On Friday I finally managed to see some real snow. It came down in big fluffy flakes for a short time, and didn’t stick, but that was good enough for me (for now). Then on Saturday, since the three local stations that play Christmas music (Y94, Sunny 102, and Mix 102.5) haven’t switched over yet, I went searching for a station that might have beaten them to the punch and found one: 95.3. Apparently this is a new station called Holly-FM and they began playing Christmas music in the beginning of October. I had no idea. Their mix is kind of weird, but that’s sometimes a good thing. The upshot is, I got snow and I got music.
Maybe this is what put me in the mood to make my favorite sandwich. This is a labor-intensive process but it was for dinner Saturday, so I figured I’d go for it. I already had bacon thawing. (I’m partial lately to BJ’s Wellsley Farms brand, the thick cut, since it’s not overly smoky and has great flavor.) So with one pan I cooked up bacon which I cut in half so it would cook more evenly, with another I sweated some baby bella mushrooms and then let them absorb flavor, and finally I got one of my steaks out of the bag I was marinating it in and fried it up in my Orgreenic pan with a little olive oil. (A note about the Orgreenic: It’s a great pan but it doesn’t keep its seasoning, so every time I use it I add some oil or butter or bacon grease. Cleans up like a champ, though, and it makes the perfect omelette.)
One problem with cooking the meat for this sandwich is that the cube steak, marinated in teriyaki, smokes up the kitchen something fierce. Our smoke alarm went off, which was a bad thing. I had one more steak marinating for the next day, though, since I had more than half the mushrooms left and plenty more of everything else. I remembered, however, that I had read awhile back about sous vide cooking, getting the air out of a plastic bag with the meat and placing it in a water bath at the desired temperature. Some ingenious folks have managed to do this with cheap beer coolers.
I have a cooler, so I thought that might be the way to go, but then I realized: I didn’t need a cooler at all, because my goal wasn’t long-term cooking. I poured a bit of hot water into a deep 1½ qt. casserole dish, then put some hot water in a little pan on the stove and started it boiling. I added the boiling water to the already hot water to get something around 130°, and immersed the bag with the cube steak in that. Because I didn’t use a cooler, I just kept adjusting the temperature by occasionally adding hotter water, dumping some out if need be.
With sous vide I guess the normal plan is to cook for a couple of hours, or maybe at least one hour anyway, but I only gave it about 15 minutes of this treatment. I figured, even if the steak didn’t cook all the way through, it’d be much closer to the final temperature when I fried it (you always still fry it, to give it some browning on the edges), and then it wouldn’t burn as much. The end result of my experiment was terrific: the steak’s internal temperature had only gotten up to about 95° (from refrigerated), but it took so much less time in the pan that I got minimal burning from the teriyaki marinade. The addition of bacon grease may have helped too, but I think the cooking time was always the biggest factor.
The next time I make this sandwich, which is likely to be over Christmas vacation again, I’m going to just throw the steak in with the marinade and pop it into the hot water right away, and give it about half an hour. This technique will also greatly expand my regular steak options over the winter, as being able to pan fry a steak for a shorter time is a big deal in my kitchen.
Today my wife and I also enjoyed two Christmas movies to kick off the season: Miracle on 34th Street, and A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott. Not a bad way to start things off!