Steak #15: Campfire Style

Yesterday while I was making my lucky New Year’s concoction, I was actually doing double duty in the kitchen and working on Steak #15. It was an unseasonally dry (and even just the slightest bit sunny for a few minutes!) day, and seemed just right for getting out the grill.

The Big Idea: To try something indisputably different! When I was looking for steak options on Epicurious and saw this recipe for Dirty Steak,  I knew I knew I had to give it a try. It’s very simple – just put a whole lot of salt and pepper on the steak, and then put it directly on hot coals to cook. (The pre-recipe text says this was a favorite preparation of Dwight Eisenhower, but apparently he liked it with a three inch thick New York Strip steak, which makes my 10 ounce sirloin seem a little wimpy.)

Since this was a nice, outdoorsy preparation, I decided to go with potato packets (Check this out if you don’t know what I’m talking about) as a side. And a few collards, for good measure, since I had them at the ready for my lucky Ham Hocks and Greens.Steak 15 and Potatoes on the coals

The Steak: I dried it and let it sit on a plate for a while before applying quite a bit of kosher salt and coarsely cracked pepper, and letting it sit some more.

While that was going on, I fired up the charcoal chimney and got the potato packet ready. When the coals were ready, I spread them out, put the potato packet off to the side of the mound, and plopped the steak down on the coals with a bit of a sizzle.

I flipped it by feel, and then pulled it by feel as well, though I could tell by poking it had cooked slightly unevenly. I took some care in spreading the coals out, but could have taken more care in making an even bed of coals for this task. I had to pick off a few charcoal chunks in the course of flipping and removing the steak, but it didn’t really get “dirty” the way the recipe’s name suggested. The Charcoal adds flavor...

The steak was good, but it was definitely cooked unevenly. One section was rarer than rare, while another was more like medium. The two sides charred unevenly, too. One side charred beautifully, creating a great salt and pepper crust, but the other kind of fizzled. It’s happened a couple times, I’ve noticed, that the side that’s down on the plate while the steak rests has more liquid on it and doesn’t char as well. The heavy salting and peppering ended up being a little too much for my tastebuds, too, and I ended up scraping some of the pepper crust off of the less charred side.

The Side: I think the classic potato packet is just thinly sliced potato, salt, pepper, and olive oil in tinfoil, cooked in a campfire. I changed things up only slightly. I used two red potatoes (peeled), two cloves of minced garlic, three sliced mushroomsand salt and pepper. Olive oil sounded sort of wimpy for this Eisenhower-style meal, though, so I trimmed a little fat from one of my ham hocks and cooked it in a frying pan for a couple minutes before drizzling it in with the rest of the goodies. Opening the Potato Packet

I know from the last time that I tried to make these at a real campfire that they’re not exactly instant, so I pre-cooked them in the toaster oven while the coals heated up. The packet went on the coals at the same time as the steak, and stayed on an extra ten minutes or so while it rested, so by the time I opened it up, the potatoes were just starting to fall apart and the mushrooms were nice and juicy. There wasn’t a ton of flavor to this side, but that ended up making it a perfect accompaniment to the very salt-and-peppery steak. A few sauteed collard leaves just added a little color to the plate.

The Verdict: I didn’t ace this one, but I still think it’s a winner. I’ll definitely try this again while camping, but with a little less salt and pepper and with more attention to creating an even bed of coals.

Notes for Next Time:

  • As mentioned, create an even bed of coals, and look for an area of more, smaller coals, rather than an area with fewer larger coals.
  • Ease up on the salt and pepper.
  • Experiment! The Epicurious notes suggest that this should work with a variety of cuts, and one friend says he’s even done a roast this way. I think I would like to try a thicker cut of meat, and I think that in and of itself might help with the evenness of cooking.

2 responses to “Steak #15: Campfire Style

  1. Nice. I cooked at steak by that method before. It doesn’t feel feel right at first, but it works out. Kind of a fun way to entertain people, as most gasp when they see you putting your expensive steak onto the coals. Thanks for sharing!

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