George picked out our first recipe lesson and asked to learn how to cook steak. He added green beans (not his favorite) and rice (definitely his favorite) to the dinner menu. We invited Grandma over to join us for dinner and a game of cards before and after, and a good time was had by all . . . although this summer ADD (without their medicine) is starting to wear on me. Whew.
Luke and George were the main cooks last night, but Evie swooped in near the end to help with quick preparation of the green beans. Let me go ahead and tease you with the fact that dinner was delicious and everyone pretty much cleared their plates!
We started with the steak, which was part of a bovine purchased at the Houston Stock Show and Rodeo auction and split between four couples. We have a quarter of a cow and trust me, this is more than enough to feed my family for the year. Luckily, we get several cuts of steak, so that’s what we used.
I’m a traditionalist, so my style of cooking steak (whether on the grill, in the oven, or on the stove) is to let the flavor of the meat stand mostly on its own so there was no marinating involved.
- Beef steaks of your choice (we used Strip Steak)
- High Temperature Oil (we used Grapeseed Oil)
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Pull out defrosted steaks at least one hour prior to cooking and allow them to come to room temperature. This will allow them to cook more evenly and I’ve found it is the best way to make sure you can achieve the exact “doneness” of the steaks (e.g. rare or medium rare – which is the only way to make the steaks in our house). Do not use frozen steaks.
- WASH HANDS!!!! I know you know this, but my kids have to be reminded daily. I also have to make sure they don’t contaminate their hands by petting the dog, pushing their hair around, picking up a baseball, or wiping their hands on their shirts during the cooking process. It seems obvious, but trust me, it’s not obvious to kids.
- Once the steaks reach room temperature and you’re ready to start cooking them, pat them dry using a CLEAN paper towel(s).
- Generously coat cast iron skillet with grapeseed oil (don’t get too carried away, because the more oil there is, the more likely it is to splatter). Heat on high until the oil begins to shimmer and smoke just slightly. You will know when it is hot enough when you sprinkle water on the pan and it sizzles and jumps, but the first clues work just as well and involve no splatter.
- As the pan is heating up, go ahead and season the steaks generously with salt and pepper. These are the only spices we use, so you want to make sure there is plenty of salt and pepper on them, but if you prefer something less salty, make sure you season to your taste. Luke went heavier on the salt and I preferred it over George’s steak, but Grandma is more sensitive to salt and preferred George’s steak instead. Again, it’s all a matter of taste. Don’t season the steaks until you are just about to put them in the pan because you want the steaks to be dry so that they sear with a lovely crust on the outside. If you add the salt ahead of time, the steak will release moisture and it won’t be dry when you place it in the pan.
- When the pan is fully heated (per instructions above), place steaks in pan and it should sizzle and splatter – this is the perfect temperature! Do not move the steaks once you have put them in the pan until it is time to turn them. Our steaks (and most steaks) are approximately 1-inch thick, and I recommend cooking the steaks for 3 minutes on each side depending on how high the “high” temperature on your stove is. We have a gas stove so it got pretty hot and 3 minutes on each side was almost too long to achieve medium rare. Flip the steaks after 3 minutes and cook another three minutes without moving the steak.
- Remove the steak and place on a plate or serving dish and allow the steak to rest for 5 minutes. Keep in mind that the steaks will continue to cook for another 5 minutes after you remove them from the heat so be sure you don’t overcook them. I prefer to tent my steaks to keep the heat in, but others don’t do that. You parents can tell me how you prefer to do it.
- If you’re feeling ambitious, I love to put a pat of butter (or compound butter) on my steak at this point. It elevates the steak to divine standards, but we are going simple so minimal ingredients and minimal steps for us.
HOW TO TELL IF STEAKS ARE DONE: The best way is to use a very accurate meat thermometer, but I emphasize that it must be an accurate thermometer, and I’ve had poor luck with the cheap thermometers you get at the grocery store so we kept it simple. I did allow the kids to try using a digital thermometer that I have primarily for making pork tenderloin. Our steaks were 125 degrees Fahrenheit when we pulled them off the pan.
