Thursday, August 23, 2012
Happy Birthday Gene Kelly!
Earlier this month, my dearest friend had a dinner in honor of the 100th anniversary of Julia Child's birth. You can read all about her celebration and her family's special relationship with Julia over at My Family Table. Probably unsurprisingly, I couldn't get my act together to whip up a fancy french dinner in the heat of August.
But today is another hundredth birthday - that of one of my favorite childhood movie stars, Gene Kelly. While everyone else my age was building up a common knowledge of popular 80's culture, I was watching old musicals. One of my very favorites has always been On the Town, starring Gene Kelly. The combination of sailors on shore leave and girls in amazing costumes taking in the sights of New York City made it irresistible to me. (True confession: I currently own two dresses I love primarily because they remind me of the costumes in the movie. a gorgeous full skirted black and white plaid that looks like the trim on Ann Miller's costume and a black dress with a coral underskirt that makes me think of the stunning crinolines under Vera Ellen and Betty Garret's dresses.) While it's probably not Kelly's best exhibition of dancing (except for a dream ballet sequence, he doesn't get to truly show his abilities), it's really worth watching if you at all go in for this kind of thing. If nothing else, you'll get to see Frank Sinatra at the height of his popularity acting sheepish and awkward around girls.
In honor of Kelly's birthday, TCM is running his films all day, with On the Town showing at 6:15. So why not make it dinner and a movie? I'll admit, the meal comes solely from my imagination as the movie is almost entirely without food. Sure, there are few mentions briefly in song, but despite the movie running through a full 24 hours, the only eating shown is when the boys manage to grab a few apples from a fruit stand. So what would I serve sailors on leave? Most certainly something they could not afford, a beautiful juicy steak.
It's a perfect New York treat for a perfect New York movie.
A New York strip steak
salt and pepper
Selecting the steak: You want to buy a steak that is about 1.5 to 1.75 inches thick and has a nice amount of marbling throughout (marbling is the strands of fat that run through the meat which make it flavorful and delicious). The thickness of the steak is recommended so that you have a good ration of nice juicy middle to crispy outside. In my world you want a nice thin outside with a pink center, not a thin strip of pink between two chewy crusts. Choose USDA prime for the best quality.
Equipment: You need a cast-iron pan.
Preparation: Take the steak out of the fridge about 15 minutes before you want to cook it so that it can warm up. Salt and pepper it generously (don't coat it or anything, just a nice sprinkling on each side). With a few minutes to go, heat up your cast-iron pan. Use a paper towel and pour a bit of olive oil on the towel. Use tongs to press the oiled towel all over the cooking surface of the pan. You want a nice even coating, but you don't want to just pour oil in there and make a pool.
Your pan should be over medium high heat and it will be ready for the steak when a drop of water placed in the pan sizzles. Place the steak in the pan and cook it for 4-5 minutes. Do not poke it or press it or anything once you put it down. Just leave it alone. After 4-5 minutes, turn it over and let it go for 3 more minutes. You should have a beautifully cooked side facing up at you once you flip it. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature at both ends of the steak (I know, I know the juice will run out, be delicate, don't maul the things and when you get better at it maybe you won't need a thermometer). You can pull the steak between 115 degrees and 118 degrees for medium-rare. When you take it out of the pan, cover it with foil and let it sit a few minutes. The temperature will go up a smidge more which is probably good and the juices will be less likely to pour out all over the place.
Serve your perfectly cooked steak with a good red wine (or if you're playing sailor, a mug of good beer) and don't forget to toast one of the greatest dancers of all time.