I'm a grillin' kinda guy. I love cooking with fire whenever possible. My grill set up is pretty simple, being just a Weber Kettle grill that burns charcoal. To me, its hard to beat a simply seasoned, grilled T-Bone or Porterhouse steak cooked over charcoal on a nice Spring or Summer Day.
Some days, though, you want to get your Beef On and the weather won't cooperate. That was the case this past Saturday, when Texas welcomed the First Day of Spring with cold, rain, and eventually snow. I thought this was a good opportunity to toss up a post on another of my favorite ways to prepare beef when you're trapped inside by the weather - Baked Steak.
You can really use any cut of beef for this. I normally use sirloin because its inexpensive. The main criteria is that it be thick cut - meaning around an inch or so. I don't think I would make this with any cut of beef under 3/4 inch thick. Here's the piece I used this time around:
That's a sirloin about 1 inch thick that was in the "reduced for quick sale" bin at the grocery store. I'll snag stuff like that when I see it, and then freeze it for later use. Trim off any fat around the edges, and then cut the meat into serving sized pieces. Salt/Pepper the meat and toss on any other seasonings you like.
Next, dredge the meat in flour and knock off any excess flour by patting it with your hands. Put the meat on a cutting board and hit it with a tenderizing hammer all over one face, pounding the flour into the meat. Flip the pieces over and tenderize the other side as well. I'm wanting to get one of those bladed style tenderizers, but for now I use the old fashioned spiked hammer version. That's the main reason you want a thick cut of beef for this dish. If you start out thin, after you pound it with a hammer it will be wafer thin - which you don't want.
Put enough oil in dutch oven to cover the bottom and heat to medium heat. Then brown the meat on both sides. Remove the meat from the pan and add a couple of chopped onions.
Saute the onions in the oil until they start to soften up and turn translucent. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside. For the next step you'll want about 4 tablespoons of oil in the dutch oven, give or take. If you don't have enough, add some. If you have too much, drain some off.
To the hot oil, add 4 tablespoons of flour. Whisk the flour into the oil to break up any clumps. As you are whisking and cooking the "roux", it will start to darken. I like mine to be a nice buckskin color - though you can cook it more if you wish.
When the roux is the color that you like, add some beef stock and some half & half (or milk, or cream). I say "some" because I usually don't measure it. You want roughly equal parts, and you want enough liquid in the pan so that the resulting "gravy" will just cover the meat when you put it back in the pan in a few minutes. Remember that the level of liquid will go up when you add the meat, due to displacement.... but this ain't rocket science. Just eyeball it and you'll be fine. Start with maybe a cup of both broth and half & half... and adjust from there.
Whisk the liquids together with the roux until it reaches the boiling point. The liquids will start to thicken a bit at this point, and you can turn off the burner and add the meat back to the dutch oven. Top the meat with the onions that you sauteed before, and put the lid on the dutch.
Bake the dish at 350 for 2 hours. The temp is pretty forgiving, if you have room in your oven and want to cook other stuff at the same time. I cranked up the oven temp to 400 degrees when I was half way through, then put in a loaf of Irish Wheaten bread to bake. After half an hour, I turned the temp down to 375 for the last 30 minutes and both items turned out fine.
Here's what the beef looks like in the dutch oven after 2 hours.
The liquid reduces and the meat is tender enough to cut with a fork.
The stuff to the right in this pic is just stovetop Kraft Shells and Cheese that I doctored up with extra cheese, some sour cream, and a buttered bread crumb topping. It got baked in the oven with the other stuff for the last 2o minutes or so, right at the end so that it would brown a bit and crisp up around the edges.
Sometimes you just need your comfort food kicked up a notch when Winter digs its heels and and refuses to give up easily...