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The Ultimate Grilled Steak

The ultimate grilled steak is the holy grail of backyard grillers worldwide. When properly executed, this dish needs no embellishment other than red wine, a green salad and carnivorous friends with whom to enjoy it. Use your very best olive oil for this simple dish.

Ingredients:

For the caramelized onion jam (optional): 

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced 
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 
  • 1/4 cup red wine 
  • 1/2 cup sugar 
  • 1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves 
  • 1/4 cup light agave syrup 
  •   
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil  
  • 3 to 4 Tbs. chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary, sage, thyme and marjoram  
  • 2 bone-in rib or boneless rib-eye steaks each 10 to 12 oz. and 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick 
  • Coarse salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste 

Directions:

To make the caramelized onion jam, in a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the onion, vinegar, wine, sugar and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is very soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the agave syrup and stir to coat the onion. Cook until the onion begins to caramelize and the mixture is thick and syrupy, 1 to 2 minutes more; do not allow the jam to burn. The jam will thicken as it cools. The jam can be served immediately, or stored in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil and herbs.

Trim off the excess fat from the steaks; reserve a 1-inch piece to grease the grill grate. Generously season the steaks with salt and pepper, gently pressing the seasonings into the meat. Place the steaks in a large baking dish, pour the herbed oil over the top and turn to coat well. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes.

Prepare a hot fire in a grill. Using long tongs or a carving fork, grease the preheated grill grate with the reserved fat; it should smoke and sizzle immediately and begin to melt.

Remove the steaks from the marinade, letting the excess drip back into the dish; discard the marinade. Place the steaks directly over high heat, cover the grill and cook until the steaks are nicely grill-marked, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the steaks over, cover the grill and cook until nicely grill-marked on the other side. Continue to turn and grill until cooked to your liking.

Transfer the steaks to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut away the rib bones and thickly slice the steaks. Season with salt and pepper and serve with caramelized onion jam. Serves 4.

Tips on selecting steaks: On or off the bone, the rib steak (or rib-eye) is the first choice of grilling aficionados. The second choice for the ultimate grilled steak is the sirloin strip steak. Look for hormone-free prime or choice rancher’s reserve beef, Black Angus or grass-fed beef. Stay away from prepackaged select beef displayed in plastic wrap in the supermarket case.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma On the Grill, by Willie Cooper (Oxmoor House, 2009).