I like steak alright, but it's not my absolute favorite thing in the world. Ambivalence combined with my own trepidation at trying to make it kept me from ever attempting to cook a steak myself. Turns out it's easy, and it'll make you look good! I mean, come on, steak is impressive. It just is. I don't know why, as it's super simple.
I was scared because there's not a ton of wiggle room with steak. It's just a piece of meat. You can't really mask any big fuck ups. But that's also what makes it fairly easy to make. It's just a piece of meat. There aren't a lot of places to fuck up, short of overcooking it, and even then, it's probably going to be edible. And as long as you're not cooking for a big jerk, shouldn't be a huge problem. It's a good litmus test, actually: feed someone an overcooked steak, see how they handle it.
So, we turn to the first recipe in the Meat chapter of How to Cook Everything: Grilled, Pan-Grilled, or Broiled Steak, Many Ways. Many ways, indeed! I settled on the Pan-Grilled/Oven-Roasted Steak, "an excellent method if you don't have first-rate exhaust system or your steak is thicker than 1 1/2 inches." Mine were about 1 1/2 inches, rib steaks that were on sale at the store, and my exhaust system I would say is good-not-great.
Basically you crank your oven up to 11 (at least 500 degrees), then heat a cast-iron skillet (I used my huge dutch oven, as it's the only cast-iron cookware I've got) until it's really hot. Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with some kosher salt and add the steaks. Then you immediately transfer this to the oven. Turn once, cooking until the steaks are done. That's really it; I don't know why I was so freaked out about all of this. Really it's one of the simplest things I've made, and that says a lot.
With the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, I turned to another recipe I probably should have made by now: Simple Pan Sauce. Pour off some of the fat, and with the pan back on the heat, add some red wine and minced shallots, scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan until they're all free and floating around and most of the wine has evaporated. Then add some stock or water, turn off the heat, and add some butter, a little bit at a time. As much or as little as you like works here. I didn't use much and it was still delicious. Then just add a bit of lemon juice or vinegar (optional), and you're done. You can garnish with parsley but I was eating this with my brother, and he hates parsley.*
On the side, I made Braised Potatoes, which is basically just potatoes seared then cooked in stock with a bit of chopped onion and whatever other aromatics you like. The stock gives them a lot of flavor and they end up perfectly tender, soft enough to soak up some of that extra steak juice and pan sauce.
Finally, I made the Raw Beet Salad, where you grate beets (thanks food processor!) and toss them vinegar, mustard and a bit of olive oil. I topped it with some goat cheese, because goat cheese is delicious. I also added an arugula salad to the beet salad, because they go well together, pretty much. I would have made it all one glorious amalgam of a salad but arugula's not everyone's favorite. I know, I don't get it either.
And that was our steak dinner. It was freaking great.
*How can you hate something as inoffensive as parsley? Hell if i know.