Here’s the executive summary:

  1. Start with thick (1.5”–2” if possible), high-quality steaks and trim off the excess fat.
  2. Marinate the steaks for a few hours in a mixture of red wine, soy sauce, and olive oil.
  3. Put a cast iron pan on a gas grill, crank all the burners up to full power, and allow to heat up for 10–15 minutes.
  4. Heat an oven to its minimum temperature (~175 F).
  5. Remove the steaks from the marinade and blot dry.
  6. Pour a liberal amount of brandy into the leftover marinade.
  7. Place the steaks on the pan to cook and (very important) flip them every minute!
  8. After six minutes of cooking, turn off the burners and place the steaks in the oven for about 15 minutes.
  9. Deglaze the pan with the leftover marinade and loosen the fond.
  10. Ignite the brandy vapors to flambe the sauce, then allow it to reduce by half.
  11. Strain the sauce through cheesecloth or a very fine mesh strainer.
  12. Add some tapioca or a butter/corn starch mixture to the sauce and blend to thicken it.
  13. Serve the steaks and sauce along with the rest of the meal.

Comments:

The goal here is to get a delicious caramelized coating on the outside of the steak without heating the interior past rare- or medium-rare temperatures. This requires cooking the steak very quickly and then allowing it to rest for a few minutes. Resting allows the steak to finish cooking and the juices to redistribute themselves. It helps if the steaks start at room temperature.

Dry-aged steaks are worth the $3–4/lb. premium over regular ones. If the butcher doesn’t sell dry-aged ones, you’re probably in the wrong place to get a good steak.

Only cook the steak inside if you have a powerful cooktop and a serious fume hood to vent the resulting smoke. Most electric stoves do not have the power to keep the pan sufficiently hot during the cooking process, although you’re certainly fine with a high-end gas one; I’ve made my best steaks on La Cornue and Wolf cooktops. The pan should be smoking hot before you place the steaks on it. Using an outdoor gas grill takes care of both venting and heat problems.

Only tender, well marbleized cuts of beef (choice or prime) should be cooked in the manner describe in this article. Tougher cuts, although often very flavorful, need longer cooking times to tenderize. Recommend cuts include New York strip, rib eye, tenderloin, and entrecote (a cut from between the ninth and eleventh ribs; popular in France). Trimming the excess fat, particularly large clumps in the center, may hurt the integrity of the steak. If this happens, tie a loop of butcher’s twine around the steak.

Flipping the steak every minute helps to distribute the heat evenly through the steak. If you only flip the steak halfway through the cooking process, you set up a strong temperature gradient that seems to make a mess of things.

If using corn starch to thicken the sauce, microwave equal parts corn starch and butter until the butter melts and mix them together. The butter prevents the corn starch from clumping. Add this liquid mixture to the sauce to thicken it. Better yet, make roux beforehand. For whatever reason, tapioca starch does not clump, so you can dump it right in. In both cases, the starch takes several minutes to do its work, so don’t get carried away and add too much.

The red wine helps tenderize the meat and imparts some additional flavor. The salt from the soy sauce increases the moisture content of the meat (similar to brining) and enhances the flavor. The olive oil also adds flavor and moisture. Finally, the sugar from the molasses enhances the delicious brown crust that forms on the surface of the steak. Start off with equal parts red wine, soy sauce, and olive oil and add a spoonful or two of molasses. Marinading in a tupperware container just larger than the steaks will minimize the amount of marinade needed.

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