And here it is, the headliner for my Summer’s Treasures Festival this year! This one’s a true representative of the “Hear me roar!” category of dishes, one of my all-time favorite BBQ’y goodies, a serious crowd pleaser and a celebration, at least in my book, of all ingredients involved. Plus, the story of it’s first appearance on our table a couple of years back has a solid “Roar” to it as well~
I’m aware that I might be revealing the true depths of my geekness to you guys at this point, but here goes anyways… As some of you might already know, I’m a bit of an audiophile and one of the 1/3 of our Planets population that frequently has her hair standing on end when hit by a particular melody or beat. Most genres – some more, some less – can influence me in one form or another but classical music especially has the sometimes very unsettling ability to cover me in goosebumps, make me breathe in deeply with a relaxed smile or randomly waltz across the room. It can switch on a silly, happy or belligerent part of me or even get the waterworks going (take a dramatic melody and add a deep voice saying something like… let’s say “The last march of the Ents” and I’ll be bawling my eyes out in ½ a second flat). If you’re a fellow Tyrian, you might have already guessed at the impression some areas or events in Tyria and their signature background music might have on me. Of course I pounced on the full score as soon as it hit the stores and continued to do so every time a new expansion and its soundtrack were released. The Heart of Thorns Soundtrack was a particularly strong one in my book, with the Heart of Thorns Main Theme sailing at the head of the goosebump-armada. Now, like most of the people I know, I use my cell phone as an alarm clock, using some of the songs I saved to serve their purpose as wakeup-calls. One fine morning, my phone saw fit to pick a track of its own to wake me up with rather than use the one I had actually set, randomly pulling the Heart of Thorns Theme out of the list of songs in my library. For some reason, it took some time to drag me out if sleep that morning, so the second round of drums and fanfares past the 1:50~2:10 mark of the song were the first thing that started to get through to me. (Just in case you’re interested, you can have an earful of this masterpiece on ArenaNet’s corner on Soundcloud – here’s the direct link: GW2 Heart of Thorns Theme). Somewhat bewildered and still more asleep that awake, I sighed, made a grab for my staff and got ready to summon my minions and go slay a dragon… when reality hit and made me feel rather silly.
But, silly or not, the uplifting effect of the song lingered on throughout the day and, as it was coming to an end, I still felt more than ready to find myself a dragon to fight. In this day and age trying to find a dragon on this side of the screen in just the few hours remaining until the dinner bell is rung can be a bit of a difficult task, though. So that fine day, I rolled up my sleeves and hunted down the next best thing to a fresh Dragon Steak Tyria’s Chef’s Guild could suggest! Well, actually, right at that point in time, I remembered a vendor in the Plains of Ashford, Rancher Tolona Ironrustler, selling the perfect substitute: T-Bone Steaks! I then proceeded to hunt down two ginormic t-bones on this side of the screen, whip up my own version of Dragon’s Breath and one of my all-time favorite BBQ condiments to put out the resulting fires with, and there you have it! Hear me rooooar~! Dragon Dinner for 2!
Oh, just for the record, I didn’t pick a specific side for this one because, as a typical “the inner vampire strikes” kind of dish it doesn’t really need one and as a “Pitmaster’s best” BBQ kind of dish, there’s probably an assortment of the usual suspects nearby like a Garden Salad, Grilled Zucchinis, Baked Potatoes and/or Green Asparagus~ If I had to pick something to recommend… a simple salad with a couple of radishes and chives on top. Vinaigrette. Some zing to counter the brunt of the cherry-glazed meat~ Anyways, here goes:
The Smoky, Spicy Chilli & Coffee Rub and the Coffee-Rubbed T-Bone Steaks
2 T-Bone Steaks, about 400g/ea – make sure the fillet is still attached to the bone so there’s meat on both sides… I’ve noticed that butchers, supermarkets and especially online pantry services offering t-bones try to save you the effort of dealing with a piece of fillet by spiriting it away into an even more ritzy part of their display while still expecting you to pay the full price for the whole piece.
Garden Party/Smoker Alternative: 1 Tomahawk Steak of about 800g
Impulse Dinner Alternative: 2 Very large Rumpsteaks – acquiring a pair of T-Bones can, at least over here, take some time and digging (or the right people on speed dial) so this is what I go with if I’m not in the mood for a long and possibly expensive hunt.
1 Tbsp Dried Jalapeño or Poblano Chilli Flakes
1 Tbsp Chipotle Chilli Powder
1 Tsp Hot Chilli Flakes
Alt: 2 Tbsp Ancho Chilli Powder
1 Tbsp Pimenton Forte
1 Tbsp Salt
4 Tbsp Dark Muscovado
2 Tbsp Coffee Beans
1 Tsp Ground Ginger
1 Tsp Dried Thyme
2 Tsp Dried Oregano
2 Tsp Black Peppercorns
2 Tsp Coriander Seeds
2 Tsp Mustard Seeds
1 Cardamom Pod
2 Allspice Berries
1 Pinch of Coarse Sea Salt
Before you panic… (yes, you~!) it’s a long’ish list of ingredients, yes, but this first step only takes about 3 active mins to the finishing line!
