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My Secrets for Great California Surf and Turf

wolfgangNo restaurant main course may be more widely beloved and widely ridiculed at the same time than "surf and turf." That rhyming combination of boiled or grilled lobster and grilled steak certainly solves the dilemma some people face when dining at an old-fashioned fancy steak and seafood restaurant and want something extra-special but can't decide. And, to tell you the truth, I understand the appeal of alternating bites of sweet, succulent lobster dipped in drawn butter and a meaty, juicy, well-seasoned steak.

But you can also imagine how easy it is for some overambitious restaurants or home cooks to split their attention between the featured ingredients and wind up getting neither right. And I'm sure you can understand why some serious foodies and chefs alike might consider serving steak and lobster together a bit "over the top."

That's why I aim for something subtler when preparing my own marriage between seafood and steak. Here in California, we get great fresh salmon from the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, and I find the richly flavored fish a perfect companion to good steak. Substituting salmon for lobster in my California-style surf and turf also has the advantage of making the cooking easier, since the steak cooks first and then rests in a warm place to let its hot juices settle back into the meat's fibers while the salmon takes its place on the grill and quickly cooks to perfection.

Speaking of perfection, many outdoor cooking enthusiasts ask me if, to get the best results, they have to grill over an oak wood fire like we do at our Cut steakhouses in Beverly Hills and Las Vegas. And while a good wood fire will provide high searing heat and fragrant smoke, you can also get excellent results with any fuel if you follow another of my favorite tricks: seasoning the meat or fish well before cooking.

I like to use rubs on my grilled foods. A good rub combines salt, sugar, spices, dried herbs, and other seasonings to achieve a blend so balanced that it highlights the ingredient you apply it to without calling attention to any one element. Over a hot fire, it also mingles with the food's juices to form a crust that heightens every bite.

Rubs are also incredibly convenient when cooking quick-grilling, tender ingredients. You can mix the spices well ahead and store them in an airtight container if you like. But don't apply them to the food too far in advance, or the salt and sugar will draw out too much moisture.

There you have it: secrets for a great new approach to surf and turf, one that's so easy and delicious, and makes so much good sense that even serious foodies can love it.

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CALIFORNIA-STYLE SURF-AND-TURF BARBECUE

Serves 4

SPICE RUB:

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 tablespoons dried oregano

2 tablespoons dried thyme

1 tablespoon mild paprika

1 tablespoon hot paprika

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons dried coriander

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons ground white pepper

SURF AND TURF:

2 pounds whole New York or rib-eye steak

1-1/2 pounds fresh salmon fillet, preferably wild-caught from Alaska, cut into 4 equal pieces

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

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First, make the rub. In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, garlic and onion powders, oregano, thyme, mild and hot paprika, cayenne, salt, coriander, and black and white peppers. Stir well. (Alternatively, combine all the rub ingredients in a heavy-duty sealable plastic food-storage bag. Seal the bag and shake to mix the ingredients.)

Preheat an outdoor grill.

Meanwhile, put the steak on a large tray or platter and drizzle on both sides with a little of the olive oil. With clean hands, rub it generously with some of the spice rub mixture.

Wash your hands thoroughly. Put the salmon fillet pieces on another tray or platter and drizzle them with a little more oil. Rub them on both sides with more of the spice mixture. Set aside at room temperature.

When the grill is ready, drizzle both sides of the steak with a little more oil. Put it on the grill and cook, turning once, until done to your liking, testing with an instant-read grill thermometer (130-140 degrees F for medium-rare). Transfer to a platter and cover with foil to rest for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, drizzle both sides of the salmon fillets with a little more oil and cook until they are done medium, still moist at the center, about 7 minutes per 1 inch of thickness, turning once. Transfer to a platter and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

Transfer the steak to a cutting board. Steadying it with a carving fork, cut it with a sharp carving knife across the grain into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Transfer a salmon fillet to each serving plate and drape slices of steak alongside. Serve immediately.

(c) 2009 WOLFGANG PUCK WORLDWIDE, INC. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

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