Monday, April 11, 2011

Summer of Steak

tl;dr David masters the art of the grill.

“Pass the barbecue sauce,” said my brother. “The flavor is a little bland.”

I cut out a meaty cube my steak knife and surveyed its consistency.

“It’s the cut––it’s too thin. The grill dries it up too quickly. Last time I’m buying carne asada.” Jonathan nodded in agreement, carefully shaking the sauce bottle. Unfortunately, it was a failed effort; the entire contents of the bottle emptied itself onto his plate in a big, gloopy puddle.

“Well,” he grinned. “Still an improvement.”

It was summer vacation and in preparation for apartment living, I had spent every weekend perfecting my steak-grilling technique. Beginning with a couple trips to the local grocer to select a cut––rib-eye one week and tri-tip the next––I then experimented with marinades and temperatures on our backyard grill. I was the cook and my brother was the taster and critic.

Looking back, I’m not sure why I chose steak aside from the fact that one day I suddenly felt like learning how to cook steak. I announced it to my family, bought, cooked, and served the steaks, to which my mother commented that steak is not a meal in itself and that I need to make bake potatoes or something else to go with it. I have managed to ignore her advice to this very day.

My father, on the other hand, didn’t eat red meat, so I usually waited until he was out of town to cook steak. On the days that I didn’t wait, it became routine for him to stand next to me at the grill, laying slabs of salmon or cajun chicken on it, along with an assortment of corn, zucchini, and bell peppers. I had no interest in any of those; all I cared about was red, juicy steak; the way it sizzled when placed on the grill for the first time; the way flipping it always yielded stark, flavorful streaks of color from the grill metal; the fragrant pools of juices that simmered atop the steak’s surface as it swiftly cooked over a violent heat; a hellish heat that blasts you in the face whenever you open the grill lid…

FoodGawker Credits

Some weeks I used a Texan barbecue marinade. Others, a Korean sauce made from ginger and chili. Clutching a marinating brush, I often felt like an artist. A meaty, steaky artist.

The school year was fast approaching when I decided to cook my last supper. It was months after eating Carne Asada with Jonathan and I was determined to make this my best steak yet. I went to the grocer and selected the priciest cut they had––New York, and marinaded it with a self-invented dry rub of sea salt, cracked pepper, rosemary, and basil.

It was a cool summer evening so we ate outside at the patio table. The steaks came out perfectly. My mother––a tiny Japanese woman about half my size who never finishes her portions––devoured her entire steak. That was quite a memorable spectacle. Immediately afterwards, my father reached across the table, cut off a piece and sampled it for himself. He then proceeded to stand up, enter the house, and reemerge holding an unopened bottle of red wine.

Two days later, I moved into my apartment and realized that I have no balcony to barbecue steaks on. The end.