them crosswise into 3/8-inch slices.  Removing the steaks from the pan, I placed them in a glass Pyrex container to allow the steaks to rest.  Into the frying pan, I put some margarine then placed the sliced potato pieces to cook.  After a few minutes, I flipped the potato pieces and then cooked them until both sides were slightly crispy.

My wife peeled and sliced some raw carrots and we were ready to eat.

The steak was very moist and cooked to perfection.  Next time I might try adding a little butter on top of the steaks while they cook like I saw on TV, but the marinade seemed to do a great job of adding flavor and keeping the steak moist.  The potatoes were cooked all the way through because I had micro waved them before pan cooking.  They had a crisp exterior and tasted a little like French fries.  This time the asparagus was cooked to just the right texture, slightly crunchy.  It turns out that 30-year-old Revere Ware can cook on low heat and perform the same as the expensive waterless cookware!

Cleanup of the pan took two minutes with some hot water and some course steel wool.  A light coating of vegetable oil over the entire pan and it is ready for it’s next use.

I look forward to trying the frying pan in the BBQ and see if by adding the lid on the BBQ changes the cooking properties of the pan (bake and sear).

This also revives the way my mom used to cook when our family went camping.  The next time my wife and I go camping, the cast iron frying pan will go with us!

Adventures In Food: Author: Kerry Howell

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