I hope you don’t mind that I got ahead of myself, sharing with you week six of my cooking techniques course before week five. But I absolutely had to get that pear recipe out to the world post-haste. As promised, here’s the missing lesson.
Week five’s topic was dry heat, which includes broiling, pan-broiling, grilling, pan frying, deep fat frying, and roasting. Every surface was firing – burners, grill, fryalator, oven. Normally I position myself as close as possible to all these heat sources for extra warmth – this was an unfortunate strategy on that Sunday morning.
Working at the grill, wishing I had been able to find a longer pair of tongs, I sweated it out.
Having moved into a smaller kitchen for that week, there was barely enough room for us to pass one another between the work table and anywhere else. Every few minutes, there was a bump and a “sorry.” An “oh, excuse me.” Someone spilled an entire container of vinegar. And in a cooking school, the containers are big. Really big.
We tentatively adopted the lingo we had heard in professional kitchens (or, let’s be honest, Top Chef), murmuring “behind” as we slid around each other, “hot” as we opened the oven door. By the end of class, we started pulling everything at once and the murmurs turned to shouts.
Open the oven. Hot oven!
Place a hot pan, steam rising from its roast, on the work table. Careful!
Carry a pan of cakes to the cooling rack. Behind you! Hot tray! Behind! Hot behind!
Hehe. Hot behind!
Skirt steak diablo
For diablo salsa:
- 1/2 medium red onion
- 2 lbs ripe tomatoes
- 2 jalapeno chiles
- 1/2 C fresh cilantro (rough chopped)
- 1 t garlic paste (from 2-3 cloves)
- 2 T fresh lime juice and zest (3-4 limes)
- salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil to taste.
- 3 T extra virgin olive oil
- 3 T cider vinegar
- 2 t fresh oregano, chopped
- 1 1/2 T sugar
- 1 1/2 t salt
- 2 lbs skirt or flank or hanger steak (all three types come from the abdomen)
- diablo salsa (or use a large jar of pre-made salsa)
Prep. Take meat out of the fridge, and pat dry. Allow to come to room temperature while you’re making the salsa. Finely chop oregano.
Make diablo salsa. There’s a lot of chopping and fine dicing here! Chop the onion very finely and then soak in cold water for a few minutes (this softens the raw taste). Quarter and seed the tomatoes. Then cut them into a 1/4 inch dice. Wearing rubber gloves, seed and finely chop the jalapeno peppers. Wash and rough chop the cilantro, removing tough stems. Combine onions (discard water), tomatoes, jalapeno, and cilantro in a big bowl. Zest and juice limes over the bowl and mix. Add salt, pepper, and oil to taste.
Marinate. In a large bowl, mix together oil, vinegar, oregano, sugar, salt, half the salsa, and the meat. Marinate meat for 30 minutes at room temperature, or up to 4 hours in the fridge. If it’s been in the fridge, make sure to bring the meat to room temperature before grilling.
Grill. Light your grill (I can’t really give you instructions on this, because I don’t have one and all we did in class was turn on the gas.) But if you live in an apartment and don’t have a grill, turn your stove to medium and heat up a cast iron grill pan. You don’t need oil on the grill/pan since the marinade contains oil. When the grill/pan is hot, remove the meat from the marinade and grill for 3-4 minutes per side — this will be nice and rare (add 1-2 minutes more if you want medium rare/medium). If the meat sticks to the grill/pan, then it’s not ready to be flipped. When you can take the meat of the grill/pan easily, it’s ready to flip.
Rest. Let the meat rest for at least 10 minutes to let the juices distribute. Once you slice it, it will get cold really quickly, so wait until you’re ready to serve before slicing.
Slice. Slice the meat against the grain, holding the knife at a 45º angle with the cutting board.
Eat. Arrange meat on your platter and serve alongside or topped with diablo salsa.
Before I end this post, I wanted to pass along a few tips that our chef instructor shared with us about dry heat cooking.
- With meat, like with braising, you want to first sear and then move the meat to a lower temperature. If you’re grilling, put the meat on the hot part of the grill and once you get nice grill marks and browning on both sides of the meat, move it to the cooler side of the grill and finish cooking off the inside. The thicker the meat, the further you should move it from the heat so that it doesn’t burn before it cooks. If you’re pan broiling, again sear the outside and then finish it off in the oven.
- To make criss-cross grill marks, make the first set of marks and then rotate the meat and place it on another hot part of the grill. If you keep the meat (or whatever you’re grilling) in the same place, the grill will be too cool in that location and won’t make nice marks.
- If your meat sticks to the pan or grill, leave it alone. When it’s ready, it will release itself from the heating surface.
- Always start meat at room temperature – generally take it out of the fridge an hour before you plan to cook it.
- Put salt and pepper on the meat before you sear – it will not only season the meat, but help the sear (I’m not entirely sure why that is).
- When you roast meat in the oven, make sure to put it on a grate so that all sides of the meat cook evenly.
- The classic way to roast a chicken is to season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour in a very hot oven (450-500ºF).
- When you deep fat fry, 375ºF is the optimal temperature for the oil so that it “sears” whatever you’re cooking. If the oil is not hot enough, it will just soak into the the food. If it’s too hot, it will burn.
- Meat rises in temperature about 5ºF after you take it off the heat. Get a meat thermometer. Here’s how you know how well it is cooked:
- Blue rare: very soft in the middle; 120ºF
- Rare: 120-125ºF
- Medium rare: when you push the meat, your finger leaves a dent in it; 125-140ºF
- Medium: when you push the meat, it only moves a little; 140-155ºF
- Well done: grey throughout; >155ºF (but seriously, who wants grey meat?)
I hope this helps!