The Rare and the Cooked

So what is it about rare meat? Sarah and I have been having this “discussion” forever it seems. My mother cooked steak rare, roast beef medium rare, chicken done and juicy every time. I never realized how good her technique was. She’d accompany roast beef with oven-browned potatoes that were shiny and deep gold on the outside and creamy within. The next day, their magic was gone, but you ate them anyway, to salute the memory of what they once were. It took me 20 years to approximate hers, using a Pyrex baking tray. I called them Potatoes Betsy, after my friend Betsy who showed me the technique. Mom could make hers in the same pan as the roast beef, effortlessly every time.

Steak, done in the broiler, fat crisp, meat crusty without and red and juicy within. That’s my Platonic idea of meat. We ate no pork at home, and except for bacon and sausage, rarely at a restaurant either so beef is what I come back to.

Sarah likes her meat done without pink, her chicken at 180, her vegetables a couple of touches past al dente. We agree on the crisp fat and crusty outside, but not on what is within. I admit I have been less than kind about it in the past, but I am trying to do better. I chalk that up to a disastrous vacation with a friend and his wife who, whiny and overbearing, complained about my chicken so much that I vulcanized her pieces over the grill, our chicken growing cold while we waited for hers to dry out. She loved the chicken I finally served her and kept trying to get her husband to agree that it was done right. He demurred, politely as befits a spouse, but unambiguously. Since then, criticism of the doneness of my chicken or steak explodes into a blind rage that I keep to myself until it passes. OK, so I’m not proud of it, but I am a grown-up about it. If you are complaining, I will smile, tightly, and cook it a little longer. I will refrain from announcing it’s ready with the call, “OK, it’s dry and tasteless. Time to eat.” As I say, I have matured somewhat.

I do try. I put Sarah’s steak on the grill a full 10 minutes before mine, but it is never done enough and is either returned for additional heat or eaten with a regretful, “It’s OK.” I mostly do braises, on which we all can agree need full cooking. I pull my chicken early, but I like thighs anyway, which are always juicier. Roast pork is always dry and leathery to my taste so I rarely make it and never order it out. I braise thick pork chops and that is always fine. But I have lost my edge in grilling steak and that is a pity.

Rare meat is no good reason for a divorce and none is contemplated. If this is our biggest issue, we’re doing alright. As I’ve said quite often, when Sarah is out of town, I eat a rare steak and love every bite. Such is life among the rare and the cooked.


The Rare and the Cooked — 1 Comment

  1. My mother made exactly the same browned potatoes that you describe your mother making, also in the same pan as she made the pot roast. I have her recipe but doubt I could equal them and have never tried.

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