Beef Shell Steak and Sweet Potato

If you’re anything like me and my husband, you know that there’s nothing like simply seasoned, perfectly cooked food to send you over the moon. This dish is beef shell steak (also known as a strip steak). This cut is basically a porterhouse (T-bone) steak with the filet (tenderloin) removed. I chose boneless, but you can buy these bone-in as well. Just like other fine cuts of beef, the shell steak is best prepared with a high, dry heat. That means on the grill, in a skillet, or under the broiler. One of the greatest things about fine steak is that it finishes cooking in no time! The simple seasoning is meant to enhance the flavor of this superb cut of beef without overpowering it. The same principle applies to the sweet potato (one of my favorite veggies). In this case, your side dish is going to take much longer than the steak itself, so let’s start there.

Baked Sweet Potato

Ingredients: Sweet Potato
2 medium sweet potatoes
Salt, pepper and butter, to taste
Toppings, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Poke some holes into the sweet potatoes with a fork. This is to allow steam to escape during cooking. Wrap the potatoes in tin foil and place onto a cookie sheet. The cookie sheet will protect your oven if a potato happens to drip or leak during baking.

2. Bake on the center rack for 1 hour or until potato feels tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and keep warm by wrapping in a towel. Leaving the tin foil on will help as well. Cook your steak according to the recipe below. Once that comes out of the oven, proceed to step three to plate your potato.

3. To plate your potatoes, remove their foil and make a slit down the length of the each potato. No need to cut too deep, the main purpose here is to cut the skin. Using hot pads to protect your hands, grab each end of the potato and smoosh inward. This will push all of that potato-y goodness up and out, causing the skin to open wide, revealing beautiful, steaming smashed sweet potato! Finish with salt, pepper, butter, or whatever toppings you like. (If you revel in the natural sweetness of sweet potatoes, as I do, you may not want to add anything at all.)

Broiled Beef Shell Steak

Ingredients: Beef Shell Steak
2 beef shell (strip) steaks, 3/4″ thickness
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Allow steaks to come to room temperature. This should take about 20-30 minutes. Arrange your oven rack so it’s three inches below the broiler. Set your oven to broil and allow it to heat up for a couple of minutes. Generously salt and pepper your steaks.

2. Using your broiler pan or a shallow baking dish, cook your steaks for 8-10 minutes, flipping your steak halfway through. This will give you medium steaks. Add or subtract two minutes if you prefer your steaks more or less well done. If your steak is thicker than 3/4″, then for every additional 1/4″ move an inch farther from the flame and add two minutes per side. Depending on the warmth of your broiler, the thickness of your steaks, and the exact distance between your food and the broiler, cooking time may vary. I’ve included some tips at the bottom to help you determine when your meat is done.

3. Remove the steaks from the oven and allow them to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving. While you wait, complete step three for your potatoes. Plate, garnish, and serve. Since this is the second course in my homemade Valentine’s Day feast, I used a sprig of fennel leaves as my garnish to tie in with the salad from the first course, a Goat Cheese Soufflé.

Testing your meat for doneness.

Option 1. Use a thermometer to measure internal temperature.

A medium steak will hit an internal temperature of 145F. However, the temperature in the center of a steak will continue to rise, even after it’s removed from the oven. This phenomenon is known as carryover cooking. To avoid overcooking your steak, it should be removed from the oven 10F before it reaches the desired final temperature. So if you want a medium steak, pull it out of the oven at 135F and allow it to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving. NOTE: These temperatures do not comply with the USDA’s current guidelines for the minimal internal temperature for beef. The USDA recommends cooking whole cuts of beef to an internal temperature of 145F before removing it from its heat source. This needs to be followed by a minimum 3 minute rest to ensure that the meat is completely devoid of illness-causing bacteria. (It’s worth noting here that ground beef is much more dangerous than whole cuts of steak. The USDA recommends a minimum internal temperature of 160F for ground beef products.)

Option 2. The hand test.

A 3/4″ steak is a bit too thin to test with a thermometer, so here’s a classic method of that I find helpful when cooking all sorts of meats. I call it the hand test. It’s not as accurate as a thermometer, but it’s pretty reliable, and you don’t lose any juices to the dreaded “slice it open and see if it’s done” method.

Rare: Relax and  dangle your hand. Pressing the area between your thumb and index finger feels similar to rare steak--soft and yielding to light pressure.

Rare: Relax and dangle your hand. The area between your thumb and index finger feels similar to rare meat–soft and yielding to light pressure.

Medium: Stretch out your hand and tense your fingers. The area between your thumb and index finger feels similar to medium steak--springy firmness that yields to pressure, but bounces back a bit.

Medium: Stretch out your hand and tense your fingers. The area between your thumb and index finger feels similar to medium meat–springy firmness that yields to pressure, but bounces back.

Well done: Make a fist with your hand. The area between your thumb and index finger feels similar to well done meat--hard and unyielding with little or no springiness left.

Well done: Make a fist with your hand. The area between your thumb and index finger feels similar to well done meat–hard and unyielding with little or no springiness.

♥ The dessert course is next in our Valentine’s Day feast! This could be the most important course on such a day as Valentine’s, so I’m sharing TWO special recipes! Don’t worry. Chocolate is involved. :)

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2 Responses to ♥ Beef Shell Steak and Sweet Potatoes (for Two)

  1. T.R. says:

    I’ve maintained, since the age of 11, that sweet potato and steak pair perfectly. There are few other pairings I’ve approached which match in simplicity of preparation, flavor, and balance. An improvement I suggest is using a wood grill to char the steak quickly, and serving rare. The wood flavor adds to the meat, while also helping blend the salt/pepper seasoning. A light American ale drizzled over the meat, while charring, can further enhance the meat, but is not for everyone.

  2. Chelsea Giambrone says:

    Food and Science, how perfect is that ! cjb

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