1) Set a small pan onto medium heat and add the coriander and mustard seeds, cardamom pod, peppercorns, allspice berries and coffee beans.
2) As the seeds are heating up, releasing their essential oils in the process, place the powdered and ground spices and chillies in a small mixing bowl along with the salt and sugar.
3) Pop the dried herbs into a pestle & mortar and add the coarse sea salt.
4) As soon as the contents of your pan start giving off small popping noises to underline their aromas, transfer them into your pestle & mortar set and grind them up along with the herbs. Throwing those two together to begin with will help cool down the seeds quicker while reanimating the flavors of the dried herbs through the residual heat of the roasted goodies in one fell swoop, by the way. A true win-win situation in the flavor department right there~
5) Once you’re done, gently combine the contents of your mortar with the spices and chillies in your bowl with a fork – keep at it until everything is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
6) Set the bowl aside for a bit until the mixture has cooled off completely.
7) In the meantime, give your steaks a once-over, trim off any odd bits you might encounter and pat them down with paper towels.
8) Generously season them, bone and all, with a bit of salt all around, then generously apply 5 heaped Tsps of the spice rub to each of the steaks, then proceed to rubbing/massaging/reapplying the fallen bits of the coat to each steak.
9) You will most likely be looking at a bit of excess spice blend at this point – you could either turn it into a quick BBQ sauce with some sherry vinegar and honey oooor – my pick – lock it up in an airtight container and save the extra rub for the next impulse steak that will undoubtedly come in the foreseeable future~
10) Gently place the freshly coated steaks on a wire rack and set that one onto a tray lined with a sheet of baking parchment to catch the bits that might crumple off.
11) Pop this MacGyver’y air drying contraption in your fridge and chill the steaks, uncovered, for 3–6 hours.
12) Time to prep the Glaze below and everything else you might need to snuggle up to the steaks on your plate once dinnertime comes~! I, on the other hand, will jump forwards in time at this point, and tell you how to finish off these lovelies once they had their R&R.
13) Assuming you had them in the fridge for 6 hours, retrieve the rack holding your steaks, place them in a safe spot of your kitchen and allow them to sit there for about 1 hour to come up to room temperature, which will help them cook quickly and more evenly.
Now, as you guys know, I usually don’t have the luxury of an oven to take some of the pan-flip-lid-lift-pan-flip-lid-and-so-on dance I always go through with large and precious pieces of meat like this one. Frankly, writing down what I do in those 5 mins would probably take up 2 pages and still wouldn’t be accurate or 100% applicable to your steak routine so I’ll sum my personal procedure up with: I know how a steak feels when it’s perfectly medium for hubby and medium-rare for me. I flip the meat every 15-20 seconds and – if its a thick one like a t-bone – pop the lid on in between. Rinse and repeat, as long as it takes… steaks out on a warm plate, bit of butter to loosen up the spices in the pan, top off the steaks with it, tinfoil, rest, sharpen knives, eeeeeeat!
14) To give those of you who might be dealing with a t-bone for the first time a better and safer way to deliciously crusty juicyness, I tried and tested two other methods – both work fantastically well, although I personally prefer the dot the coals put on that particular I.
Option 1: Griddle and Oven
a) Preheat your oven to 200°C.
b) Heat up a large griddle or skillet set onto medium-high heat.
c) Once it’s at its maximum heat, rub the base with a bit of a heat resistant and neutral seed (rapeseed or sunflower for example) or vegetable oil.
d) Dust the freshly oiled surface with a bit of coarse sea salt.
e) Place the steaks inside, laying them down away from you to avoid any unfortunate accidents involving bare skin and hot oil.
f) Sizzle the steaks for about 2-3 mins per side, flipping them every 15-30 seconds, until a nice, golden-brown crust has formed around the meat.
g) If the griddle/skillet you’ve been using is made to take the heat of an oven, transfer the whole enchilada into the preheated oven – if not, gently transfer the steaks onto a lined tray and slide it onto the middle rack of the oven.
h) Allow the oven to finish the process for roundabout 5-7 mins or until…
• a meat thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the fillet-segment flashes 50°/55°C for medium-rare or medium at you or…
• the usual pressure-test tells you it’s time~!
i) Relocate the steaks once more – this time onto a warmed plate or a cutting board, cover them up with a sheet of aluminum foil and allow them to relax and rest for 10 mins.
