There was a time, not so long ago, when steakhouses weren’t ridiculously priced. The menus didn’t have foreign words, the sides were limited to potatoes, french fries and the vegetable of the day (usually canned green beans or corn), and the only sauces were A1 and Heinz 57. People didn’t go to these places for the service, the ambience or the extensive bar menu (read: Bud and Coors on tap) – people went to eat good steak.When I was young, I frequented one of these good ol’ restaurants, the L & M Steakhouse, with my dad when my mom wasn’t home to cook dinner. It was a simple place – you ordered your cut of steak (I was partial to the T-bone) and how you wanted it done. Then you moved down the line and got thick, buttery slices of Texas toast, a baked potato with sour cream and a small salad (which was basically a bowl of iceberg lettuce). At the end of the line, you selected from five unlabeled dressings (I always got the orange kind – I think it was French), which you ladled on yourself as you waited for your steak. The meat would have a little plastic toothpick indicating whether it was done “rare,” “medium-rare,” etc. When the cook placed the steak on your plate, you sat yourself at one of several nondescript tables and only signalled the waitress to get drink refills.That was back when cigarettes were sold in vending machines (there was one by the restrooms at the L & M) and when a good steak wouldn’t empty your wallet. Now it seems like all steakhouses have gone high-class, with gourmet dishes and linen tablecloths. And it all comes at a higher price.Places like the L & M are almost extinct, but there is still hope. If you just want a good steak without al the fuss, why not grill it yourself? With these great tips from Chef Mick Rosacci, of Tony’s Meat & Specialty Foods, you can have restaurant-quality steak at a reasonable price. And you won’t have to risk getting a waiter with an attitude.
Steak tips from Chef Mick:Choose the right cutEach cut has its own unique texture and flavor; they also vary in size, price and tenderness. Which is best? Depends on your taste buds.Rib steak: Thanks to abundant marbling, the rib steak is the juiciest and most flavorful of all steaks. Steaks from the ‘large end’ of the rib are the highest in marbling and a real prize for the lover of juicy steak.Tenderloin or filet mignon is beef’s most tender cut, and with only 6-8 pounds per steer, it’s also the most expensive. Slender, irregularly shaped, and completely encased in gristle and fat, they require special care from the butcher. Strip steaks are boneless, medium to well marbled, and easy to carve. Juicy, flavorful and tender, strip steaks are one of beef’s most popular cuts. T-bone: On one side of the T-shaped bone is the tenderloin, and on the other, the strip steak – but a T-bone is more than simply the sum of its parts! Large in size, tender, juicy and flavorful, the T-bone is a first-class steak. Sirloin lacks the marbling and tenderness of other quality cuts, but its fine flavor and low price makes it a particularly good value. Specialty cuts: Other cuts that can be good on the grill include the flank, skirt, flat iron, and tri tip.Grill it right!Quality beefsteaks should always be cooked with dry heat, never sautéed, braised or simmered. While braising is perfect for heavily used muscles such as the chuck, it can be ruinous to the lightly used muscles of the loin and rib. For the best steaks, avoid liquid marinades and grill with high heat. This evaporates moisture as it browns, maximizing flavor and texture.Once removed from the grill, steaks continue to cook, rising in internal temperature about 10 degrees. Resting your steak after grilling allows juices to settle as the steak finishes cooking. For instance, if you remove your steak at medium-rare, cover with foil and rest for 10 minutes before serving, it will turn out about medium, and retain a greater percentage of its natural juices.Poking a steak with a mechanical tenderizer or a fork allows valuable juices to escape during cooking, robbing a steak of juiciness and flavor. Grill chefs usually rely on a practiced sense of feel to judge a steak’s doneness. Try it; with practice you’ll be able to judge a steak quickly and accurately. Poke the steak with your finger from time to time as it cooks; the more it done it is, the firmer it becomes. Chef Michaelangelo (Mick) Rosacci and family own and operate Tony’s Meats & Specialty Foods. More recipes at http://www.TonysMarket.com
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