There aren’t many food orders that cause people to immediately react with, “Oh yeah, that person sucks.” I used to be one of those people other food orderers would look at with disdain, because there is one category of suckage that a vast majority of people agree on. Light your torches and grab your pitchforks: I used to prefer well-done steak. In fact, I was a well-done steak lover up to about a month ago.
I know. I’m sorry. It was wrong; I just didn’t realize what I was doing. I had experienced too many run-ins with underdone meat so I erred on the side of gray-brown caution. I couldn’t stand meat orders like “the jockey’s still whipping it” or “it’s as if the cow walked into a warm room” for those blood-thirsty carnivores who wanted to get as close to to the fresh kill as possible. Just the thought of “blue rare” made me want to hurl. I actually don’t buy into the idea that well-done steak is holy sacrilege. Fajitas, brisket, beef stir-fry, stroganoff, carne asada: If you enjoy any of the above, you’ve enjoyed well-done steak.
But in a testament to teaching old dogs new tricks (Am I an old dog in this scenario? Yes, I am): It’s never too late to admit that you’re wrong about something. Also, it’s never too late to knock your taste buds around the room. That thing you thought you never liked? You’re far past the picky eater stage, perhaps it’s time to give it another try. Maybe it’s in the presentation: After all, boiled Brussels sprouts are nightmare fuel; roasted with garlic, charred to black, maybe with some crisp bacon lardons, and they’re pure perfection.
As with so many things, I have only Vincent Price to thank. I had decided to make his Steak Diane for my Celebrity Recipes column, so we bought tenderloin, a cut void of fat. The process involved flambéeing the whole thing in brandy, and then serving it with the pan sauce with shallots.
The flambé process was theatrical, and gave the exterior of the steak some nice lick of the flames. The recipe was also such that I couldn’t overcook the steak—it was medium rare or bust. For the sake of journalism, as well as dinner with my family, I cut off a forkful. And, it was unbelievably delicious, one of those, “steak, where have you been all my life?” moments. (And yes, I know, a medium-rare ribeye is next.)
Sure, my usual well-done steak, was “safe”—according to me and my fervor to stay far away from raw meat—but was it this tasty? Juicy? Did it perfectly capture the succulent, melt-in-your-mouth flavor that steak should have, with a nicely seasoned crusty edge? Or was it usually super-chewy, and kinda dry, negating the enjoyment of such a high-end dish?
I saw Vincent Price’s face, now I’m a believer. Before this retro flambéed dish, I never even understood before why people were so hyped up about steak. I feel fully confident in saying this is why I didn’t “get” steak: I was doing it wrong.
Well-done steak fans, the few of you left in this world: I feel you. I was once like you. All I’m saying is give pink-in-the-middle beef a chance. It helps to have a really, really top-of-the-line cut of meat, an expert (and dramatic) cooking method, and some boss sides. But you just might surprise yourself.
My preference for well-done steak is now in the past, but that’s not the moral of my story. It’s made me question if there are other deliciousness currently masked as food phobias. I’m certain there are, and I’m now willing to tackle them. Maybe runny eggs are next? I mean, that one seems super-unlikely because to me, runny eggs are about the most disgusting thing on the planet—but maybe? Stay tuned.