The unmistakable fragrance of a t-bone steak sizzling in its own juices at the bottom of a cast-iron skillet that may have been passed down from grandmother's kitchen sends the palate into swoons of anticipation. Take that t-bone steak, cut away the smaller filet and you have what is known as a New York strip steak. Not as tender as the filet, the New York strip is nevertheless also swoon-worthy if prepared in a method that preserves its natural moisturizing juices while adding depth to the crust.
The Comeback of Cast Iron
While non-stick pans are easy to clean and are now made to tolerate high stove and oven temperatures, they can be toxic and have been known to start breaking down at temperatures above 500 Fahrenheit. Cast iron, especially if often used and well-seasoned, provides a natural barrier between the iron and the food being prepared. It does come with some controversy regarding the amount of iron imparted during the cooking process, however. Studies have found that a cast-iron skillet will give off iron molecules, but not as much as a newer version that has had infrequent use, according to America's Test Kitchen.
The key to cast iron is its seasoning. The more seasoned the skillet, the more protection from the iron molecules. To preserve and build up the seasoning, do not wash the skillet. Just wipe it clean with paper towels and let it sit and absorb before storing. The amount of iron infused into the food is very small and rarely harmful, but it's recommended that acidic foods be prepared in traditional stainless-steel skillets, as it's the acid that releases the molecules of iron.
Where’s the Beef?
Before turning away from the thought of eating beef, health-consciousness goes hand-in-hand with a diet that invites the proteins found in beef to the table. The smart shopper avoids grain-fed meat and goes straight for the grass-fed aisle. This is where the biggest difference in meat is found. Grass-fed meat, especially beef, is bursting with nutrients, including more omega 3 than its grain-fed cousins, more vitamin A and E and much more conjugated linoleic acid, an acid that aids in lowering body fat. This should make the carnivores among us sleep better at night, especially after a dinner consisting of a juicy New York strip steak.
Eliminate Butter, Add Seasoning
Searing a piece of steak in a skillet is one of the healthiest methods of preparation. No additional fats are needed, and a bit of seasoning enhances even the most obscure cut of beef. Place your New York strip steak on a wooden cutting board and pat it dry on both sides. A cut that is at least 2 inches thick is ideal. Add a sprinkle of kosher or fine sea salt to both sides and let the meat come to room temperature. Do not add pepper or minced garlic as they'll burn, with the garlic turning bitter during cooking.
The Skillet and the Steak
Before searing the steak, turn on the oven to at least 425 F. While it's heating, turn back to the skillet. Add a dash of canola oil and spread it around with a synthetic brush. Place the skillet over high heat on the stove. Watch the oil go from sedentary to wavy and, once the waves are moving around fiercely, place the steak into the pan and sear for about 5 minutes. This gives color and flavor to your meat but will also dry out the meat if continued to the finish. Do not touch the steak. When a good crust has formed, the meat will release itself from the bottom of the skillet. Be patient, and don't pull at it as it'll shred.
Remove the steak from the skillet and place it back onto the cutting board, crust side up. Slice the strip into 1-inch portions on the shorter side. Reassemble the steak, keeping the crust side up, and put it back into the skillet.
Finish in the Oven
Very carefully wrap a potholder around the hot shaft of the skillet and lift it, putting it into the pre-heated oven. An oven finish gives meat a consistent, even cook, as the heat transfer moves upward through the meat. This maintains the steak's juices and tenderness, and keeping the crust side up allows the unseared side to form its own crust. Set a kitchen timer to 7 minutes, checking for doneness as it finishes in the oven. When the New York strip is cooked to your liking, remove it from the oven, again being careful to cover the shaft of the hot skillet.
Create the Presentation
Place the steak pieces on a serving platter, assembling it to resemble an uncooked New York strip steak. Spoon the lovely, natural pan juices over the meat. For a lighter meal, toss the slices with salad greens that have been seasoned with a dressing of your choice.