It’s mighty impressive, but still easy.
Three years ago, I was bitter. I didn’t want to be, but that’s what breakups do to people, especially when it comes to facing Valentine’s Day alone.
That’s not to say I hate Valentine’s Day. Truthfully, I can’t. It’s a combination of some of my favorite things: Chocolate, puns, and stationery. Like a child, I still give out paper valentines to friends and coworkers, because the idea of sharing cutsey shaped cards delights me. (I’m especially giddy about this year’s cards, because look at them.)
WATCH: How to Cook a Tomahawk Steak
But it is easy to feel left out when it seems like everyone you know has someone (that is, everyone but yourself), and sitting around dwelling on your loneliness makes that bitterness a hundred times worse.
So instead, I decided to do something nice for myself, the ultimate gesture: Steak.
Steak isn’t that difficult to cook, especially if you sear and finish it in the oven, but there’s a sense of pride that comes from taking that first bite of steak you’ve cooked to perfection. It’s impressive, even when it’s easy. I did not exactly have my life together at that point, but I did know how to make a mean steak (pan-sear and roast it, baby!), thanks to my dad’s guidance.
Cooking a steak is an act of love, whether it’s for yourself or another person. Friends, family, and significant others can all appreciate the gesture, and if you’re looking to impress someone (or treat yourself) this Valentine’s Day, steak is a guaranteed winner. Especially when you pan-sear it and stick it in the oven. Searing steak first will lock the juices in, guaranteeing a restaurant-worthy steak in your own kitchen. All you need to lock the juices in and create a glorious caramelized crust on the exterior of your meat is salt and pepper.
First, grind some sea salt and pepper over both sides of the steaks. Seasoning them before the sear will help you get that nice crust. Next, heat some olive or canola oil on high in a medium-large skillet. Once the butter’s ready, add the steaks and let them go—undisturbed—for 2 minutes. Then, flip them over and sear about another 2 minutes. (You can also sear the steaks separately, adding a pat of butter between meat shifts. Ample butter makes a world of difference here.)
Then, place those steaks on a sheet pan and stick ‘em in the oven. Since I do not know the inner workings of your oven or how you prefer your steak, this step is open to interpretation. But if you want it on the rarer side, it helps to check early. (I do ribeyes at 350°F for at least 10 minutes to achieve medium-rare. Twenty minutes at the same temperature yields a steak that’s closer to well-done.) Let the steaks rest for a few minutes after taking them out of the oven: Just like at a steakhouse, they’re still cooking and their juices are settling into place as the temperature drops.
You can also ditch the oven and cook strip steaks in the skillet entirely. You’ll pre-season them the same way and sear each side for three minutes. Once each side is browned, reduce the heat to medium-low, add garlic, butter, and a couple sprigs of a woody herb (like thyme or rosemary) if you have ‘em, and cook the steak for 1 ½ minutes longer, basting continuously. Remove the steaks from the pan, set them on a cutting board, and let them rest for 10 minutes while you pour yourself a glass of wine, and don’t forget to reserve that buttery steak juice mixture from the pan. I usually slap a steak on my plate and go from there, but if you’re civilized and choose to cut the steaks before serving them, make sure to cut angled against the grain to achieve maximum tenderness.
Steak has a reputation, and no matter how easy the cooking process goes, you’ll impress whoever you’ve made it for, especially if you want to charm them. In fact, the most difficult part of the dinner will be preparing sides that compliment the steak’s perfection without being completely overshadowed by it. Whether you want to roast some vegetables or load up on carbohydrates, these side dishes will boost a steak while holding their own.
You can even cook your steak and sides in one skillet and cut down on dirty dishes. Our Pan-Seared Hanger Steak with Brussels Sprouts, Potatoes, and Lemon-Herb Butter and Pan-Seared Strip Steak with Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Vanilla-Cabernet Butter are utterly impressive but still totally easy, making them perfect for experimentation. Want to shake things up a bit? Try working with a different cut of beef, like chuck eye steak, or technique like the reverse sear. To further elevate your steak bliss, spread some compound butter on top. You will never regret it.