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Steak with lime, anchovy, and shallot butter
Picture the scene. I’m back in an office for the first time in 3 years, and these days, I don’t feel like going to the supermarket after work. I like getting in, changing, having a drink (#everythinginmoderation) and relaxing. Not going to Sainsburys and finding creative ways to label expensive fruit and vegetables as their less-coveted bretheren.
On Fridays, I work from home with Rob, and on this occasion, as soon as it was clocking off time he went to the pub with a friend. I should have done the same, but I decided to have a night in. Something really easy, healthy, cheap. I start thinking about tom yum soup with loads of fresh vegetables.
Then there was some kind of mental glitch and next thing I know, I’m walking to the shops thinking: what if I just bought a steak.
And make a really good butter to baste it in.
Also, while the steak rests, I could roast some sweet potato and maybe some broccoli. I’ll drink a glass of wine and watch an episode of a good-quality drama on Apple TV+ (disclaimer: other streaming services are available).
For the butter, I’d read a recipe from Ottolenghi for a lemon and anchovy butter that I liked, but I couldn’t find the link, so I improvised. I had some limes, shallot, and anchovies, and thought chilli flakes would bring soft heat to the caramalised, sour, briney flavours.
I won’t lie, I’m not the smartest person when it comes to cooking steak. I prefer people making it for me. But I know a few things to be true though, and those are these:
Make sure the pan is screaming hot.
Rub the steak in oil — don’t oil the pan
You want to let it cook undisturbed. Timings will vary on the thickness of the steak, but for this I did about six minutes on one side, four on the other, and I let it rest for 10+ minutes.
Things you might read about and ignore #1: taking the steak out the fridge beforehand. This is very important because cold meat is kind of tense and if you add chilled meat to a hot pan it will go a bit taut and tough.
Don’t forget to sear the sides, especially if it’s a steak with a cap of fat running along one side. In fact, sear this bit first, so the fat renders out slightly and you can cook the steak in the residual flavour.
Things you might read about and ignore #2: resting your teak is really important! The steak will keep cooking in the middle, even after it’s out the pan, and if you rest it you’re letting the whole thing achieve a more coherent texture.
Anchovies, a sliced shallot, a sliced lime, butter.
Anyway once I cooked the steak, and let it rest on a chopping board, I started on the butter. First I turned the heat way down, from a 9 to like, a 5. You will need a good bit of heat, but these ingredients will burn if they’re chucked in a pan that’s too hot (this is true of anything, like limes, that are packed with sugars).
First, I added the butter, and started scraping the crusty steak bits off the pan. Don’t be afraid to add some cold water at this point, or even some wine, if you feel like everything’s cooking too fast. Stir to let the butter cook but keep an eye on it.
When you can smell the butter cooking, add the lime. Colour wise, it will be a mango colour, but not the shade of toast (that’s when it’s browning, and we have a bit to go first). I sliced my lime super-fine; barely perceptible little discs. I wanted the rind to caramalise and harden into a sour, toffee-ish consistency. You could just add the juice of a lime instead, but if you do that, add it right at the end — the sour juice will get cooked off if you add it too soon.
The lime is so thin that it cooks in the layer of fat (butter + steak juices). Having it submerged is key to the chewy rind cooking enough for you to be able to chomp right through it.
Also, you can see with this not-a-non-stick pan that you really need a good amount of fat in here, or your solids will just stick and burn and smoke the place out.
Once the lime is well on the way, I added a bit more butter, the anchovies, and the shallots. They cook down and melt into the sauce — the anchovy adds brininess, while the shallot brings a kind of vegetal sweetness.
I also added a generous pinch of urfa chilli flakes — these are a rich, chocolately brown, and are smoky and a bit caramalised.
This butter is just a base formula. Here are some alternatives you could consider:
Lemons instead of lime
Any chilli — kashmiri, paprika, alleppo. Rich, smoky chipotle would be nice, too.
Dried herbs like oregano, or fresh rosemary or leaves that could crisp and curl into the sauce.
A really nice umami option instead of anchovy would be a teaspoon of tomato paste — you just need to stir it so the sugars cook off. You’ll notice it go from a soft of pale red into this aggressive, almost clay colour. That’s when you know it’s cooked off, and you’ll get an immense, roasted tomato flavour.
That’s it from me. Next week, we’re dedicating a whole issue to preserved lemons.