If you’re a foodie like me and my wife, food isn’t just a source of sustenance, it’s a celebration of the complexity of flavors, textures, and pairings. Unfortunately, dining out can be quite expensive, and when we do patronize a restaurant, it’s usually a place that specialized in dishes that are just too much work, or too unique for our home kitchen; Asian foods are an excellent example. I love Chinese, Thai, and Sushi, but I just cannot prepare them.
Never-the-less, for the dishes that I can make, I know there are tricks to either save money, or recreate a restaurant-like experience. Here are a few tips I picked up recently from Jeff, our neighborhood Fry’s butcher.
Steak: Personally I love a well-marbled rib eye. My wife likes strip steak. Both are good, but both cost around $9/ pound (obviously less if on sale). Jeff suggested that I try a flatiron steak. It runs about half the price, and it grills wonderfully – just like a rib eye or stip. Marinating is optional, not required. At a minimum, rub the steak first with some balsamic vinegar, they olive oil, salt and paper. Let it rest while you prep the grill. Bring it to high temp, around 400-500. Cook the steak 5 minutes on each side. Cook to an internal temp of 140 (for medium), then pull the steak and let it rest for 10 minutes – do not cut the steak during the rest period. Then slice and serve. Very good.
Burgers: I am rather passionate about my burgers. I shudder at the number of times I’ve been forced to reach for the condiments because the burger I’ve been presented is devoid of flavor. I am a firm believer in adding spices to the ground beef, salt and pepper at the very least. Yet when I make my own meaty masterpiece, they tend to crumble on the grate despite my addition of binders such as egg or bread crumbs. Again, it is Jeff to the rescue. First he explained that it was the lack of fat in the beef that was causing the disintegration issue. Long have I known that fat carried flavor, ensured moisture and tenderness, but I’d not realized that it also acted as a binder. Jeff’s first suggestion was to use ground beef with a minimum of 15% fat, but then he made an even better suggestion. Pointing to a near-by refrigerated case, he suggested buying a chuck roast (which was on sale) and having them fresh grind it. Well, let me tell you. It was the best darn burger I’ve ever had. It actually tasted like beef, it held together and it cost less than the pre-ground hamburger in the display case. Thanks again, Jeff!
Pork chops: Buy a pork loin when it’s on sale and slice it into chops. Better cut, better price.
Pork tender loin: Don’t buy the pre-marinated ones. Get the unflavored variety and marinate for about an hour if you think it needs it. Then grill on high for 5 minutes per side with 15 minutes on the last side. Pull, allow to rest and enjoy. Awesome.
One more thing. If you’ve never brined you meat before, definitely read up on this. For poultry and pork it makes all the difference.