Update January 22, 2021: I wrote this post before the release of Samin Nosrat’s book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking. I have updated the post with some quotes from her book, which I highly recommend reading.
Though salt also affects texture and helps modify other flavors, nearly every decision you’ll make about salt will involve enhancing and deepening flavor.(Nosrat, 2017)
This is my favorite steak recipe. We’re taling about comfort steak…bloody rare and salty, washed down with a decent red wine, something complex like a cabernet sauvignon or a spicy shiraz. You don’t want anything sweet here like a merlot and you don’t need anything expensive…don’t spend more than $10.
Start with a well-marbeled rib eye with a good chunk of fat down one side.
Salt it heavily on both sides with coarse sea salt and let it sit for at least a half an hour so it comes to room temp and the salt tenderizes the meat. You can leave it out longer for much better results — an hour and a half will do nicely and two hours even better! Pre-salting accomplishes more than just tenderizing the meat, it also allows the salt to slowly diffuse into the meat, seasoning the meat from within.
A small amount of salt applied in advance will make a much bigger difference than a larger amount applied just before serving. In other words, time, not amount, is the crucial variable.(Nosrat, 2017)
Once you’re ready to cook the steak, heat up an iron skillet as hot as your given oil will take (I like to use old bacon grease I’ve kept in a jar in the freezer). Get it smokin’-hot, literally.
While the skillet is heating, wash off the salt, pat dry the steak with a paper towel and then give it a good dusting of salt and pepper (optional: add some thyme as well). After you’ve seasoned it, using a pair of tongs place the fatty edge of the steak on the skillet while holding the steak straight up. This melts some of that good fat into the skillet. We’ll need that succulent, tasty fat for the bonus round.
So either start or finish the cooking process by laying a chop or steak on its side in the pan or on the grill, allowing the fat to render. You won’t regret taking the time to turn that strip of fat into something golden, crisp, and delicious.(Nosrat, 2017)
Sear one side of the steak for two or three minutes, enough to get some good char but not much more. We’re not making your grandmother’s Salsbury steak here.
Bonus round; add chopped garlic to the hot oil after you’ve flipped the steak once. Hold the skillet at an angle over the heat so the oil pools and you can spoon the chunks of garlic and the hot, garlic-infused, rendered fat over the steak repeatedly as the second side sears. Don’t be afraid to let the garlic brown a little in the process—part of the browning process is sugar caramelizing.
A little animal fat will go a long way toward enriching and flavoring even the simplest foods.(Nosrat, 2017)
Asparagus is the only acceptable side-dish. Anything else takes too long. Cook your asparagus in the garlicky-oily-dregs left from the steak while you let the steak rest for about five minutes. Don’t over-cook the asparagus. You want it crunchy.
Gentleman, commit this recipe to memory, along with that kick-ass salsa you make and the perfect hang-over omelette. If you can make only those three items, you’re well on your way.