Monday, March 16, 2009

(B)raising the steaks

One of the things that I really love about the winter is the one pot meal, and the need/opportunity to perfect your technique of braising and making soups. The more I've watched Jacques Pepin on the More Fast Food (see earlier post) I'm ever amazed at the precision with which he controls temperature, and knows when to sear and when to use steam to cook whatever he's making, simply by adding a little water and covering the pan. Add some aromatics (celery, carrots, onions, garlic, leeks, etc.) and bones/meat, and you've got meat stock. Add that appropriately to the right type of meat, and you're braising. It's really that simple. The complexity gets into what you want to put in your braising liquid. It can be milk, beef stock, water, wine, Guiness, whatever. That's the beauty.
Which brings me to a funny dish we threw together the other night. I'll never forget going camping one time, and my friend and I decided that it would be a good idea to buy round steak to cook over the fire. Good thing we had strong teeth, it was barely more edible than a shoe. Of course, over an open fire is not the way to cook that meat, just like you couldn't take a pork shoulder and cook it at 425 until it reaches temperature, and expect it to be edible. In St. Louis, a labor day thing to eat is pork steaks. They're sliced thin, cross-wise with the shoulder bone still in. It's like Boston Butt, sliced thin. They're supposed to be marinated for like a month, and then cooked wide open on the grill. The other ways to cook meat like this is slow roast at 225 or 250 (Kamado or not), smoker, or braise, sous vide, etc.

Grill braised pork steaks

6 pork steaks (shoulder cuts) thinly sliced, room temperature
Your favorite chicken roasting blend (something with some garlic and citrus like orange peel)
Apple cider vinegar 1 cup
Water 1 cup
Aluminum pan that will fit the steaks and your grill

What I did

Fire up the grill, max it out.
Rub the steaks with a little olive oil, and season
Sear until they're photogenic

Drop your grill down to around 300 or so
Put the aluminum pan with a cup of apple cider vinegar and water (optional)
Put the steaks in the pan, cover the grill and let it go for an hour or so
Taste the braising liquid again, and make sure there's enough salt
Pull the steaks out when almost falling off the bone.


Cooking them in the liquid (regardless of the grill temperature as long as they're covered with liquid) cooks them at the boiling point of water 100C, which is the temperature that you would roast your BBQ. This is an effective method of converting any meat that's too tough to something tender and yummy. It's the same as "slow and low" on the Kamado, it just applies the heat in a different way. Try it, I bet you'll like it!

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