May 1, 2002


Chain gang : A walkabout through the forbidden pleasures of Outback Steakhouse (Sara Bir, Sonoma Bohemian)
Outback prepares steaks by first dipping them in clarified butter, then seasoning, and then giving them the barbie treatment. This they are indeed doing correctly: Generous amounts of fat and salt make meat tast-ee. When cooking at home, bringing yourself to give food big, wet French kisses of butter instead of tiny, dry pecks with Canola oil can be cringe-inducing. Let someone else surround your food with yummy fat and sodium behind closed doors; it's easier to accept, and the palate-pleasing result is one that keeps people going out to eat.

I hate going out to eat and have no compuction about buttering my steaks (though the wife does shoot me dirty looks), but if forced at gun point (which is what it usually requires) to go out to eat, Outback is option A .

UPDATE : Mike Daley sends along this tantalizing suggestion :

While you may get some "buttery" taste by buttering your steak prior to grilling, you sure wouldn't get any butterfat, it would all be burned off by the charcoal, or wood you're cooking over ( gas barbq's and anything electric are not allowed).

The true flavor of the fat for a steak is in the marbling, and the higher the grade the more marbling, which is why prime is superior to choice is superior to select. Some cattle, ie: Black Angus, naturally have better marbling in their muscles.

To get that butter taste on your steak I recommend grilling it with a very light coating of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Slice up a big bunch of mushrooms, regular button work great, and sautŽ in bacon fat, adding finely diced green onions and crushed garlic when the mushrooms begin releasing their liquid. Cook until almost all liquid is evaporated and then deglaze with the quality red wine you're drinking. Reduce by a third or so and just before serving over the perfect steaks, stir in a big hunk of butter to thicken and flavor. Unless you're a mushroom hater, I guarantee you'll love it.

Of course I have no concept of why anyone would go out to eat steak, you can always buy better and cook better at home for one fourth the price or less. Restaurants are for the foods that require real work and ingredients we would never stock, or for eating a single meal something that you would eat for too long at home. Leg of lamb is great out of the oven, but after that, forget it.

As I mentioned to Mr. Daley, I actually meant that I butter the steak after it's cooked, an old habit our Granddad (The Honorable Orrin G. Judd) taught us. Of course, he also salted melon--including watermelon--a taste I never acquired.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 1, 2002 2:52 PM
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