I’ve really never been much of a steak eater. We didn’t have it a lot growing up, preferring fish as a dinner treat. I remember going to Ruth’s Chris in high school for my then-boyfriend’s birthday, and being completely oblivious as to what to order. I received a petite steak (don’t ask me what cut) sizzling in butter, and it melted, all salty-deliciousness, with that marked taste of iron richness, in my mouth. I enjoyed it. But I still never crave steak that much. Perhaps it is for the best. I definitely need to know how to cook steak, however. That is an important skill. For even if you don’t like something, there are things that you simply must know how to prepare.
I made my first steak today, choosing New York strip. I seasoned it simply, with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. It was good, but I need to work on achieving the perfect outside sear while at the same time maintaining the essential rareness inside. I’ll get there.
What I spent a lot of time thinking about was what to pair with the steak. “Steak dinners” make me think of the ’50s. I think a fair amount of people here still associate steak with mushrooms, or mashed potatoes, or simple vegetables. But to me that seems too heavy, too filling. And mashed potatoes are so – so thick and sort of boring after the first few bites.
Steak and salad gets a few eye-rolls. It’s very urban, it’s too New York, it’s “I like steak but I’m watching my weight, ooh lala”. People make fun of that. But why? As a steak outsider, I’d argue that the perfect salad actually complements a steak far better than any mashed or steamed vegetables do. After all, shouldn’t steak be the absolute center of the meal? Why fill up your stomach with white potatoes when you should be focusing on the salty, fatty richness of melting-on-your-tongue beef? The perfect complement is instead something light and zippy, something zesty, something tangy, something with a crunch. It complements the steak in flavor and mouthfeel, but doesn’t make you clutch-your-stomach-full. It allows you to savor the meal’s starring food. It cleanses your palate in between mouthfuls. This is such a salad – the clean, snappy, slightly sweet taste of thinly sliced fennel pairs well with sweet onion, olive oil, and lemon. Add shaved sharp parmesan, and I swear, it may not look like much, but this will have you giving those bland potatoes the side-eye.
This salad is simple, so use the best ingredients you can find to ensure peak flavor.
Fennel, Lemon, & Parmesan Salad (Steak’s Best Supporting Salad)
1 head medium green lettuce (Not iceberg. Not romaine. Not pre-washed and bagged. Organic, if possible.)
1 medium sized fennel bulb (should not be tough or discolored)
1/3 cup thinly, thinly sliced sweet onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
6 ounces hard aged parmesan
Wash, dry, and chop green lettuce so that there aren’t any monster pieces. Put into a serving bowl. Prepare the fennel bulb and dice into small pieces. Sprinkle the diced fennel and thinly sliced sweet onion on top of the green lettuce. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, salt, black pepper, zest and juice of your lemon, stirring until combined. Pour over the salad and toss lightly to ensure all is coated. Shave, thinly slice, or grate parmesan on top.