Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cast Iron Chef: Tequila Steaks

Cast Iron Chef week continues. Friday I wrote about the beauty of cast iron grill grates. Today's weapon of choice is the iconic cast iron skillet.

The cast iron skillet is an amazing tool. It can be used stove top for the best fried chicken. It can be used in the oven for skillet cornbread. It can withstand high temperatures and it's ability to dole out even heat is unmatched. And as Steven Segal showed us in Out For Justice, they make a great personal defense weapon!

Although it is arguably the most durable piece of cookware, the cast iron skillet does require maintenance in the way of maintaining it's "seasoning". That is what gives it it's non-stick properties and keeps it from rusting. Here are some tips for cleaning and storing your skillet.
  • NEVER EVER EVER put it in a dishwasher or use soaps. That will wash off your seasoning.
  • Wash your cast iron with hot water and a stiff brush immediately after use (but not while still hot, sudden temp changes can crack it).
  • If you have a sticky spot that you can't get clean, put about 1" of water in the skillet and heat to boiling for 1 minute. Let it start to cool and then carefully scrub with a stiff brush. (While this will work, you'll probably have to reseason it after this.)
  • Towel dry your skillet as soon as you wash it and apply a light coat of vegetable oil with a paper towel.
  • If you have a cast iron skillet with a lid, store it with a towel inside between the lid and skillet. This will let air circulate and help avoid rust.
When I grilled steaks on the Big Green Egg lately, I get a lot of comments about wanting to grill but the weather isn't cooperating. If you are going to do steaks inside, a large cast iron skillet is your pan. Last night, I pan seared some NY strip steaks to use in paninis.

A friend brought me some tequila back from her honeymoon in Mexico. No story that contains the phrase "and then we started doing shots of tequila" ever ends up well, so I thought I'd use it for cooking instead.

It made for a cool light show as the afternoon sunlight splashed across the counter top.

Okay, enough playing around. Let's pan sear some steaks!

Tequila Steaks

2 ea NY strip steaks
1/4 cup tequila
3 ounces olive oil
3 ounces lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ea dried red chili pepper, crumbled (substitute 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes)
1 tablespoon garlic pepper (equal parts pepper and garlic powder)

Whisk marinade ingredients together, pour into a ziploc bag with the steaks and marinade them for 4 hours. For the last hour, remove the steaks from refrigeration to let the temp start to rise. Place the bag in warm water if you're in a hot tub kind of mood:)

Preheat a cast iron skillet in a 450f oven for about 15 minutes. You want that skillet smoking hot, literally. When it just starts to smoke a little bit, move the skillet to a burner over high heat.

TIP: It is very important to remember the skillet handle is very hot during this whole process. It's easy to absentmindedly touch the hot handle while searing the steaks. If you don't want to wear an oven mitt the whole time, turn a short oven mitt inside out and slide it over the handle.

Remove the steaks from the marinade and discard the marinade. Pat the steaks dry but try not to wipe off any seasonings stuck to them. A dry & warm steak will result in a better sear and won't be as likely to stick to the skillet.

Place the steaks in the skillet and don't touch them for 90 seconds (rare) to 2 minutes (medium rare). Flip them and let the other side cook for the same length of time.

Now stick the skillet back in the oven for 6 more minutes.

Remove to a plate and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve.

Sizzling away.

Mine came out perfectly done for my tastes.

Thinly sliced....panini here I come!
Overall, I liked it but next time I'd add some cilantro, more red chili, and more pepper.

What's your favorite dish prepared in a cast iron skillet?
Do you have a cast iron skillet that was handed down to you from someone?
Do you have a "and then we started drinking tequila" story? (feel free to plead the 5th on that one too!)