I don’t know what your refrigerator is like. Maybe it has fresh food in it, and a clean smell, and a light that works, and crispy produce, and all the ingredients a person might need for the next five days of cooking. Mine is not like that. It is a repository of half-eaten things, forgotten sauces and mysterious stains. I am kind of afraid of it. But it is cold, they can’t say otherwise; and since I go out a lot, it tends to have a lot of leftovers.
Seeing as it is four amoebae short of being a biohazard, I try not to let leftovers sit in there for long. In fact, I’ve become something of a master at repurposing them. Because, no matter what your refrigerator is like, you don’t want anything in there too long.
Let’s start with steak.
Steak is a classic example of something you can’t leave behind, but can’t really use right away. Let’s say you go out to a steakhouse and get full after the first 3,000 calories. There’s almost always steak left over, but will you really feel like eating it the next day? Even if you’re not steaked out, it’s rarely very appealing. This was a question that plagued me for years. I didn’t want to eat it cold, which was gross. And no matter how I cooked it, the meat became overcooked, which of course defeats the whole purpose of steak. I beat this problem several ways, though, and here’s how.
1. Shabu Shabu
This isn’t really shabu shabu, a dish I view as depressing and unsatisfying that involves dipping raw meat in hot soup. I would never do that. It’s the worst thing I can think of. But by flashing thin slices of steak in hot sizzling butter, possibly with a little of its own trimmed fat thrown in for flavor, you can resuscitate the meat’s best qualities, and even give it some of that savory slickness which distinguishes steakhouse meat in the first place.
The key is to get the butter good and hot, and do little more than move the slices around in it for 30 seconds at most.
2. Crusty Steaklets
The other approach, a mirror to my shabu-shabu technique, is to cut the leftover steak into thick pieces about the size of a Baby Ruth. This time it will be vegetable oil and butter combined that will do the trick, because this baby has to sear hard and fast, before the middle can start cooking through. I find adding a little bit of soy sauce, salt and maybe a pinch of brown sugar can give you a tasty crust fast.
3. Cheesesteaks of the Gods
It may surprise you to learn that the original Philadelphia cheesesteaks, the ones that are remembered most fondly, were actually made from steak. (I grew up eating something called Steak-Ums, which tastes just like it sounds.)
If you slice the steak thin, and flash it as with the shabu-shabu technique, you can mix in some sautéed mushrooms and onions and peppers, and some sliced up cheese, and get it all mixed up together before the meat gets overcooked. I love this technique best of all, but you really have to do it just right. Cooking the peppers and onions first is key, because they flavor the oil and / or butter that you will cook the steak in.
4. Hot Carpaccio Bread. This is the simplest, and possibly the most elegant of all these solutions. If you have some crusty old Italian bread or a bialy, or better still some focaccia at your disposal, I would consider seasoning it (I use rosemary and salt), rubbing a little EVOO on it, giving it a hot crisp in the oven, and then laying slices of very thin cold steak on it. They warm without cooking and have a tendency to melt into the bread and to taste wonderful. A little arugula and some really good cherry tomatoes wouldn’t be out of place here, either.
Looking for steak recipes? Try these: