Rare occasions

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 July, 2012, 12:00am


Almost everyone who likes steak will have a preferred cut and very clear ideas about how they want it cooked - my favourites are the onglet (also known as hanger steak) and the rib-eye cap meat, grilled over coals. These recipes are crowd-pleasers; the pomegranate molasses marinade gives a sweet-smoky flavour to grilled steaks while the bearnaise - a classic accompaniment - will make even an overcooked steak (anything over medium rare, in my opinion) less dry.

Grilled steaks with pomegranate molasses marinade

We tried this marinade on several non-standard cuts of steak (in other words, not the usual steak-house favourites such as filet mignon, skirt steak and rib-eye). We tried whole tri-tips (a Californian speciality that is hard to find elsewhere, although it's now sold at Great in Pacific Place, Admiralty), rump steak and flank steak (pictured), and each had its advantages and disadvantages. The tri-tip's triangular shape made it difficult to cook evenly - the thinner end was medium when the wider part was rare, but this is good if you have people who like their meat cooked to varying degrees of doneness. This was the leanest of the cuts we tried, but still tender if correctly sliced (across the grain, which is how you should cut all steaks). The flank steak is probably the easiest to find of the three we tried, and it grilled evenly and quickly, but it's tough if cooked beyond medium (which is a problem with most types of steak). The thickness of the rump steak meant it took ages to grill - so much that the exterior got blackened (from the sugar in the molasses); however, when we sliced it open, it was cooked to a beautiful rosy rare and was tender and succulent, and the crust didn't taste burnt. This marinade would also work well on the onglet.

Marinate the meat for at least four hours in the fridge, although eight hours would be better. Marinate the meat even longer if you are using a very thick cut.

1kg of boneless steaks, using the cut of your choice

75 grams white onion

3 garlic cloves

180 grams pomegranate molasses

45ml olive oil

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Remove and discard any silverskin (the thick, tough membrane) from the surface of the steaks then sprinkle salt evenly over the meat. Leave at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Roughly chop the onion and garlic then put them in a food processor and blend to a rough paste. Add the pomegranate molasses, olive oil and a little salt then blend until smooth. Slather the mixture over the meat then put it in a zip-lock bag, seal it tightly then refrigerate for at least four hours. Frequently shake and massage the meat through the bag so it marinates evenly. Remove the meat from the fridge about an hour before cooking it.

If using a coal-fuelled grill, light the coals in advance so they're very hot.

Sprinkle the steaks with freshly ground pepper then grill them to the desired level of doneness - about seven to 10 minutes (for rare) over direct heat for flank steaks, or 20-30 minutes over indirect heat for rump steaks (this depends on the thick-ness of the meat, how fatty it is, and the heat of the grill). Leave the meat to rest before slicing it - about 10 minutes for flank steaks and 20 minutes for thicker cuts. Slice the meat across the grain using a very sharp knife.

Sauce bearnaise

I love bearnaise so much that I not only spoon it over my steak, I also dip my fries into it - it's much better than ketchup.

This is an unconventional bearnaise, which I learned from a French chef in New York. Rather than using clarified butter, this one uses cool solid butter. I also use this method when making hollandaise and beurre blanc, which, like bearnaise, are emulsified sauces that use butter. Serve the bearnaise with a simply seasoned (salt and pepper) steak.

2 medium shallots, chopped

4 sprigs fresh tarragon, plus fresh tarragon leaves to finish the dish

3 black peppercorns, lightly crushed

60ml tarragon vinegar or white wine vinegar

60ml dry white wine

250 grams unsalted butter, cool and firm, but not straight from the fridge

5ml fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Fine sea salt and finely ground white pepper

Put the shallot, tarragon, peppercorns, vinegar and white wine in a small saucepan and set it over a medium-low flame. Bring to a boil then turn the heat to low and simmer until the liquid reduces to 30ml. Pour the ingredients through a sieve set over a bowl to capture the liquid then discard the solids.

Cut the butter into 1cm chunks. Set the bowl with the liquid over a pan of barely simmering water; the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Adjust the heat under the pan so the water stays at a low simmer. Whisk constantly as you add the butter a chunk at a time, letting each melt and incorporate fully before adding the next chunk. If the mixture gets too thick, whisk in lemon juice, and if needed, a little warm water. When all the butter has been incorporated, remove the bowl from the heat and taste for seasonings, adding salt, ground white pepper and a little fresh lemon juice as needed. Chop a few fresh tarragon leaves and whisk them into the sauce before serving with grilled steak.

Styling Nellie Ming Lee