(Today's recipe: How to cook a really big steak)
We met two amazing couples in Portugal and spent a wonderful week together eating, drinking, chatting and forming a bond for life. We met up near Olhao in the Algarves where we were parked right on the banks of the Rio Formosa. They harvest salt there and we harvested wild asparagus and almonds too.
Anja and Micha (with their gorgeous black German shepherd doggy Nala), and Gabi and Uwe, are the two wonderful couples who can no longer get rid of us. We got on like a house on fire from the very first moment, in fact so well that on the first night we kept talking and talking and forgot to eat. Now, had I forgotten to drink as well, the next day may not have been spent in bed... And in spite of all types of nonsense spewing from my well wined mouth, we are still friends!
The days were wonderfully warm and sunny and we cycled the 4km into Olhao most days, but the evenings were a little chilly (which should come as no surprise seeing as it was February!). But we are tough and we WILL braai come hell or freezing water. Uwe made the very wise decision to buy a massive steak for the barbie one night. A mere 2,5kg for 6 people – now that's what I call a steak.
It covered the entire grill and the most amazing smells wafted across the wild Portuguese plains. And I am not exaggerating about either. As The Monster Steak was cooking on the grill, we snacked on steamed wild asparagus (will post more about it, honestly) and grilled peppers. I made my Pesto Stuffed Tomatoes with Prawns as a starter – only the best for the best (and more about that later too...)
But let me wax lyrical about the steak. This thing of beauty was a good 2 ½ inches thick (and I can park very well, thank you), beautifully marbled with delicate lines of unobtrusive fat, just enough to keep it moist but not enough to make your thighs immediately thicken. Of course cooking such a wondrous object involves lots of skill and much manly talk, all of which was provided by our three equally wonderful husbands. Okay, okay, I'll stop before you get sick.
HOW TO COOK A MEGA STEAK
My first rule up till now has always been, 0800-call-my-husband, but the demand has outgrown our telephone system (always a dodgy thing in France), so here are some tips for YOU to perfect your very own Monster Steak.
GRILL: We South Africans can only braai / grill on wood that was foraged, lit, burnt down to coals and then with a deep sense of satisfaction, christened with a grid and the biggest possible slab of meat you can lay your hands on. (Road kill will also do, but don't say I said so.)
However, I am familiar with charcoal and am prepared at a push, to allow you to use it. No worries love, I know how benevolent I am.
MEAT: Get your coals nice and hot, put your clean grid over the coals and put the meat on. Some braaiers say you are not to move it around or do anything till it is well seared and then it won't stick to the grill. I go with this, but if you prefer to give it a prod and a poke to make sure it doesn't stick to the grill, then be my guest.
It should only take a few minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the steak. YOU DON'T WANT TO OVERCOOK IT, so please be careful. A thick steak is often more easily overcooked because you think it needs a bit more and a bit more and a bit more...and then it's tough as old boots.
What my expert braaiers of the night did was wrap it in aluminum foil after searing/browning both sides and then leave it next to the coals (not on them) for 20 minutes. Again, be careful here: too hot and your steak will be well-done rather than medium-rare.
So, it's rested there nicely for 20 minutes and then you take it out of the foil and put it back onto the grill over the hot coals for another couple of minutes. This is something I have never done before (putting meat back on the grill after resting it), but it was hugely successful.
We liked it so much we bought a similar size for the 2 of us a week later – not because we're greedy pigs of course, but because we had to test it again for the blog. How could your even think anything else? Beautifully reddish pink in the middle, soft and juicy – wish we were back in Portugal right now.
The only thing to do now is to open yet another bottle of wine, find a plate big enough to lay your steak on and ENJOY!
My dear friend Deirdre, who gets mentioned often in my blogs, asked me if I was STILL in Portugal (after having been back in France for 3 months now), and I am shamelessly saying YES as it was so wonderful. And I still have wonderful recipes and photos of the lovely folks we met. So bear with me folks, I'll get back to France yet!