Good Eats Cook-Along 1 – High Steaks Beginning
I hope y’all are ready because it’s time for some ribeyes!
Since this is my first time doing this let me just start off by saying that I am going to do my best to follow the recipe as written. I’m not one for following recipes explicitly usually, but unless I see a major issue I want to taste what Alton wanted me to taste, so I can talk about that.
Ok, so now let’s get started.
Here’s everything you need for this recipe! In the show Alton only covers the steaks, but in the Good Eats Volume 1 recipe book he also includes a recipe for a cognac and blue cheese pan sauce. To complement that recipe I have made my own cognac orange reduction. This is all the ingredients you need to make both sauces and the steaks. Despite that the total bill for this recipe was about $32. And that’s after the butcher gave me a huge discount on those ribeyes. I got them for $6.99/lb, if you recreate this I would expect to pay at least twice that. Two 16oz ribeyes will likely run you nearly what I paid for the whole recipe together. So be prepared.
Also, as a note, please when buying a steak make sure you get the person behind the counter to cut it for you. The steaks they sell pre-cut are only ever half an inch to an inch thick. Even for sous vide I wouldn’t want a steak that thin, but cooking a thin steak like this is flirting with disaster. Alton’s recipe calls for 1½ thick steaks, you would be fine anywhere between that and 2 inches. Plus, maybe you’ll get lucky and get a discount like I did.
Alton says to season your steaks with salt and pepper before putting them into the pan. For most pan frying I would agree with that, however we are getting this pan so hot that the pepper will burn if you put it on now. Wait until you move the pan into the oven for that.
That is the kind of browning you want on your steak before you put it in the oven. No darker than that, however, because remember it will continue to darken once you put it in! But a good crust is essential! A steak is nothing without one and in my mind a good crust on a steak is more important than getting the temperature exactly right.
One thing Alton doesn’t mention is that you don’t have just two sides to sear, you have four. It’s especially important to sear the fat cap. A lot of that fat is going to render but if you want whats there to be edible at all, you need to soften it up and give it some flavor.
Also please, use oven mitts when handling the pan, and lift it with both hands, it’s hot and heavy. Especially with two extra pounds of meat in it.
For my steaks I had to adjust the recipe some. Once in the oven I had them there for 2 and a half minutes, flip, then another two and a half. Then I pulled the pan out and temped them. They were at 112˚F. So I tossed them back in the oven for another minute and a half and just barely missed the temp range for medium rare. Which is fine because I prefer my steak medium.
One note about temperatures here, the ribeye is made of two muscles: the spinalis dorsi and the longissimus dorsi. Both of these are delicious, but the spinalis, or ribeye cap, is considered the tastier of the two. That’s the thinner muscle that runs along the top and side of the steak. It’s got a buttery texture that just falls apart when cooked right, but it cooks faster than the bigger longissimus, so youll need to be careful with that.
I don’t mind my cap cooked a little more than the steak proper, but your preference might be the other way around.
Once the pan comes out it’s gonna be full of fat. You don’t want all that in your sauce. You only want maybe a tablespoon and a half. So what you do here is put the pan back on the burner at about medium heat and cook until all the juices have solidified into fond on the bottom. Then you pour away any excess fat. I put mine in a prep bowl, covered it in plastic wrap, and tossed it in the fridge, because it’ll be the perfect thing for the next episode.
After that whisk in the blue cheese and then the butter. Then reduce until thickened to the this point. Notice the spots where I spooned it away haven’t yet filled the gap. That’s a quality the French call nappe, which means it will coat the back of the spoon.
Once you’re to this point the sauce is ready.
For the other sauce you start with the Grand Marnier and splash of brandy and reduce slightly, but not too much as you want to add the orange zest early. Just let it get up to a simmer before you put it in. That way as the sugars in the brandy caramelize the orange zest will candy and acquire a wonderful flavor. After that you want to reduce until thick, almost syrupy. Reduced by at least half, if not ⅔.
The sauce should get to this consistency. You want to make sure the syrups caramelize properly to give you a wonderful butterscotch flavor. Then add the butter.
Incorporate the butter but do not remove from heat right away, you want to give the butter a chance to brown a little, in fact you can add already browned butter for the same effect. The roasted nuttiness of browned butter is an essential component of the sauce. After that however it’s done.
I served the sauces on opposite sides of the steak. They don’t taste bad mixed together, but they are definitely at their strength separately. However they both show off different sides of the steak itself. The funkiness of the blue cheese really brings out the funkiness in the beef, so much that you can taste it even on a bite without sauce. The caramel in the orange sauce however really highlights the deep flavors of a nice sear, and really brings out the sweetness and nuttiness of the beef as well.
I think they’re both excellent sauces, but I have to admit Alton’s is more traditional and probably works a little better with ribeye. My sauce would probably best suit a filet.
After both sauces are finished you are ready to cut the steak and plate it! This likely will take more than the 5 minutes resting time Alton suggests. That’s good, because a steak should rest, under foil, for at least 10 minutes. Especially after being blasted with as much heat as these were.
And that’s it! Now to just sit back and enjoy! And take a look at that steak! It’s pretty good. But it’s fast. You have to be quick to get your steak to look like that. If you’re not on your toes or you forget what comes next you could easily overcook it. The steak is tender and juicy and has an amazing sear, better than a reverse sear even, but its a lot more difficult and timing is essential. The recipe is solid but I stand by my first impression: it’s not for beginners.
And that’s one episode of Good Eats covered. I hope you found this informative and I hope you’ll look forward to the next one, where we will be making three different kinds of potatoes!
Pan-Seared Rib-eye Steak
Good Eats' first recipe: a simple steak as close to foolproof as you can get it.
- 2 1½ inch thick boneless ribeye steaks [about 16oz]
- 1 tsp canola oil
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Place steaks on counter, covered in plastic wrap and let sit for one hour to come to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 500˚F and place a 12-inch cast iron skillet on center rack.
When oven has preheated move skillet to cook top over high heat for 5 minutes being sure to use oven mitts as it will be very hot.
Rub canola oil onto steaks and then season both sides with salt and pepper.
Place steaks in skillet, presentation side down and facing away from you. Let sear for 30 seconds.
Flip steaks and let the other side sear for another 30 seconds
Remove skillet from stovetop and place in oven for 2 minutes.
Flip steaks again and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Remove skillet and temp the steaks. For medium rare internal temperature should be 130˚F to 135˚F. Internal temperature should not exceed 140˚F. If lower, return steaks to oven for 15 to 30 seconds and test again.
Rest steak for 5 minutes.
Cognac Pan Sauce
A book exclusive sauce that was cut for time. A thousand times better than A1.
- ¼ cup Cognac [a 50ml bottles works just fine here but you may want to add 2tsp of water]
- 1 oz crumbled Gorgonzola cheese [can substitute with any soft blue cheese such as Roquefort]
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter [chilled]
Allow skillet to cool for one minute.
Deglaze pan with cognac and using a whisk dissolve all the fond on the skillet.
Reduce cognac for 30 seconds using the residual heat of the skillet.
Add the cheese and whisk for a further 30 seconds.
Whisk in the butter and continue whisking until the sauce begins to thicken.
Serve in bowls or ramekins alongside steak, for dipping.
A simple sauce inspired by and intending to complement Alton's
- 100 ml Grand Marnier [or ½ cup]
- juice and zest of ½ orange
- 1 tbsp cognac
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
Pour Grand Marnier into a small saucepan and reduce on medium-low for 5 minutes.
Add in orange zest and juice.
When sauce has thickened whisk in butter.
Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and then serve.