Of Cast Iron and Roasted Garlic
For the longest time, I was afraid of using a cast iron pan on the induction cookers we had at home, because I thought they weren’t compatible or would break the vulnerable glass tops. I was surprised to find out quite the opposite after a bit of research. Induction heating does wonders when cooking with cast iron, because of the latter material’s superior heat absorption, distribution and retention, and the almost-instant temperature changes that the former provides. Thus, having finally purchased a cast iron pan (supposedly a gift to my parents, but of course, I’d be the primary user), I decided to cook some steaks.
Before all the glorious red meat though, it’s nice to pretend to be healthy. Here is a quick Greek salad I whipped up to moderate the guilt. Lettuce (although not traditionally present in a Greek salad) lined the bottom of a large salad bowl, to which I added some tomatoes, red onions, black olives, cucumber and feta that I had left “marinating” in a mix of olive oil, red wine vinegar and lemon. More of the dressing was drizzled over the top. With a pinch of Himalayan sea salt sprinkled over, this was excellent, and a great way to rationalize the carnivorous conquest to come.
I decided to go for a cowboy steak, this time. This was around two and a half to three inches thick of bone-in USDA Choice Ribeye. I would have gone for Prime grade, but Bacchus Epicerie didn’t have any, and I didn’t want to waste a good piece of beef by cooking an anorexic 3/4-inch steak to obliteration. I wanted a charred crust and a rare center, and a cowboy steak was the only cut that could provide that. Well, so would a tomahawk, but I had no space to cook a chunk of meat attached to a full-length bovine rib.
I used to always season my steaks at the last minute (second?), in order to maximize fluid retention. However, I’ve read that it is just as efficient, if not better, to season at least an hour and up to one day in advance. Given the volume of my prized beast, I decided to try salting before lunch time, returning the beef to the fridge, and bringing it back out before dinner to go back up to room temperature.
As to the cooking method, I popped the huge chunk of cow into my turbo broiler (for lack of an oven) for around thirty or so minutes on balancing between the lowest setting (“thaw”), which was probably around 100-120 degrees Celsius, and 150 degrees.. When the outside was already browned, I took out the huge, almost too-tender slab of meat and slammed it onto my screaming-hot cast iron pan. Around two minutes total on each side, flipped frequently, plus some more time on its edge to crisp up the fat cap, and the cowboy steak was good to go. Well, after a good, long rest of course.
In the meantime, I tried my best to emulate Mamou’s steak rice with the juices left in the pan, but I didn’t get much flavor there. I guess it would work better for thinner cuts of steak (around an inch and a half) that are pan-seared throughout.
The end result was glorious, though. A perfect, still-red center, and a nicely charred, crisp exterior, with hardly any red-to-gray gradient. This was really a fool-proof way to cook a steak.
While the steak was cooking, I also popped in some whole heads of garlic with the top part chopped off, drizzled with olive oil and wrapped in foil and roasted. The end result was not as good as my previous attempt (pictured below), possibly because I cooked the garlic at too low a heat. The flavor was there, but the roasted garlic was both over and undercooked at the same time: overcooked because I put them back in a much higher temperature to finish the cooking, which crisped out the outsides of each clove, and under because the insides still hadn’t turned easily spreadable.
This previous attempt at roasted garlic was much more successful. Using the same preparations mentioned above, just cook the garlic for around 20-30 minutes at around 175 degrees Celsius. It’ll come out nicely browned on the outside, but will easily yield to a knife or spoon once you spread it onto a steak (like these cheap local ribeyes that were seared for one long senate minute on each side in a cast iron skillet)…
…or smooshed into some s/mashed potatoes for an added kick.
I’m glad I decided to take the plunge into cast iron cooking. It’s idiot-proof and perfect for an amateur cook like me. My only problem will be how to season my pan later on, since a cramped condominium unit has little space for an oven. Well, we’ll cross the bridge when we get there. I think I read that hot charcoals (and lots of open space) can do the trick. Let’s see.
P.S. This blog was featured on the ever-reliable online lifestyle hub, Spot.ph. The article says that I, an anonymous man, mostly write about beer, so here’s a (sadly) beer-free entry! The next few posts I have lined up will likely be beer-free as well, though. It’s Books Bites Brews, after all, and I’ve grossly ignored the first two words. Thank you to Spot for featuring this blog, and for honoring my anonymity by not contacting me about it.