I needed to cook last night. Needed being the key word. After leaving the office, I rerouted my traditional commute to my local butcher store, Paisanos Meat Market on Smith Street in Brooklyn, intent on making braised short ribs. But after staring at the recipe on the New York Times Cooking app for the duration of the subway ride, I realized it wouldn’t just take the two and a half hours of braising to complete this dish, but rather close to four hours (it has been years since I made this dish, so forgive me). But I wanted to make something that was a slight challenge, but also wouldn’t take a short amount of time. I also needed to clean my apartment (need is a key theme of this evening) and wanted to have something cooking while I tidied up.
Arriving at the butcher, I didn’t pretend to know what I was doing as I likely would have in the past. I asked for help explaining my conundrum: a desire to braise without having the time. Instead, the butcher steered me toward a stunning rib-eye, a cut of steak I have yet to conquer. I purchased an inch thick cut (“a discount for you,” the butcher said though I didn’t confirm the price difference).
Walking to the liquor store, I had initially planned to make the steak with some sort of red wine sauce, picking up a reasonably priced Cote du Rhone before heading to a local grocery store for a few final ingredients. Ultimately, between the liquor store and the grocery store, I changed recipe direction opting to make a simple brown butter rib-eye with garlic and rosemary from Bon Appetit. I had purchased some small multi-colored potatoes the day prior and figured a smashed, crunchy preparation would be the ideal side dish to balance out the rich steak.
To accommodate my desire to have some time in between arriving home and cooking, the recipe called for salting the steak and letting it rest for an hour. Plus, I got boiling my potatoes (starting in cold water, of course) while I cleaned and put away my luggage from a recent trip to Sonoma.
Finally, an hour later, the steak was sweating, glistening as the salt worked its magic. I heated my cast iron skillet until it was hot, adding 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil staring at it like a crazy person waiting for it to smoke (you know what they say, a watched skillet never smokes?) Finally, when I saw the first hint of smoke, I sprang into action, adding the glistening to steak to the hot pan, flipping every two minutes (I had to confirm that the recipe really meant this, something that felt like a contradiction from past food lessons about not flipping a steak more than once, but alas, rules are different from this kind of gourmet cut).
After eight minutes (four flips), I added three tablespoons of butter, two smashed garlic cloves and two sprigs of rosemary, working for the first time to baste the steak in the browning, nutty butter. I worked for a minute and a half, transferring the gorgeous crusted rib-eye to a wooden cutting board to rest for five minutes.
At this point, my smashed potatoes (which had been boiled first, slightly cooled, smashed, and drizzled with olive oil, chopped rosemary and kosher salt) were removed from the oven. They had been in a 450° oven for 15 minutes on each side – and turned out beautifully crisp.
Finally, it was the moment of truth – slicing the ribeye with my fancy knife purchased at Kamaasa in Tokyo. I smiled a sigh of relief with the first three cuts, which revealed a close-to-perfect medium rare. Though, I’ll admit the cook was slightly uneven, I think in basting the steak, I allowed one side to cook slightly longer, but for a first timer, I did a pretty damn good job. And as a perfectionist at heart, I wasn’t feeling self-critical, I felt proud – like I did something great. And that next time, next time, it will be better. I will get better.
Topped with flaky sea salt and some of the remaining brown butter, the steak was luscious with my knife cutting through it like butter. The potatoes on the side were just as outstanding – complementing the steak well with the hint of rosemary brightening both elements.
Here’s the thing about cooking, and cooking especially for yourself on a weeknight – it’s a little act of joy. A present to yourself. The rib-eye cost $16; butter, garlic, and rosemary came in under $8 (since I was in need of restocking up on butter); I already had the potatoes at home which cost $5 – and I have left overs for the next day. It means each meal was around $15, if I’m including four sticks of butter in there (so really, it’s less). It’s a reminder that a splurge (meaning, a nice cut of meat) can be worth it. It’s far less that I would’ve ever paid in a restaurant. And it brought a sense of pride that I would never have gotten sitting solo at a restaurant bar reading my book.
So, next time that need to cook comes on, or you just feel in a bit of a funk, it’s a reminder that you can set your mind to something, and conquer a new cut of meat, and feel pretty damn proud.