Uruguyan chef and cookbook author Francis Mallmann is a master of meat and fire. His perfect steak is seasoned with a salty crust produced by searing and is rosy pink throughout. If you can cook it over fire, even better. Mallmann was the featured chef at Oklahoma State University's recent Wine Forum of Oklahoma.
Mallmann's Perfect Steak
1 1-pound boneless rib-eye steak per person, about 1¼ to 1½ inches thick
Chimichurri (recipe below)
• Create a 2- to 3-inch bed of coals under the grill grate. This bed should extend about 3 inches beyond the perimeter of the grill, so that every part of each steak will receive uniform heat. The grill grate should be 3 to 4 inches from the coals. Wait for the coals to cover over with a layer of whitish ash. You can test the temperature by placing your hand almost at the level that the meat will cook. The fire should be medium-high, and it is ready when you can hold your hand there for only 2½ seconds.(Note: To determine 2½ seconds, in Spanish, we say, “Uno matador, dos matador, tres ...”; the English equivalent is “One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three ....”)
• Keep a spray bottle filled with water handy to douse any flare-ups.
• Salt the steaks to taste. Using tongs, grease the grill grate with a piece of fat or a clean cloth or paper towel moistened with olive oil or other cooking oil.
• Place the meat on the grill. You should hear a nice sizzle. Then don't touch the steaks and don't move them. After 5 minutes, gently lift one edge to check the sear marks on the meat. If they look just right at that point, rotate the meat 90 degrees. This will create a crosshatch pattern and keep the meat from burning where it is in contact with the grill.
• After 4 more minutes, turn the steaks over and cook for an additional 7 minutes or until cooked to medium-rare. As before, check after 5 minutes to make sure the meat doesn't burn where it touches the grill and rotate the steaks if necessary.
• Transfer the steaks to a platter and let rest for 3 minutes.
• Serve with Chimichurri.
Makes about 2 cups.
1 cup water
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
1 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup fresh oregano leaves
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
• Mince the garlic very finely, and put in a medium bowl. Mince the parsley and oregano, and add to the garlic, along with the red pepper flakes. Whisk in the red wine vinegar, then the olive oil. Whisk in the salted water. Transfer to a jar with a tightfitting lid, and keep in the refrigerator.
• Chimichurri is best prepared at least a day in advance so the flavors have a chance to blend. The chimichurri can be kept refrigerated for two to three weeks.
• Source: Excerpted from “Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way” by Francis Mallmann with Peter Kaminsky (Artisan Books).
• Chef's note: That's all it takes for perfection. But, as with many things that are perfect and simple, you will need to develop your own sense of fire, heat and ingredients. For example, the temperature test recommended above is a good guideline but not an unbreakable rule; your hand may be more or less sensitive to heat than mine. And cooking on a cold day or a windy one will affect how long the meat takes to cook. The leanness or fattiness of the meat and the degree of aging also come into play.