Something rare and wonderful happened about a month ago: both — BOTH — of our daughters were invited to a birthday party, on Saturday night from 6:00-8:00. That’s two hours. On a Saturday night. Which was on Saturday. Which is the day that immediately follows Friday, which is also a good day, but not nearly as good as the one that follows it. Saturday! Can I tell you how much I love whichever kind, compassionate person in the birthday house was responsible for that decision? Because of them, we found ourselves on an early summer night with two full hours to enjoy a grown-up dinner with our friends Todd and Anne. Two hours isn’t enough time to go to a restaurant and be back in time for the kids, maybe, but it’s plenty enough time to cook up something good at home, and eat in peace.
That afternoon, Jenny and I raced around shopping and spent way too much money on two gratuitous steaks, a bunch of fava beans, a baguette, and a big bag of assorted, odd-looking mushrooms. By 5:45, the grill had been lit, and the favas had been peeled, boiled, smashed, and smeared on toasts. Todd and Anne got a babysitter and came over at 6:00 sharp, and we had a drink like adults, without having to shout over The Penguins of Madagascar. We sat outside. We drank good wine. We threw a cast iron skillet on the grill, and cooked the mushrooms with some olive oil, salt, thyme, and garlic. We sliced the baguette and brushed it with olive oil, and grilled it, too. We cooked two beautiful steaks, and drove the dog crazy. We sat down to eat at the kitchen table, and there may have even been candle, napkins (a true rarity in our house), and matching plates involved. I love our kids, I really do, but this? This was nice. The food turned out pretty well, but the entree was the star. Turns out, a couple of thick, marbled steaks, doused with tons of salt and cracked peppercorns, cooked over a hot fire, are absurdly tasty. And easy. And when cooked right, with a slight crunch on the outside — and a juicy, medium rare in the middle — are just about as good as anything you’ll find in a restaurant. So who wants to host the next birthday party? — Andy
Peppery Grilled Porterhouse Steaks
Take 1/4 cup black peppercorns, put on cutting board, and smash with underside of cast-iron skillet, until peppercorns are roughly broken up. Using your hands, smear a generous amount of pepper onto one side of steak. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt (again: don’t hold back). Flip steak, and repeat on the other side. Smear with peppercorns, sprinkle with salt. Use way more pepper than you think. Grill over medium hot fire, making sure to get a good char on the outside, but be careful not to burn, about 3-4 minutes a side. Let sit for ten minutes, cut away from bone, and slice. Arrange on platter and sprinkle with sea salt.