Category - Try Tips

Try Tips - Steak Butter

I slept terribly this past Friday night. I woke up at three in the morning for no discernable reason (I don’t even have a kid yet!). The only thing that lulled me back to sleep was some gawdawful ninja movie. Needless to say, I was in a pretty garbage mood when I finally got out of bed in the morning. My wife was all like “are you okay” and I was all like “ow, the sun hurts my eyes and why isn’t there enough sugar in my coffee and I’m gonna go for a run and then rake the leaves and not talk to anyone so stop talking”. Or something like that.

After the leaves were all raked, and more properly sugared coffee was consumed, I started thinking about suppertime. Perhaps because of the crummy sleep I got I thought I should treat myself to my favorite, most desert-island, death-row meal. I don’t know about you, but for me that’s steak.

I started looking online for a good steakhouse to spend my money at. I have a soft spot for the Toronto classics like Barberian’s and Tom Jones, or the dry aged love they give the steaks at Jacob’s and Co, but my problem was I didn’t have anyone to go with. My wife had plans that night, and when you’re nearing your forties you have almost zero friends who can just go to a steakhouse on a whim. In your twenties you can wake up from a three-hour nap at five pm on a Saturday night and make dinner plans with buddies – not so much when all of your friends have kids or schedules. I would go to any of those steakhouses by myself, but it can be a little too much food, what with the tableside Caesars and the creamed spinach and the 32 oz porterhouse. Steakhouses are built for group dining – centuries before “small plate dining” dominated the Toronto scene. It seemed like if I was going to eat steak, I’d have to cook it myself.

Luckily I do have a couple of friends that don’t have children so I called them up and made plans to crash their evening and cook for them. Sean and Natasha are great cooks but I was adamant, “you make whatever you want but I’m bringing steaks and cooking them for you”. Looking back, that may have been too assertive. But what are you gonna do? I wanted steak so badly; hell, I even had an idea that I wanted to try! And boy did that idea work. Not only did this idea work that night, I am going to cook steaks this way from now on. IT IS AMAZING!!! (Basically I just made a compound butter with fines herbes and garlic and finished the steak with it. That’s all.)

Steak with Steak Butter

For the Steak

2 striploin steaks, about 14 oz each
salt and pepper, to season
1 tbsp vegetable oil

For the Steak Butter

4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp chives, finely chopped
1 tbsp Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp tarragon, finely chopped
1 tbsp chervil, finely chopped
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp shallot, finely diced
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste

To Cook

Use a cast iron pan. If you don’t have one you can use your heaviest pan, but you should really get a cast iron pan. They’re not that crazy expensive. Put the pan on a medium high heat on your stove-top and let it heat up. Season the steaks (liberally) with the salt and pepper and rub with the oil.

Sear the steaks in the pan, starting by placing them on the fat cap side first. This will look weird but trust me, you want to render a bit of that fat out. Afetr a minute place the steaks on one side and cook until that side is a dark golden brown, then turn the steak to cook and get golden brown on the other side. Remove the steaks from the pan and lay to rest on a plate. They will be about medium rare at this point. Turn the heat down to very low on the cast iron pan.

Make the steak butter by thoroughly mixing all of the ingredients together. After resting the steaks for at least ten minutes, turn the heat back to a medium-low under the cast iron pan. When it is hot again, put the steaks in the pan to reheat and add the butter. Coat the steak with the butter, getting them nice and warm before removing them. Turn the heat off on the pan. The remaining butter should be slightly foamy and just turning nut-brown.

Slice the steaks with a nice sharp knife and place on a serving platter. Pour all of the remaining butter from the pan over all of the slices. I like to do a final sprinkling of sea salt at this point, but it is up to you. Serve and enjoy!

So basically all I did here was take the classic steak garnish of a compound butter and browned it up before serving it. I personally found the depth of flavour you get by browning it is way better than the raw coin of butter many places will give you, but if you want you can leave the butter cold and serve it on top of the hot steak, letting it slowly melt over the meat.

Try Tips - (It’s a butchery pun)


Spoiler alert – I swear in this article. Sorry (not sorry).