- RARE: 125 degrees Fahrenheit, red inside, cool interior
- MEDIUM RARE: 135 degrees Fahrenheit, red inside, warm interior
- MEDIUM: 145 degrees Fahrenheit, pink inside, warm interior
- MEDIUM WELL: 150 degrees Fahrenheit, slightly pink inside, warm interior
- WELL: 160 degrees Fahrenheit, no pink, hot interior
The only correct ways to cook these steaks in our house are either Rare or Medium Rare. I was thoroughly disappointed when a couple of the steaks came out more Medium than Medium Rare, and none of the steaks we cooked came out rare. Boo.
WHITE RICE RECIPE
- 1 cup long grain white rice
- 2 cups water or broth
- Pinch of salt
- Bay Leaf (optional)
- Place rice in strainer and rinse until water runs clear. If you don’t have a strainer, you can pour the rice into a bowl of water and mix it about with your CLEAN hands. Pour out the cloudy water and repeat the process until the water is no longer cloudy. My kids were super annoyed by this “time consuming” process, which isn’t really all that time consuming. So, what’s the purpose of this? You are rinsing the excess starch off of the grains of rice so that when you cook them they don’t stick together and clump. You’ll notice that our rice was still a little clumpy, so we should have rinsed a bit longer.
- Place the fully rinsed rice into a pot and add water or broth. We used water, but chicken or vegetable broth will add a depth of flavor. Add a pinch of salt. OPTIONAL: I recently discovered that some people add a bay leaf to their rice while it is cooking, and I really liked the result. I think it gives rice more depth – especially if you’re not using broth for the liquid. I encouraged the kids to do this and they were very reluctant and concerned about having something green in their rice. I heard no complaints at the dinner table and I encourage you to give it a try sometime to see if you like it!
- Bring rice and liquid to a boil, uncovered. Once the liquid is boiling, reduce heat to very, very low and cover. Leave rice covered and untouched for 20 minutes. At the end of 20 minutes, the rice should be fully cooked.
- Remove the bay leaf, if using, and fluff rice before serving. If you adequately rinsed the rice, it should be light, fluffy, and non-clumpy. We are gluttons, so we add salt and two tablespoons of butter to make the rice extra delicious.
NOTES: There are lots of ways to dress up your rice, but we are saving that for the more advanced lessons in the future. I’d love to really master Spanish Rice, so if anyone has a great recipe for that, please send it to me!
GREEN BEANS RECIPE
We cheated on this recipe, and that’s okay! We used bagged green beans that we could steam in the microwave. You can get this at most grocery stores these days and it’s a quick, healthy addition to any meal and way better than canned green beans. We dressed ours up at the end with a quick saute in butter and garlic with a little salt and pepper. Easy peasy, and Evie’s favorite part of dinner!
- 1 Bag of fresh green beans (the bag will indicate whether it can be steamed in the microwave)
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced OR 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic bottled or canned
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Microwave green beans according to instructions, but reduce microwave time by 1 minute so it isn’t quite fully cooked. We will finish cooking on the stove.
- Heat skillet to medium high and heat butter until melted.
- Add the microwaved green beans and top with minced garlic.
- Toss green beans to coat with the butter and garlic for 1 minute.
- Add salt and pepper to taste and then serve.
NOTE: If you use fresh minced garlic, add that to the pan before the green beans and let it cook for about 20-30 seconds before adding the green beans. It should take the edge off the bite of the fresh garlic, but make sure you don’t burn it or everything will taste like burned garlic. Yuck. If you don’t like garlic, just omit it. No problem!
DINNER IS SERVED!
Plate your food items in serving dishes and garnish to make it look pretty! George was skeptical of the garnish but I assured him that the standby parsley was just for looks.
Clean Plate Club!
We finished the evening (after dishes) with a lively game of Rummy. The kids are addicted and the love playing with Grandma!