I will not comply

I can’t live by your rules, man!

I have this contrary streak in me.  I absolutely cannot stand it when people think they know what’s best for me.  I’m not talking about highly trained, highly paid experts in their fields like lawyers, doctors, and plumbers.

I’m talking about the Mr. You Shoulds, and Mrs. You Oughtas.  The kind of folks that are ecstatic to tell you what you’re doing wrong in your life, and how to fix yourself.  Like the old lady who’s never had kids, but knows exactly how to raise them.  Or the guy, who because of his particular belief system, knows every answer to every question, and feels duty-bound to share his very special wisdom.I have such an aversion to those people and their rules, that I’m the girl that would rather have a spectacular failure than let somebody tell me what to do.

In the kitchen there are multitudes of experts, each with box cars full of do and don’ts.   But when cooking, as in the rest of my life, I gotta make my own mistakes, and learn from them.

What follows are a few rules folks have decided are mandatory iron-clad laws that should never, on pain of death be ignored.  And why I think they are so much horse hockey.

Never salt your steak before cooking.Nope, and here’s why.  Unless you’re purchasing and cooking restaurant quality aged meat, the best thing that can happen to your steak is some salt and a little rest in the fridge for a couple days.

A good portion of the weight in a piece of beef is water.  When you salt it, loosely wrap it in some paper towels, and let it rest in the refrigerator for a few days, you are doing a homemade dry age.  The salt draws out the water, which concentrates the flavor, and makes that Kroger New York strip taste closer to something you might get at Angus Barn.

Never make a recipe for the first time for guests.

No pressure there…


Wrong.  If this is a recipe you have the skill to tackle, do it.  Unless you’ve invited the queen or Coach K, there’s no need to be perfect.  The people who sit at your table are friends and family who want you to succeed.  Be careful, and don’t go too far off the reservation recipe-wise, but go for it.  At best you’ll have a new recipe with lots of feedback, and at worst, you’ll have a funny story they’ll tell at your wake.

The next one pinches a little.  I recently had one of the very few arguments I’ve ever had with my best friend of 37 years, Bo, over this very thing.  Neither of us changed our minds.


My nutty friend, Bo.

Conventional wisdom is to never, ever wash fresh mushrooms.  Again, I say nay.

If I’m prepping for a salad that I’m eating right away, then I brush the dreck off the ‘shrooms.  If they have time to sit in a colander and dry off, I don’t.  If I’m cooking them, I always wash them.

Mushrooms are 90% water.  There is a negligible ability to absorb more.  The few drops left on them from a brief shower will make no appreciable difference to taste or texture.  And for the optimal flavor of cooked mushrooms, you should cook out all the water anyway.

So I guess the moral to this tale is learn, listen to advice, but make up your own mind as to the worth of that advice.

You do you.

Honey, you get that freak flag down from the attic, and you let it fly!


Thanks for your time.

Flipping a steak…on its ear

Denver steak is one nifty piece of beef.



Even though cows have been domesticated for 5000 years, the cut called Denver steak was only ‘discovered’ in 1990 by meat science professors at the Universities of Nebraska and Florida.

It’s the fourth most tender bovine muscle; just behind filet mignon, the flatiron, and the ribeye cap.  Because it’s a newer cut of steak, it can be hard to find.  Ask your own butcher or try First Hand Food’s Denver steak; they’re a North Carolina supplier of pasture-raised meats (check their website for where to find them).

But as much as I like Denver steak, it’s really the preparation method that’s the star of this piece.  It takes the normal, accepted way of home-cooking a steak, and turns it inside-out.

Reverse Steak


Served here with sauteed spinach and potato salad.

First dry-age your steak (heavily salt, loosely wrap in paper towel and let rest in fridge for three days).  This will intensify the flavor and get seasoning througout the meat.

When ready to cook, place the meat on a cooling rack on a foil covered cookie sheet.  Insert a probe thermometer (or use an instant-read during the cooking process) set to 120 degrees, and place in a 275 degree oven.

When the steak reaches temp (about 30-45 minutes, depending on thickness) remove from oven, and let it rest while you get a cast iron, or other heavy bottomed pan, screaming hot. 

When the surface is almost molten, sprinkle freshly cracked pepper on each side of steaks.  Drop in some butter, then place in steaks.  Cook until a golden crust is formed, then flip and cook other side.  Let rest for 5 minutes or so, then serve. You’re looking for a final temp of around 125 degrees for medium-rare.

This reverse technique cooks the steak uniformly throughout, with no overly cooked gray ring around the outer edge.  The only caveat is the meat should be at least an inch thick, and the thicker the better.

But beware: you’ll think that you’ve messed up when you take it from the oven.  It comes out looking like a flaccid piece of beef jerky.  It will be ox-blood in color and tired in appearance.  But that’s ok, I promise.


Sad, isn’t it?  But there’s a happy ending.

Cooking this way cuts down on the smoke and grease-flying of stove-top cooking.  It’s also a more leisurely process, making the preparation of sides a measurably less nerve-racking experience.

Steak night is a big night.  So do it right.  You want to make it memorable because it was so delicious, not because you ruined dinner and ended up dining on Big Macs and Mylanta.

Thanks for your time.