Thursday, February 25, 2010

Flash in the Pan - Pork Steak

Pork steak with two side dishes: whole wheat pasta tossed in garlic olive oil with parmesan, and sautéed broccoli with onions.

Most of us love pork steak at my house. It’s flavorful and cooks quickly. Prep is fast too - no marinade required. You can often catch it on sale (around here, ‘on sale’ means  $.99-$1.29 per pound), and this week I found it for a good price at the local IGA store.

The only thing that’s a little awkward is the size: a pork steak can take up more than half of a dinner plate, making it a potential cooking challenge. In the summer, it’s not a problem–we just toss ‘em on the grill and they’re ready in 10-15 minutes. Unfortunately, in the winter, my grill serves the general squirrel public as a ski hill. While I can work it out on the electric griddle, I thought I’d try my new 12” sauté pan and re-use it to sauté the broccoli, also on sale.

The pasta, onions, garlic, seasonings and olive oil were all on hand. I estimate the total cost for this meal to be between $3 and $3.25 for my family (2 adults, 3 kids ages 10, 8, and 4). I’d like to claim that this means a rockin’ 65-cents per serving, but, to be fair, the four-year old boycotted dinner and my husband gladly polished off her portion. Still not bad at 82-cents per diner.

Here’s what we had:
Two pork steaks (about a pound and a half)
½ head fresh broccoli
¾ pound whole wheat pasta
extra virgin olive oil
small onion, chopped (I did that at lunchtime)
garlic powder
kosher salt
black pepper
Canadian chicken seasoning (Gordon Food Service version of Montreal Chicken seasoning)
Dry white sherry
Parmesan cheese

Here’s how it worked:

1)    Put on the water for the pasta and let it come to a boil.
2)    Trim and rinse ½ a head of broccoli (florets only), set aside. Heat 12” pan over medium high heat (olive oil is optional).
3)    Season one side of the pork steak – I used kosher salt and pepper.
4)    Place the steaks in the pan, seasoned side down. Season the other side (I used Canadian Chicken Seasoning). Note: because my husband was running late, I only put one in the pan, but both steaks would’ve fit. 
5)    Put the pasta into the boiling water. Return to a boil and set timer for 9 minutes. Stir occasionally.
6)    With about 7 minutes left on the timer, flip the pork steaks.
7)    When the timer dings, check pasta for doneness. If you're in a bad mood, try throwing a strand or two of spaghetti at the wall. It's not only a fun way to release irritation, but if it sticks, it's done. If it’s ready, drain into a colander and set the pan aside for re-use.
8)    Check the pork steaks for doneness. Pork steaks are difficult to check with a thermometer, so I sneak a peak – make a small cut and make sure there’s very little to no pink. Remove from pan and allow to rest on a plate. Make a foil tent over the plate if you want the temperature of the meat to rise. Set aside pan for re-use.
9)    Add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil to the pasta pan and warm over low heat. Sprinkle with a little garlic powder, or press a clove of fresh garlic into the oil. Heat on low to medium low until fragrant.
10)  Meanwhile, toss the chopped onion into the sauté pan with a little olive oil if needed. Heat on medium for 2-3 minutes. Add broccoli and heat for 2-3 minutes. Add about 3 tablespoons sherry, stock or water to the pan, and scrape up the browned bits as the liquid evaporates and thickens (a technique called deglazing). Reduce heat to medium low and cover. Cook for another 3-4 minutes.
11)  Toss pasta back in the cooking pan with garlic olive oil. Add a little more olive oil if it’s too dry. Toss in parmesan cheese now, or sprinkle it on at the table.
12)  Slice up the pork steak.
13)  Serve. You can toss everything together, or keep it all separate. Whatever suits your kids.

Variation: Try a little Asian flair. Use canola or peanut oil instead of olive oil for the pork and broccoli. Season the pork with pepper, garlic and ginger – I go light on the salt here, as the sodium content goes up with the soy you’ll use later. Deglaze the pan with low-sodium soy sauce and sherry, sake, stock or water. Instead of olive oil for the pasta, warm soy, hoisin, water or stock and a little sesame oil.

Tip: If you're cooking for more than 4-5 people, you could use your broiler, or place the first batch of steaks on a cookie sheet and hold it in a warm, 200º F oven. If you try the latter, for the sake of timing, try starting the meat before you put on the water.

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