You kind of want to hate him, or in the very least wonder sneeringly if he is actually ever in a kitchen these days. In any case, Sifty, in his recent re-review for the New York Times, did re-bestow 3 stars on Craft . . . so does that mean it never lost them after over a decade of dining?
Possible backlash aside, I have to admit that I love Colicchio’s book Craft of Cooking: Notes and Recipes from a Restaurant Kitchen. The book is not for the faint of heart. He does not give you “easy” recipes. They are dead simple, but they are very precise and suffer a little bit from Thomas Keller Syndrome, meaning that to execute some of them you feel the pressure to raise and snuggle a piglet from birth, feeding it only milk proteins and ambrosia until it reaches market weight.
Many times, I go over the recipes and think about how I can do it faster.
Not better, but lazier.
I inevitably find, though, that Colicchio’s way is the best way.
One of my favorite ways to prepare steak is how they did it at Craftsteak: in a hot pan continually bathed in butter to finish.
I also love my friend Tomoko’s suggestion to add a hefty splash of soy sauce to the end. The soy and butter marry beautifully together, giving a lusciously heady hit of umami to an already rich grass-fed steak.
Colicchio gave away his steak technique in an Esquire magazine article a while back, so this is just to summarize:
You will need:
A cast-iron skillet
Steak, a nice thick cut
Salt and pepper
About a tablespoon of canola oil
About 3 tablespoons of butter
Good soy sauce
How to prepare:
1. For all successful steaks, make sure your meat is about room temperature before cooking. Take it out of the fridge about an hour before you want to eat it.
2. Season the steak heavily with salt and pepper on both sides.
3. Heat the canola oil in the cast-iron skillet over high heat. When the oil is almost smoking, sear the meat on both sides until it is brown and crusty. Please note that the steak will be seared, but it will NOT be done.
This is important because . . .
4 . . . after you have seared both sides, reduce the heat to medium-low. Let the pan cool a bit before adding the butter (you don’t want the butter to sizzle and burn on contact). Using a spoon, continually baste the steak with butter, flipping it halfway through to ensure even cooking.
5. Continue basting until it is not quite at the level of doneness that you desire. Right before that point, add a good, hefty splash of soy sauce to the pan. Keep basting the steak in the butter and soy until it is done. Alternatively, I guess you could add the butter and soy at the same time.
Ideally, a medium-rare steak will have a internal temperature of about 135°, but you can also gauge the doneness by touching its surface.
You don’t actually need a thermometer to do this. Make a really tight fist. Now with your other hand poke the fleshy part of your fist between your index finger and your thumb. That bouncy hard resistance that you feel is what a super well-done steak would feel like if you poked it. Open your hand and make a super loose fist. Touch the same part. That’s what really, really rare feels like. Now, aim for somewhere in-between.
6. Let the steak rest for a few minutes before serving.