Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Steak sandwich making: Tim Blair gets a fail.

Chronic sarcastist Tim Blair's article in Monday's Daily Telegraph was titled The Greatest Steak Sandwich Ever Built. OK, the sub-editor writes the headlines, but it is still misleading, in the sense that someone might try his recipe and find it wanting.

Tim discovers:
... the missing ingredient was brute force.
But what steak to use?
I've always been confounded by steak selection. Choose a substantial quality cut and it'll be too unwieldy for sandwich use. Pick something cheaper, thinner and meaner and you’ll endure a terrible chewing challenge. The trick is to find a small, thick cut and then bash it thin.
I presume he means fillet. But this no way to treat it:
... commence whaling upon it with your steak mallet. I use a half-kilo bruiser liberated from my in-laws' old restaurant. There is no meat it cannot beat.
Wrong, Tim. A steak mallet is designed to break down the fibres of cheaper cuts of steak. It will turn fillet into steak tartare, or roadkill that has gone under a Kenworth cab-over. So your in-laws passed off chuck steak as porterhouse?
Prior to this, get two bacon slices going on a non-stick pan. D'Orsogna's rindless streaky bacon is ideal. Then, as the bacon is crisping up, drop an egg on there. Pierce the yolk and try to keep everything sandwich-sized.
Don't worry about keeping everything sandwich-sized. Cutting it to fit is easier.
By now, after all that pounding, your steak should have increased in circumference from 25cm or so to about 65cm. It will also be flatter than electric car sales. Don't worry if it appears too large. Contraction during grilling will draw it down to bread slice dimensions.
And it will be beef jerky. Now, the pan:
No non-stick pan can achieve the heat required for serious steak work. I use a cast iron skillet that is old enough to vote ... Get the skillet smoking hot and throw on your steak. It'll cook in no time.
This is good advice.
Meanwhile, toast the bread slices. Wholegrain has greater torsional rigidity than white, and toasting further increases the sandwich’s eventual structural integrity.
Wholemeal is steak sandwich heresy, Tim. Coles $2 house brand white is perfect. It holds the sandwich but doesn't get in the way. Now for the salad:
On one toasted and buttered slice, place whatever salad components you desire. A basic lettuce/tomato/green pepper combination is all most people need, but maybe you're a bit SBS when it comes to these things. Shallots and watercress it is, then.
Don't know where he gets the watercress from. That's just ridiculous. You wouldn't even taste it and as far as I can guess, cress has no crunch. (Shallots are spring onions in Melbourne.) Now we learn the dreadful truth about Tim Blair and beetroot:
Now, I'm pro-beetroot in almost every circumstance, but it has no place here. Liquid is the enemy of the steak sandwich, and beetroot, for all its fine properties, is essentially crimson water. Besides, you're already pushing it with all that salad nonsense.
Tim the traitor. After boosting beetroot for years, Tim Blair drops the ball when it really counts. Have you heard of paper towels, Tim? Lay the beetroot on paper towels until they suck up all that 'crimson water'.
Top with bacon, egg, maybe some onion ...
Maybe some onion? A steak sandwich without lots of onion - fried or sliced rings - or even better, both is like Punch without Judy.
You will know if all is well when you cut it. Too much resistance indicates a catastrophic grilling failure. ... But if the blade glides through as it should, prepare for the optimal steak sandwich experience. Enjoy.
I knew he was going to forget the pineapple. The acid sweetness of pineapple is the flavour alchemy that turns an ordinary steak sandwich into the comfort food of the gods.


Dr. Alice said...

Having lived in Philadelphia for nine years, I read this with the idea of the Philly steak sandwich in the back of my mind. Beetroot? Pineapple?! NO!

A Philadelphia steak sandwich is served on an Italian roll. It consists of shaved steak sizzled on a grill, with or without onions (they are fried separately), mushrooms, cheese (provolone, American or Cheez Whiz [I hate this stuff]) and/or pizza sauce. I like mine with provolone, mushrooms and onions. They are best eaten at two in the morning in freezing cold weather, but any time will do.

paul kennedy said...

Yes: the beetroot would fight with the other ingredients. The Australian version balances sweet, sour, salt and whatever the fourth one is (I can't remember) like Thai food, so everything cancels everything else out.

The unwritten, unspoken true joy of the Australian hamburger eater is the savoury sauce-like fluid that is left in the bottom of the wax-paper bag. This fluid distils flavour heaven; and once again, like your Philly version, if imbibed at 2 a.m. you can see God. And he is wearing a chef's hat.