Option 2: BBQ/Smoker (Lid required)
Assuming you’re dealing with 2 T-bones…
a) If you have one of those nifty cast-iron inlays for your bbq, go down the griddle path for a few flips to get a bit of a crust on to begin with.
b) Have them kissed by the coals on the hot area of the BBQ for 2 mins on each side, then move them over to the indirect heat area and close the lid for 5-6 mins.
c) Don’t forget to go through the usual R&R phase, even through the aromas coming off the BBQ might be close to irresistible!
Assuming you’ve hauled around a ~800g-1kg Tomahawk…
a) Gently turn it over from side to side in the hot area of the BBQ for 4 mins.
b) Shuffle it to the indirect heat area, roll it onto the bone and close the lid for 10 mins.
c) Optional Spike: Regularly flip and brush it with cherry liqueur!
d) Again, don’t forget to give the steak a 10 min rest before chowing down~!
The Black Cherry-Malt Beer Glaze… Marinade… Sauce… Chutney… Whatchamacallit
I know that headline is a bit of a headscratcher, but there’s a simple reason for my inability to decide on a specific nametag: This delicious… substance! can be used as any of them. Brush the steaks with it while you fry them up and the brown sugar will make sure it hugs the cherries tightly to the meat as any other glaze would. “Forget” to apply the spice rub and submerge the steaks in it for about 12+ hours and you’ll be looking at the most mouthwatering marinade-turned-sauce once the two of them come out of the pan. Simmer it a bit longer than necessary and there it is, your spicy malt and cherry chutney. See, I’m not that much of a scatterbrain after all~! My personal pick, and the one you can see in these pictures, is the chutney version because… that rub and that sauce on piece of meat like that… a match made in heaven~
1 Poblano or any other mild yet aromatic Red Chilli of your choice, very finely chopped
1 Habanero Chilli or 2 Bird’s eye Chillies, deseeded and very finely chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic, very finely chopped
30g Fresh Ginger, freshly grated
200ml Malt Beer – this also works wonderfully well with Guinness, but that one brings it’s own signature and not at all shy aroma along with it, so make sure the cherries are ripe/intense enough to stand up to the Guinness if you want to go down that road.
3 Tbsp Maple Syrup
200g Fresh Black Cherries, stemmed, halved and pitted
100g Fresh or Frozen Sour Cherries, halved and pitted
75ml Cherry Juice
Alt: 50ml Juice and 25ml Ginja or any other very-cherry liqueur – not spirit! It’s to boost the cherry, not the bite
1 Tbsp Dark Muscovado – add 1 more for the chutney version
1 Tbsp Peppercorns, lightly crushed
1 Tbsp Coriander Seeds, lightly crushed
1 Tsp Szechuan Peppercorns, lightly crushed
1 Tsp Mustard Seeds, lightly crushed
1 Tsp Salt
Cheaty Opt: 2 Tsp Cornstarch and 1 Tbsp Water to thicken up the lot if necessary. Sour cherries can bring a surprising amount of juice to the table.
1) Place the seeds and peppercorns in a wide pan sitting on medium heat and, while jiggling the pan from time to time, toast them until they start to give off their distinct aromas – if you start sneezing for no apparent reason, the szechuan pepper is telling you it’s had enough.
2) Add 100g of the fresh cherries to the pan and sprinkle the lot with the muscovado sugar.
3) Once the sugar has melted into small puddles around the cherries, deglaze the contents of your pan with the cherry juice or hooch/juice combo.
4) Allow the mixture to bubble away for about 15 mins.
5) Take the pan off the heat for the time being and fold in the (frozen) sour cherries.
6) Transfer the lot into a stick-blender-friendly container and have at it with the tool in question until the chunky mixture turns into a very smooth purée.
7) Pour the purée into a small, heavy-based pot, set it back onto medium heat and add the chillies, garlic, ginger, beer, maple syrup and salt.
8) Give it a good stir and allow the mixture to work up a nice bubble.
9) Turn the heat down to low and allow the lot to simmer away until its volume has reduced to roundabout 250ml and the liquid mixture has turned into a fragrant, thick and spoon-coating sauce.
9) If it seems to be loosing volume but doesn’t show any signs of actually thickening up… remember the cornstarch cheat~
10) Once you’re there, fold in the remaining 100g black cherries, give everything a good stir and a taste test – adjust the seasoning if really necessary.
And that’s basically it~!
11) If you made the chutney way in advance or just in case, fill it into sterilized jars and seal the lids while it’s still hot.
12) If you’re using it as marinade, allow it to cool off completely before dumping it on any type of meat (this goes insanely well with duck, too by the way~)
13) If you’re using it as a BBQ glaze, place it in a wide bowl and keep a brush or BBQ mop nearby.
14) Aaand if you’re using it to dot your currently sizzling steaks as originally intended, keep it close by, spoon it onto your steaks once they’re rested, put a cherry on top and…
P.S.: That should give you enough energy to have another go at the dragon thing~