Tuesday, June 15, 2004

So many jokes have been made about men and barbecues. Most compare outdoor cooking enthusiasts to cavemen, with their love of flames, smoke and slabs of meat.

It’s true. I am sure that some day, scientists at work in the Human Genome Project will find a grilling gene that we men share with our primitive ancestors.

One of my favorite steaks for grilling is the rib-eye, from the same part of the animal that gives us rib roasts. It is especially tender, flavorful and juicy, and its generous marbling of fat gives it rich flavor and keeps it from drying out when grilled, unlike leaner cuts, such as the New York steak. Ask the butcher to leave the bone in, as it traditionally is, which will give the meat even more flavor and help retain moisture.

Marbling is especially important when choosing meat for grilling. The best-quality, most well marbled meat available is labeled “prime,” found mostly in top restaurants. Next best is “choice” meat, which is also well marbled and flavorful, but scarce in supermarkets. That leaves most shoppers to buy “select” meat, also good but not as juicy as the two higher grades. So, the best solution is to buy a cut, like the rib-eye, that is juicier than others regardless of grade.

Good rib-eyes don’t need much in the way of complicated preparation. I like to marinate them with a dry seasoning rub that mingles deliciously with the meat’s juices and contributes to a charred, flavorful surface.

The other secret is not to overcook your steak. I prefer mine rare to medium-rare, which will be juicier and more tender. Instead of using a meat thermometer to judge doneness, you might like to try one of my favorite chef’s tricks. Carefully, but firmly, press down in the center of a steak with the tip of your index finger and notice how much the meat gives. If it feels the same as pressing on the soft, fleshy part of your palm just below the thumb, it’s rare; if it’s more firm but still springy, like your palm closer to the wrist, it’s medium; if the steak feels firm with no give, like your wrist just below your palm, it’s well done.

However you cook your rib-eyes, let them rest for 10 minutes on a foil-covered platter to give the bubbling-hot juices time to settle back evenly into the meat. Then transfer them to serving plates and sit back to watch your guests, whatever their gender, enjoy a truly manly main course.

Dry-Rub Marinated Rib-Eye Steaks With Grilled Onions And Sweet-And-Spicy Dipping Sauce

Serves 4


4 tablespoons brown sugar

4 tablespoons onion powder

4 tablespoons garlic powder

4 tablespoons herbes de Provence

4 tablespoons dried oregano

2 tablespoons mild paprika

2 tablespoons mustard powder

2 tablespoons kosher salt

4 teaspoons cayenne

4 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons black pepper


4 rib-eye steaks, 10 to 14 ounces each

Extra-virgin olive oil


3 medium yellow onions, trimmed and peeled, each cut crosswise into four 1/2-inch thick slices

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

1 red or green jalapeno chile, halved, stemmed, seeded, and minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves

Kosher salt

First, prepare the Sweet-and-Spicy Rub: In a mixing bowl, combine all the rub ingredients and stir well. Store in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use.

Trim the steaks. On a large platter, sprinkle them all over on both sides with 1/2 cup of the rub and, with your fingers, rub the seasonings into the meat thoroughly. (Reserve the remaining rub for the Grilled Onions and other uses.) Cover the steaks with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or as long as overnight.

Set the rack of an outdoor grill 6 inches above the fire bed. Prepare a hot fire. Moisten a clean cloth or paper towels with olive oil and, holding the cloth or towels with long grilling tongs, carefully oil the grill rack. Place the steaks on the grill and close the cover. Cook the steaks until nicely browned and done to your liking, 6 to 8 minutes per side for medium-rare. Remove them from the grill to a clean platter, cover with aluminum foil, and leave them to rest for 10 minutes to allow the juices to settle back evenly into the meat.

Meanwhile, prepare the Grilled Onions: Coat them evenly with the olive oil and sprinkle them on both sides with 1 tablespoon of the Sweet-and-Spicy Rub. Place them on the grill and cook until nicely browned, about 5 minutes per side.

While the onions are grilling, make the Sweet-and-Spicy Dipping Sauce: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, honey, jalapeno, oregano and salt. Whisk well until the honey has dissolved. Pour the sauce into four small decorative dipping bowls and place each one beside a large serving plate.

Transfer the steaks to the serving plates and top them with the grilled onion slices. Serve immediately.

(Chef Wolfgang Puck’s new TV series, “Wolfgang Puck’s Cooking Class,” airs Sundays and Wednesdays on the Food Network. Write Wolfgang Puck in care of Tribune Media Services Inc., 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY. 14207.)


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