Friday, April 28, 2006

Grilling Steaks & The USBC

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Beef Rib Steak on a Charcoal Grill by Jay.

Those of you who have been reading my posts lately on this blog and that "Bulletin Board Which Desires Not To Be Named" probably have the idea that I'm ranting and raving, going on and on about how screwed up the USBC Committee is over this latest scandal.

So I thought I would share a little bit of my personal life.

As the world of the United States Barista Championship began to shake and competitors and industry friends began to make their thoughts known about all this hoopla, I stayed true to my goals: I went home and had a steak.

First of all, I stopped off at the local Super Fresh for a nice cut of rib eye. Upon reaching the butcher and not seeing any rib eyes, he tells me (in his slightly strange but friendly, if not a bit autistic way) that he doesn't have any rib eyes. Gee, thanks. But they do have this Beef Rib Steak with the inch-and-a-half cut for $19.99/lb. So what is this "beef rib steak"?, I ask him, "And how is it different than a rib eye steak?"

He doesn't know and begins to tell me a long story about how people don't like steaks because they cook it too long. Dude, I'm not asking about cooking it - I want to know what's the difference? Is it more marbled? Is it better? How? Well, this guy doesn't know and replies that he's never tried either this steak or a rib eye to know the difference. I was just so flabbergasted that I really didn't know how to respond, so I just took the darn thing and got out of there.

$21.08 of pure beef pleasure.

The cut itself was pretty nice. Good marbling and looking slightly air dried (aged). It felt a bit resilient so I hoped it wasn't tough. Went home and pulled out my baby: a steel New Braunfels charcoal grill with smoking box that I picked up several years ago at Home Depot for $115. Hands down, this is the best grill I've ever owned - much cheaper than any gas grill and the charcoal makes it taste so good.

Ooops, I should re-phrase that. Perhaps it's not the best grill I've owned, but it's definitely the best charcoal grill I've owned. Just for the record, I also have a 48" MagicCater propane grill at the OnoGrill that I absolutely love. But that's a whole 'nother story.

Back to the steak...

I use Royal Oak natural wood charcoal because I love the flavor and because it's pretty cheap at Restaurant Depot when you buy it these huge bags. Burns beautifully and has a great aroma. I lit that sucker up and let the coals burn down while I ran into the house and powered up the rice cooker.

Okay, perhaps this is an "Asian Thing" but I love steamed white rice. It's an absolute essential for daily living. A day without rice for me is a day without sunshine. It's the perfect accompaniment. Slightly sweet and almost neutral. I liken the entree to a picture and the rice to a frame. The picture is nice, but it's nothing without the rice to frame it.

When it comes to seasoning, I cheat. Since it came out, I've been a big fan of McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning. Yes, I know it's a cop-out. Yes, my chef friends hate me for it, but I don't care. I like my steaks thick and crusted with this stuff. I buy it in big containers at Restaurant Depot for five bucks.

Grilling is one of two ways that I prefer to cook steaks. The other is to pan sear the steak in butter then finish in a blazing oven. It's delish. But last night it was all about the grill and I wanted that sucker to get hot.

That's the key, the bitch has got to be hot. Blazing hot. Five hundred degrees is okay by me. Once the grill is hot and the grates have turned an ashy white, it's good to go. Drop that steak on the grill and let it work. I leave it there until it crusts, then I sear it on the other side. Usually takes about five minutes each side for a 1.5 inch thick steak.

Once the sides are seared have sealed in the juices, it's time to cook the fat in the meat by taking off the heat and placing the steak to the side and closing the top so that it finishes in the oven-like heat. I leave it for about ten to fifteen minutes, but no more than twenty.

Meanwhile, I've got a saute pan with canned corn (nothing fresh yet available) simmering in half a stick of butter, a little salt and freshly ground pepper. Time it just right to coincide with the rice and the steak and God will be on my side. And when it starts to emit that roasted corn and butter aroma...heaven.

After fifteen minutes that steak is done, but it's not finished. I'll drop it on a plate and let it rest for at least five minutes to let the cooking slow down and for it just to develop a bit more. This will give me time to scoop some rice, spoon out some corn, fill a glass with ice and bust out a Coke. Grab a fork, spoon and knife and it's time to grind.

And let me tell you, while the world of the USBC was crumbling across the nation, I sat in my kitchen enjoying an exquisite steak, carmelized on the outside and a perfect medium pink on the inside. Holy Mother of God.

Then after, I enjoyed an AVO LE 05 cigar...

I Could Be Hines

Most of the Third Wave Cognoscenti (gosh, I can't help but laugh when using that!) know about Hines Public Market Coffee and their old shop in Seattle's Eastlake neighborhood. It was a cool little shop who's most notable feature was the lack of a cash register. Just a plain old cigar box for the bills and some ceramic cups for the change. Very bohemian.

Tuesday night, I'm sitting in my office smoking a big cigar and doing miscellaneous administrative work (you know, the kind of admin work that corporate CEOs do: surfing the 'Net and IM-ing hot chicks), when the power goes out for a couple seconds. No big deal, the UPS units kicked in and both the computers and network kept on running.

The next morning I come in and find that the power surge has fried the memory of our most excellent Costco purchased, Royal 9155c electronic cash register. Everything has been wiped out by this surge, including the 800+ PLUs programmed into the thing. Crap.

So, I spent two days completely reprogramming the register. It sucked. But it also allowed us to run without a cash register for two days. Two days that I found strangely invigorating, refreshing and free. Free to interact with the customer in a more casual setting without the pressure of accurately inputting the drink into the register so that we'll have historical data to compare to the past and forecast for the future.

That freedom awakened in me a desire to toss the register in the dumpster and bust out the cigar box. Suddenly, numbers and exact change weren't as important as before. I had more counterspace to lay things out. It was brilliance defined.

That's all over today since the register is programmed and ready to go. Ready to record the daily sales at Jay's Shave Ice to tell us our past, forecast our future and let us know exactly how close to bankruptcy we really are. Even as we move back to reality, my brief flirt with a register-less existence was fun - like a short, torrid affair.

I saw for one brief moment that even I, with my obsessive compulsive obsession to quantify and systematize everything, could be like Hines.

And isn't that refreshing!