Introduction: Cacao Nib Crusted Steak
Mmmm. Steak. Mmmm. Chocolate. What do you get when you put them together? I don't know either. That's why I made this. Let's see how it goes.
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Step 1: The Haves
I choose a filet for this because I was also trying out a different salting technique and wanted a thicker cut. I'm sure you could crust any kind of steak with cacao nibs though. Or even a hamburger.
* Cacao Nibs
* Kosher salt
* Spices - pretty much you can put on whatever the frig you like.
* A cast iron skillet or a grill
Step 2: Salting--An Experiment
I've seen this done on a few shows and around the internet. Super salting a steak. I'd never done it, but in the name of food science/experimentation I thought, "Why the hell not?"
I know that there are probably some out there who will respond quite strongly to this. They'll say that it'll strip the meat of juices and so on. To them I say that the finished steak was every bit as moist as any other I cook. It's not like we're curing this steak for days, trying to make some filet proscuitto.
I will admit that this technique was sort of a failure, but it was a my fault. I planned on letting these sit for at most an hour. I set a timer and then did other things around the house . . . in places where I couldn't hear the timer. And so it ultimately they had 1.5 to 2 hours of salt exposure.
Were they ruined? Not at all. Where they too salty? A little. If you were eating the steak and only the steak then yes it would seem extremely salted, but in combination with the potatoes and veggies it seemed to work.
So! My suggestion is no more than 30 to 45 minutes of salt exposure with this method.
Step 3: Later . . .
After the steaks have sat in the refrigerator coated in salt, it's time to turn your drain water into sea water. Rinse the steaks off and pat them dry.
As you can see in the first picture there is a little exuded liquid on the plate. Some will point to this and say, "See! You're loosing juices!" It was about 1/4 of a teaspoon. Get over it. You won't miss it. Ever heard of a dry aged steak? The whole point of that is to remove excess water from the meat to concentrate the flavor (and to cause enzymatic break down of the meat to promote tenderizing).
Rinse it and on to the next step.
Step 4: Spicing
Since I was putting cacao on these I thought I might try giving a vague nod to the Mexican mole sauces. Mole sauce is a combination of peppers and spices and chocolate. So I picked a few of the spices you might find in a mole sauce and gave the steak it's "base coat" of spices.
Step 5: Choc It Up
Take the cacao nibs for a spin in a spice grinder or mash them with a mortar and pestle. A processor or blender would also work well.
Coat the steaks and let them sit. If you're going to be cooking soon, like in an hour, I recommend letting them sit at room temperature until you're ready for them to meet the heat (or to heat the meat). But I was doing this earlier in the day so put them back in the fridge after coating them.
Is it important to let meat thoroughly come up to room temperature before cooking it? Not in my experience. Perhaps if you're cooking in a restaurant and they're already out and at room temp you might shave a minute or two off of cooking time, but I've never found any textural, tenderness, or moistness issues from cooking steak straight from the refrigerator.
Step 6: Do the Deed
I have to admit that I prefer to cook steaks on the stove top. A cast iron skillet is just about the best thing to sear any kind of anything in. Give the bottom a coat of oil, heat it up to Medium-High or High heat for 5 or 10 minutes, then you're ready for some crust forming goodness.
Something a lot of TV cooks won't mention is that though you might get a good crust on a steak by cooking it on high until your desired doneness (medium rare or medium only, FOR THE LOVE OF JEBUS!) you also stand the chance of burning the hell out of any spice mixture you put onto them. The end result will be a blackened outside and likely a rare inside.
That's why I do the two stage method of cooking steaks. Sear on the the stove top and then toss into a 350 to 375 degree oven to come to the final temp.
Sometimes I do that in reverse, but that's an instructable for another day.
Step 7: Shhhhh . . . They're Resting
Let them sit and collect themselves after they've come to your desired doneness. I tent them with foil, but if I have something big like a rib roast or something like that I'll invert a large plasticware bowl over the top to act as my tent.
Is resting important? A lot of people seem to think so. Me? I mainly do it to cool it down, not to "let the juices redistribute." What the hell does that even mean? You hear all kinds of chefs say all kinds of sh . . . stuff on TV and you really have to call into question whether it's good info or just something that's been bouncing around the echo chamber of TVville for years.
The big plus for letting it sit is that you can finish off your sides. Which is what I do and did on this occasion.
Step 8: Munch Up
That's it. Like I said earlier you can pretty much use whatever spices you like, but this combo of peppers and cumin and cacao was pretty good. The predominate flavor wasn't the cacao though you could taste it mixed in there.
I worried about the crust having a bitter flavor. This came into my head after I'd ground up the nibs and thought, "Hey, looks like cocoa powder. Oooo, bitter." In anticipation of this I made a creamy Madiera demi glace sauce (madiera is a sweet wine for those that don't know). It didn't need it. It wasn't bitter at all.
I choose mashed gold potatoes and sauteed julienned yellow squash and zucchini.
I recommend giving it a try.
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