Monday, June 23, 2008

Mmm, heme iron...

(I needed something happier up here at the top).

I made a steak for dinner tonight. I don't to that tremendously often; most of the time I eat more-or-less vegetarian. I do that because it's convenient (when you're dragging in at 7 pm, tired, hungry, it's easier to throw together a salad than it is to choreograph the cooking of a chop or something. And also, especially during the school year, there are weeks when I am not home for more than 1/2 hour or so in the evening EACH NIGHT thanks to evening meetings and such.)

And it's cheaper. And probably in the long run better healthwise to get most of my protein from beans and such.

But, once in a while, I just want a hunk of an animal to eat.

(Apologies to any vegetarians reading this).

But I do. A friend and I were talking about how we eat this weekend (she is divorced but has a teenaged son at home who does much of his own cooking). She agreed with me - veggie a lot of the time, but once in a while, you just need some meat.

She posited that maybe it was the protein, that maybe we get protein deprived. I said I didn't think it was that, so much as it was the heme iron.

There are lots of plant sources of non-heme iron (spinach is one), but I can't think of any of heme iron. Which is slightly different and is more readily absorbed.

Maybe I'm more cued in to iron because I've gone through times in the past when I was anemic. It was just the "uncomplicated" kind - no absorption problems, no other deficiencies, just I wasn't eating enough iron. (It might be a familial thing - both my mom and her mom before her had times when they were on iron pills.)

The worst period of anemia happened to happen at a time when I was otherwise "restricting" food intake, that is, one of my periodic attempts at dieting. My doctor gave me a prescription for iron pills (after I complained that the vitamin kind upset my stomach) and stern instructions to "get enough nutrients."

So since then - because I don't want to feel like that ever again (I was to the point of nearly fainting when I stood up from a stooping position, not good when you are doing botanical fieldwork outdoors in the summer), I've been cautious to make sure I get enough nutrients. Including iron.

And yeah, I eat Cream of Wheat (which is good, and is also iron fortified). And I eat spinach until it's almost coming out of my ears. And I eat other iron containing things.

(And I like irony. Hah. I slay myself sometimes)

But sometimes I just like a piece of beef.

I tend not to be terribly creative; usually I buy steak (well, living alone, roasts don't make a tremendous amount of sense and I don't like meat that's been cooked and then frozen, so making a big roast and then freezing it is out). And I usually buy the same cuts of steak, preferring something that is tender but that still Has a Flavor.

A new little meat market has opened up in my town; I am happy to see that it is here. I like it for two reasons: first, the meat is a cut above what the grocery store sells in terms of quality. (True, it's more expensive. But I tend to feel that if you can afford better quality, why not buy better quality?) And second, like any old-time butcher or grocery-store "real" meat case, you can walk up to it, point to the steak or chop or rack of ribs you want, and they'll pull it out and sell it to you. None of this pre-shrink-wrapped, family-packed, there's-really-only-one-decent-looking-steak-in-there stuff.

(Which is why I don't like most of the groceries around me - they've done away with the meat case in the name of streamlining, forcing us all to buy pre-packaged meat. Which is often packaged in large-ish quantities. Great if you have six kids, but not so great if you live alone, have a tiny freezer, and forget to take stuff out to thaw anyway).

So I love being able to walk in and buy my ONE steak or ONE pork chop and take it home and cook it.

I generally cook steaks by doing them in the grill pan. I've contemplated getting a Hibachi or something (I have a tiny porch off my kitchen where I could grill outdoors) but the grill pan does a good job and a Hibachi would add a level of complexity (having to plan ahead so the coals are the right stage of combustion when I want to cook the steak).

Actually, the grill pan is probably the pan I use the most. It's good for meat but also good for doing certain vegetables. And good for fish, except I almost never make fish because I don't like it that well.

So I grill up the steak. Usually all I do is rub some kind of seasoning - either Montreal steak seasoning or my current favorite, a southwestern style mix that has, among other things, ancho chilis and chipotle in it. No, I'm not a fan of The Hot, but this isn't really hot - it just gives a good added flavor.

And I grill the steak. But not for long. I like steak cooked AT MOST medium rare. (Yes, I am one of those tiresome people who jokingly tells the waiter, "Have the chef cook it just until it stops mooing." Which I know, waiters hate that kind of badinage. Because they probably hear it 25 times a night. But at any rate - I prefer steaks pink or even red on the inside).

And yes, you are free to respectfully disagree with me on this, but I think good beef is at its best cooked medium rare or below. I have had the experience of being out somewhere with people who preferred well-done steak. (In one case, the woman sent hers back **twice** to ask for it cooked more). And then, when their little hockey pucks come back (and I'm already half-done with my nice pink steak), they cut into it, eat a bit, sigh sadly, and say, "The steak here just isn't very good, is it?"

And I'm all "Uh? Buh?" because I was actually thinking: wow, this is a darn good steak. And I think it's the cooking that does it - I think it tastes better and is more succulent the less it's cooked. (of course, it could partly have been the sending-it-back to be flopped back on the grill that contributed to their steaks not being as good).

But yeah, I know, some people have issues with the meat juice because they think it's blood. (Trust me, it isn't).

And that's their free choice but I prefer my steaks still pink in the middle.

Anyway, I made steak tonight for dinner. And I had some corn (sadly, not fresh - it's very hard to find fresh corn on the cob here so I use either frozen or a good canned corn). And some strawberries which were fresh and were pretty good. And a little wheat hard roll. And it was good. (And yes, the steak was RARE. And it was delicious.)

I have some leftover (it was a big steak) so I think I may have a sandwich sometime. (Not tomorrow night - tomorrow is Real Crown Day when I get the final crown put on. So I'm going to have soup tomorrow night as the crown installation is late in the day and I anticipate not feeling like chewing.)


Maggie May said...

Mmmmm. I love me some steak too. I could give up chicken, if I had to, but not beef. Not entirely anyway.

Ken S, Fifth String on the Banjo of Life said...

Heck, steak is easy and quick. It's the $ that hurts.

I do long for the old days when my cousins the cattle folk provided a full side to everybody in the family (sadly, no more, not quite enough profit to give it away), and the Sainted Bride and I had the inside joke, "steak again?".

nightfly said...

One of my favorite parts of heading out to Lancaster for tournaments is going to the Texas Roadhouse and getting one of their steaks. On our budget this is the only time I do this, and it is quite a treat - I like 'em a little pink, too, with the sauteed mushrooms on top.

Now that TR opened up a franchise near the Adorables, we have more steak options. Good thing too, since I had to skip this month's tournament to do all the new house stuff.