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Perfect steak and lobster recipes for Valentine's Day

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According to Google, two of the most-searched terms on Valentine’s Day are steak and lobster. It makes sense – both are seen as luxurious food items, to be trotted out on special occasions, celebration food. They are also both incredibly easy to cook, despite the frantic, last-minute internet recipe searching being done by procrastinating cooks on February 14.

So, if you aren’t planning on braving the crowds at our area’s many fine restaurants, treat yourself and your loved one at home this Friday night. Splurge on the best and use our recipes to cook them in the simplest, easiest and tastiest way possible.

STEAK
ribeyeThere are four aspects to a perfect steak: meat quality, seasoning, sear and interior temperature.

Meat quality is easy, as long as you are willing to shell out enough money for high-end steak. Go to a butcher, or a store that has actual humans cutting meat at the butcher counter, and ask them for the best rib eye they have. You should be able to see streaks of fat through the entirety of the steak, not just at the edges.

Why rib eye? Because this cut of beef has an immense amount of fat running through it, it is easily the most forgiving (and tastiest) type of steak you can buy. Filet mignon may be seen as elegant and luxurious, but it’s more difficult to cook properly and doesn’t have the intense beefiness of rib eye. If you’d rather have a New York strip for sentimental reasons, go for it, but rib eye is better.

If you want the best (and are willing to pay a premium for it), look for dry-aged steaks. Dry-aging reduces the amount of water in the meat and encourages connective tissue to start breaking down, resulting in a more tender steak with a pronounced beef flavor. And only the best quality meat is dry-aged, so you’re already a step ahead.

Grass-fed beef is better for the environment and often tastier, but trickier to cook because of its reduced fat content. Stay away from that this time unless you already know what you’re doing.

Starting with a great piece of meat means you shouldn’t get fancy when it comes to seasoning. No elaborate sauces or spice blends are necessary or recommended – you just want to bring out the steak’s natural flavor. That means salt -- more than you’d think, on both sides of the steak -- and a scattering of pepper. That’s it.

The hardest part to cooking a steak is getting a great sear, and the easiest way to do that is to avoid the grill. You’ll need a decent skillet, preferably heavy enough to use as a weapon, definitely not non-stick. If you already have a cast-iron pan, use that – it’s easily the best vehicle for a great steak. If not, don’t worry. Just make sure that it’s heavy and doesn’t have a plastic handle, which can melt when you put the steak in the oven.

You’re going to heat that pan until it is blazing hot, then put the steak in all by itself. When you flip it over, you should see the benefits of all that absorbed heat in the form of a beautiful, golden-brown crust across much of the steak.

The final step requires careful timing, but little work. Just make sure you have a kitchen timer or stopwatch app, or plan on counting out Mississippis for a few minutes.

ribeye 2PERFECT STEAK
Adapted from Alton Brown.
Ingredients:
1 boneless ribeye steak, approx. 1 ½ inches thick
Canola oil
Salt and pepper

Method:
Heat the oven to 500 degrees F at least 20 minutes before you plan to cook the steak. Bring the steak to room temperature.

Place your skillet over high heat for five minutes. Open nearby windows and turn on your kitchen exhaust fan – there will be smoke. Season the steak on both sides with pepper and a generous amount of salt. Cover the steak lightly with canola oil and place in the dry pan.

Cook for 30 seconds without moving. Use tongs to turn the steak, then cook for 30 seconds more. Place skillet in oven for 2 minutes. Flip the steak and return to the oven for 2 minutes. (This will result in a medium-rare steak. For medium – which is a travesty for such a nice piece of beef – cook for 3 minutes per side in the oven.)

Remove steak from skillet and let rest, covered for a few minutes. Slice the steak about ½-inch thick and fan on a plate. It’ll look beautiful.

LOBSTER
First off, forget about buying whole lobsters. As impressive as it might be to plop a beautiful and massive rosy red crustacean on your loved one’s plate on Valentine’s Day, most people don’t necessarily find eviscerating an entire creature during dinner a romantic time. Plus, it’s a lot of work.

Instead, buy lobster tails. Stick with the smaller ones, around 4 ounces or so, because they’ll cook faster and more evenly than the bigger sizes. If you don’t think that’s impressive enough (or you’re not pairing it with a delicious rib eye steak), just buy more.

You can grill or broil lobster tails, but that requires some skill if you want to avoid overcooking and make sure the meat stays moist. The easiest and most fool-proof way to cook lobster tails is to steam them.

If you don’t have a steamer – either an insert for one of your sauce pans or one of those bamboo contraptions – you can MacGuyver something together fairly easily. All you need is something that will keep the tails suspended above simmering water in a pan with a cover for the whole thing. If you have skewers and aluminum foil, you can figure out the rest.

Unlike steak, lobster needs a simple sauce to accentuate the subtle sweet and rich flavor of the meat. Melted butter works just fine, or go the extra step to make clarified butter, which tastes the same but is a little prettier.

PERFECT STEAMED LOBSTER TAILS
Ingredients:
Lobster tails, approx. 4 ounces each
Salt
Butter

Method:
If the lobster tails are frozen, make certain they are thawed by the time you are ready to cook. Using kitchen shears (or clean scissors), cut open the top of the shell until you reach the fan of the tail. Pull the shell apart enough to separate it somewhat from the meat (this will make it easier to eat when it is done). Salt the lobster meat.

Put about an inch of water in your steamer and bring to a boil. Place lobster tails in steamer, cover and steam for 8 minutes.

Serve with melted butter or clarified butter. To make clarified butter, slowly melt unsalted butter in a saucepan. As the butter simmers, the milk solids will begin to rise to the top as foam. Skim all the foam away, or pour the butter through a cheesecloth (if you have one handy). The result will be crystal clear and delicious.

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Brian Ries

Brian Ries is the editor of ticketsarasota.com.
Last modified: February 13, 2014
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