The steak lovers steak. Loved..
It’s not often I comment on things so directly, personally and publicly in the town via my own news title, but this time I have cause to.
When I am gifted time, that rare thing that appears to evade all business owners, I cook. Over the past fifteen years my culinary skills, methods and techniques have steadily improved thanks to practice, the help of various chefs and local kitchen professionals.
As with all things in the current country wide economy, affordability plays a large and influential part in everyday life and for most families, eating out is returning as a “treat” rather than the easy alternative to home cooking.
In a way, we should be thankful to television for its ever expanding army of, and I really don’t like using the phrase, “Celebrity Chefs”. Cooking competitions, culinary creativity and the near endless outpouring of cookery books that leave the shelves at Waterstones heaving, have, in real terms, inspired the nation to get into the kitchen and fire up the oven.
I will admit that I am partially influenced by it all but the truth is, I had already invested plenty of time with a knife and chopping board. In actual fact I first started out at sixteen by washing pots at the Bowdon Hotel before advancing into prep, albeit slowly, thanks to a less than reluctant head chef.
So, we move on a few years and here I am in Knutsford, surrounded by producers, suppliers and some exceptional food retailers. Like most WA16 residents, I try my level best to shop locally and I always choose produce that is grown in the UK rather than imported.
I simply do not I agree with importing strawberries because it “feeds the consumer need” Anyone with a solitary functioning tastebud will qualify that British strawberries are the best. So why not just wait and enjoy them when in season they are often cheaper! However, I do have a Czech friend that insists that strawberries from her country are far superior, a claim that is as yet, unsubstantiated.
We have some of the best meat counters and butchers available in and around Knutsford, most of which source locally or regionally. This activity is essential and not only drives the local economy but overall supports our national agriculture and farming industry.
So it appears that the outdoor cooking season is upon us, granted it is all rain dependent, but right now, butchery business is brisk! Last weekend’s pleasing weather was only clouded by the fog of barbeque smoke and an absence of charcoal in many of the local stores. Fortunately for me, I had a large box of restaurant grade Big K in the garage so the sun kissed sizzling could get underway.
No gas? Well no, (A) Gas is not sustainable (B) Regardless to the garden centre propaganda, charcoal cooked food has immense flavour. Oh and before I forget, you do need time and some degree of skill to cook properly on open flame.
Armed with bowls of rubs, marinades and seasoning I often infuse the majority of meats with something simple and flavorsome. However, steak needs to be treated with serious respect and in my view, must be kept simple. You can always kill it off with some sauce, post flame.
Steaks and burgers are the ultimate barbeque attendants. you can serve them rare, medium or ruined (well done). In my own opinion the full flavour of beef is triggered ones it reaches the searing heat of open flame cooking.
Sadly, the cost of steak has risen dramatically and where I would have easily eaten it twice a week, it has become somewhat of a treat. Granted there are some major health benefits to cutting down on red meat (see Helen O’brien’s article about diet and other things..) but nonetheless my source of protein has been focused on chicken or pork.
As you can imagine with high meat prices, choosing a steak when out for dinner is pretty much off the menu. It is normally the focus of some intense deliberation before opting for a £20 investment which is, quite often, disappointingly small. Set that up against the following; team work between a meat counter, the griddle plate and some cooking time, it always produces a far more pleasing result on grounds of economically and taste.
So there I was on Friday evening, walking down King Street, with a powerful desire for steak, torn between heading home, ignoring the threat of rain and cooking something on the coals or grudgingly paying someone else for the privilege.
After twenty minutes of doorstep menu staring at the various hostelries, I spotted the 18oz Porterhouse Steak at the newly re-created Chop House at the Rose and Crown. Finally, this was the meaty magnet I was looking for and my economic polar opposite was quickly drawn in over the threshold.
A while after ordering “the big one”, as referred to by one of the staff, it landed. For the first time in many years I sat and stared at the bronto-steak in total awe. My expectation had been met, ushered though a secret door and upgraded to the first class lounge before my tastebuds had presented a boarding card.
Almost half an hour later I was nearly there, the bone cast aside and a few treasured mouthfuls left before I could officially conclude my main course. I quite admired the devastation that I had left behind and the three large glasses of red, certainly helped see off what was without doubt, the best steak I have had in many years.
Some lovely little touches such as the split garlic blub roasted perfectly, ready to extract and press into an occasional forkful. Just the right quantity of pepper corn sauce served in a rather cute copper saucier and the traditional flat mushroom with a a rather large tomato standing guard.
My faith in restaurant cooked prime cuts has now been fully restored and in my own town for under £20. I have spent most of the weekend trying to justify a second visit in the middle of next week, but the diet and wallet might well have something to say about a return trip so soon after the event.
NB: Apologies for the photo, will change it later this week – ED