“You don’t need Montreal steak seasoning on everything.” – Sandra Lee
It is interesting to me, when you grow up without something you can become one of two people, especially with food. You either become the person that craves the food that you missed out on once it become accessible, or you become the person that it really isn’t that big of a deal and you would rather have something else if given the choice. For me it is this way with steak and for the record I am more of the latter.
Steak wasn’t much of an option at my house growing up unless it was a special occasion and the steak we were having was a cube steak…you know, the one that looks like a fancy hamburger only a little tougher. On the one occasion that I did have steak at a friend’s house when in middle school, I wanted it well done and quite frankly didn’t know what the fuss was all about. Not until 1994 did I have my first real steak I honestly enjoyed and I owe it all to The Cowboy Way, the “B” movie starring Woody Harrelson and Keifer Sutherland.
It was 3:00 A.M. at a truck stop outside of Newton, KS. I had just partaken in an evening of wine at The Old Mill and my fellow college buddies and I decided we needed nourishment. I ordered the steak and eggs and our tattooed waitress, I’m pretty sure we had identified her as a lot lizard from a few weeks prior, asked, “How would ya like yo steak huuunnn?” Without missing a beat I told her to have the cook, “Knock it’s horns off, wipe it’s nasty ass and throw it on the plate!” From that moment on, while steak is still not my preference, I do enjoy a nice slab of meat done as rare as the cut will allow, unlocking the natural beauty of the meat.
Now, a little older, I have had the opportunity to try steaks in some of the more well-known steak places in the cities I have traveled too and have learned to grill a pretty darn good steak myself. My preference is to rub the meat with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, however our junk drawer culinary night introduced me to coffee rubbed rib-eye and I am a BIG fan.
Kathy and I have been very busy lately with all four kids in sports, my travel schedule ramping up and some big projects she is responsible for at her office. We had actually drawn this recipe out of the drawer a week earlier but never had the opportunity to cook. In fact, the cooking time is OUR time to catch up with each other and that hasn’t happened either so at 7:35 PM after a busy day of sports it was decided that we needed OUR time even though we knew that by the time we went to the store, got home and prepared the meal, it would be close to 9:00. We stopped at Price Chopper to buy the rib-eyes, chili de arbol, potatoes and a boxed carrot cake our friend (and food stylist) Anne Swafford-Fisher told us was almost as good as homemade. We had a homemade recipe but at this time of night we took her recommendation and headed home to cook, talk and have dinner (while we watched Flash Gordon, although The Cowboy Way would have made more sense and kept Kathy’s interest longer!)
Once home, I poured us a glass of 2009 JAX Vineyards Cabernet Franc, complex on the pallet with blackberry, fig and black cherry with a hidden gem of all spice, and began to blend the rub while Kathy started on the baked potatoes and carrot cake.
¼ cup ancho chili powder
¼ cup fine ground espresso (we used whole bean Kansas City Blend coffee from The Roasterie since we didn’t have any of their espresso beans on hand and hoped The Bean Baron would approve).
2 T Spanish paprika
2 T dark brown sugar
1 T dry mustard
1 T kosher salt
1 T ground black pepper
1 T ground coriander
1 T dried oregano
2 t ground ginger
2 t chili de arbol powder (we couldn’t find the powder so bought whole dried chili de arbol and ground them in food processor since Kathy forbade me to use the coffee grinder).
The recipe said all of this was for two rib-eye steaks rubbed on only one side. I could have rubbed a whole heifer on one side with this much rub so I saved what I didn’t use, after rubbing BOTH sides of the steaks, in a sealed container and have it ready in the spice rack.
The best part of being in the kitchen together is the brainstorming that we tend to go into. We are in different positions and in different industries but as we discuss work we are able to bounce ideas off of each other from a whole new perspective. These discussions lead into the kids, the house we are trying to buy and in reality all these topics relate to how we are as a professional couple raising a blended family…each component complimenting each other like the paprika complements the coriander and the ginger plays well with the coffee.
While the potatoes finished baking, I had Kathy preheat the bottom oven to 425 degrees and I put the cast iron pan on the stove to preheat on high. I took the steaks that I had brushed with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and rubbed with the coffee rub blend. I seared both sides of the steak (about 3 minutes on the initial side and 2 more on the flip) then placed on a baking sheet to cook in oven for an additional 8 – 10 minutes. Because a rib-eye has great marbelization, I like to go to medium-rare to release the flavor into the steak. We served with a baked potato dressed in scallions, cheese, butter and bacon.
This night I learned a few things. I love coffee rubbed steak, the box cake isn’t bad but we look forward to making carrot cake from scratch, Kathy does not appreciate Flash Gordon as much as I do and our dedication to each other is as strong today as it was when we took on this project and each other. The difference is we are in a busy time and that makes these meals together that much more important.
You don’t always need (or ever need) Montreal Seasoning, but you do need to take time together to season your relationship. La Dolce Vita!
Recipe from firstname.lastname@example.org