Last week the Toronto Star broke a story about allegations of sexual harassment a former female cook has filed against Weslodge, a popular downtown restaurant. The allegations are pretty damning, and while they haven’t been resolved (the accused are either denying or being silent), the general consensus in the Toronto restaurant community is that this kind of behaviour sometimes does happen in professional kitchens, and that it’s time to put an end to it. A quick search on Facebook or Twitter will result in tons of comment threads about this, mostly shaming the restaurant and the cooks involved. Unsurprisingly there are also some comments supporting the accused or saying things like “it’s too bad a couple of rotten apples spoiled the fun for others”, basically saying that sexual innuendos and low-grade misogyny is ok in a kitchen, as long as it’s in good fun and everyone knows where the line is. It’s for this group of people who think this way that I direct this week’s tip.

Have some fucking respect.

I have worked in kitchens for over twenty years and heard a lot of sexist, racist, and homophobic jokes being tossed around in the spirit of “fun”. Anthony Bourdain immortalized some of this kind of behaviour in Kitchen Confidential, and there are legions of cooks (male and female) who think it’s acceptable to do things like “credit card swipe” their tongs up someone’s ass crack (which I was a victim of and always thought was weird), or demean a female employee using words like “bitch” or “cunt”. I do mention that women do take part in this “fun” at times, but the majority of offenders are men. And it doesn’t matter who does it, it’s always wrong.

Period. End of story. No excuses. It’s not right that anyone should feel uncomfortable in his or her workplace. And you know what guys – ESPECIALLY NOT WOMEN. When it comes to harassment in the workplace, I find it hard to swallow when I read garbage comments like “if she doesn’t like it, why would she stay?” or “everyone has a choice”. While fundamentally this is true, why does anyone have to make the choice to leave their workplace because her breasts are being groped? That’s just stupid. Also, harassment doesn’t have to be that extreme. I’m speaking to all you managers, chefs, and leaders out there – if an employee comes to you complaining about a co-worker’s attitude, you have to deal with it. You have to talk to both parties, and resolve the conflict. You have to do it fast, or the negativity will grow. If you are a restaurant, that negativity will show in the food, or in the service. Your customers will notice and you will lose money.

The only time I would advise someone to quit without complaining to a manager first is when the management is the problem, which seems to be the issue a lot of the time in small businesses like restaurants. In this case there should be a simple way to get in touch with a government body that can help, perhaps a hotline directly to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Currently if you Google “I’m being harassed at work, what can I do?”, this blog comes up, which is kind of helpful but when you finally get through to the Tribunal’s website, and figure out how to file a complaint, you might have to wait up to two weeks before getting an answer. How many people would actually go through this process? No wonder that when someone actually does, a lot of people act surprised and say things like “I didn’t think this kind of thing happened anymore”. Of course it does, it’s just so laborious for a victim to complain and get results that they would rather just move on.

Now I realize that some people don’t want easy access for people to complain about workplace harassment. Some business owners would make the point that any employee could create a false story and accuse the business of wrong doing, even if it’s a lie. As a business owner I don’t think this would necessarily be a problem. Have a workplace harassment policy and stick to it. Conflict resolve, and if a slighted party decides to lash out by creating a story for either the Ministry of Labour or the Human Rights Tribunal, you would have a paper trail to defend yourself. Neither of those groups would take a case without investigating first. I have worked with officers from the Ministry of Labour to ensure we’re above board – they will help a business owner FOR FREE in this regard. Protect yourself by setting standards and following them. Is it a pain in the ass to have to do all of this – of course it is. But I’d rather carry that burden than have my mother, wife, daughter, or friend have to deal with a much more physical pain in the ass at work.

There has been a lot of weird shit going on these days in the connected world. Women holding up signs saying they’re not feminists; Instagram photos joking about transgendered people; people inventing the phrase “trans-racial”, a knee-jerk supportive reaction to Jian Ghomeshi’s Facebook explanation of being fired. Instant connection to stories seem to make people have instant reactions, and the problem with not taking a second to breathe and examine the context is that people say shit they want to take back a day later. I was raised in an environment where we were allowed to speak our minds freely, as long as there was a respectful undertone. As I grew I realized that sometimes you have to pause before blurting something out, because you will eventually say things you regret. I still say things I will immediately regret, but I’m always trying to curb those instances (having a woman of colour as my wife has taught me to really think about what I say sometimes). A perfect example of this is the former blog category name I put this type of article in - "Just the Tips". As funny as I think that is, it's indicative of a turn of phrase I wouldn't really want my female staff to feel was innappropriate. The older I get the less of an “I regret nothing” attitude I have. You have to own regrets, apologize for them; learn from them.

Here’s to hoping the accused cooks, and the restaurant they worked in, regret putting their coworker into this situation.