If you think of steak as a special occasion food—something you only eat on birthdays or at celebrations—you’ve probably never had dinner at my dear friend Elizabeth Poett’s house. A seventh-generation cattle rancher, Elizabeth knows how special a good cut of well-raised, properly-cooked beef can be. (She and her family have dedicated their lives to producing high-quality meat from free-range, grass-fed animals.)
But she also knows that a simple steak, seared on a grill or in a pan, can make the perfect quick weeknight dinner when you’re short on time and need something hearty, flavorful, and full of protein to put on the table.
This recipe for Weeknight Steaks with Sweet Onions—from Elizabeth’s first cookbook, The Ranch Table (which I had the honor of co-writing with her)—reminds me of countless dinners I’ve had in her cozy kitchen over the years. It’s the kind of meal she whips up when we get to her house late in the evening after a long day of work or play.
With very little time to cook (and, usually, a crew of hungry kids and guests to feed), Elizabeth will pull a couple steaks out of the freezer and thaw them under cool water while she gets a few odds and ends out of the refrigerator or sends her kids to her garden to collect vegetables.
Within minutes, she has put her guests to work making a salad or blanching green beans, and she’s standing at the stove, carefully cooking the meat until it has a rich brown crust and a perfectly pinkish-red interior. In just 15 minutes, we’re all digging in. Dinner has never felt easier or more satisfying.
Cooking Steak with Butter
The method Elizabeth uses in this recipe—spooning melted butter over the steaks to baste them while they cook—is a classic technique that adds wonderful flavor to any steak. It’s also particularly great when you’re cooking with grass-fed meat, as Elizabeth does, because it adds additional fat (and free-ranging animals have more muscle and less fat than those fed in more industrialized settings).
It does, however, require you to give your steak a little extra time and attention: To cook the steak, you’ll need to lift one edge of the pan off the stove with one hand, so the butter can pool on one side, then use your other hand to scoop the butter up with a spoon and pour it over the steak. You’ll want to repeat this process a lot during the cooking, to give the meat an even sear, but the results are worth the couple of minutes it takes.
Season and rest the steaks:
Rub 1 teaspoon of the salt and all the pepper into the steaks and let them rest for 30 minutes.
Make the onions:
While the steaks are resting, cut the onions into 1/4-inch-thick rounds.
Put the onions, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt into a large cast-iron pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden brown, about 10 minutes, then remove them from the pan; set them aside.
Sear the steaks:
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan and heat it over medium heat until the oil smokes just a bit, about 1 minute. Add the steaks and sear them for 30 seconds on each side.
Add butter and aromatics and baste:
Add the butter, garlic, and bay leaves to the pan. Once the butter melts, tilt the pan so the butter, garlic, and bay leaves pool to one side. While one hand is tilting the pan slightly, use the other to spoon the butter over the steaks, basting them, for 2 minutes, then flip the steaks over and baste them again for another 1 to 2 minutes, until they reach an internal temperature of 125° to 130°F for rare, 145°F for medium, or your preferred doneness.
Pull the pan off the heat, remove the bay leaves, and return the onions to the pan. Taste the pan sauce and adjust the seasoning.
Make the blue cheese sauce and serve over top, if using.
Make the blue cheese sauce (optional):
Combine the cream and butter in a medium saucepan and cook them over low heat until the butter melts, about 3 minutes. Add the cheese, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and whisk slowly until the cheese has melted, about 2 minutes. Serve warm.
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