Wednesday, March 11, 2009

chefs’ tips on grilling the perfect steak just in time for the start of barbecue season - recipe: Dead-Easy Blue Cheese Sauce for Steak - recipe: Sal

It’s my husband’s birthday this week. I welcome the opportunity to spoil him because it’s not often that he allows me to do this. Every year I offer him options on what he would like for his birthday meal — this is the one time of year that he’ll indulge himself by telling me exactly what he wants me to cook

This being said, I can almost guarantee that from a wide list of birthday-dinner options, David will choose steak, baked potatoes and Caesar salad.

Traditional, yes, perhaps a bit pedestrian, but certainly delicious (and I can always get creative with the dessert, right?).

Chefs are often asked for tips on how to prepare perfect, restaurant-quality steaks at home.

I have my faves but I thought it would be fun to ask two of the best chefs in town — Mark Saraiva, chef at Dana Shortt Gourmet and Kirstie Herbstreit, a chef at the Art Bar in Kitchener.

Mark’s tips

  • Mark is a man of few words. However, when I asked him about cooking steak he spoke at length and did so very passionately.
  • Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking — an absolute must, he said.
  • Don’t salt the meat in advance — salt it just before searing/grilling (otherwise, the salt will bring out the moisture in the meat and it won’t form as nice a “crust.”)
  • Let the meat rest for at least 5-10 minutes after cooking so that the juices have a chance to “settle” and redistribute.
  • Mark was adamant about this point — he thinks that it’s such a shame that people waste hard-earned dollars on quality steak by tucking into it too soon.

Kirstie’s tips

  • Buy good quality beef, from your preferred butcher.
  • The cut is important. Kirstie’s favourites are top sirloin and strip loin. She finds tenderloin just doesn’t have the marbling to give it that proper “steak” flavour.
  • Oil the meat and then season both sides with lots of kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper.
  • By oiling the meat, as opposed to the grill or cast iron pan, you ensure that the seasoning sticks and that you get a nice “crust” on the steak.
  • Cook it hot and fast. For the perfect medium-rare one-inch steak: lay steak on a hot grill at “10 o’clock,” wait two minutes, turn to “2 o’clock,” cook two minutes, flip and cook a further two minutes, then take it off of the heat.
  • Rub with a cut side of a garlic clove, and rest a few minutes before enjoying.

My tips

  • I absolutely agree with Mark and Kirstie (although my favourite cut of steak is the rib-eye).
  • Purists like their steaks served straight-up but I think a little melted herb butter on top of a grilled steak is fabulous — almost as delicious as the combination of blue cheese with steak — a must try for blue cheese lovers like myself.

Dead-Easy Blue Cheese Sauce for Steak


  • 2 cups heavy (35 per cent) cream
  • Blue cheese, to taste (Danish blue is fine, gorgonzola if you are feeling more indulgent.)
  • Pepper, to taste


  • Bring the heavy cream to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, then continue to boil until the cream thickens — about 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and add crumbled blue cheese — how much you add will depend on how thick you want your sauce and how much blue cheese flavour you like. Season to taste with pepper.

Salt-Crusted Baked Potatoes

Inspired by a dinner at the Linger Longer Steakhouse in Greensboro, Ga.


  • 4 half-pound baking potatoes, preferably russet
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt


  • Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Wash and dry potatoes.
  • Prick potatoes in several places with a fork.
  • Coat each potato with egg white, then crust potatoes completely in salt.
  • Bake potatoes in a shallow baking pan until tender when pierced with a sharp knife, about 60 to 75 minutes.
  • Crack off as much salt as desired from skin before serving.
  • Serve with your favourite accompaniments — sour cream, butter, grated cheddar and scallions.

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