I ruined $50 worth of beef

I ruined $50 worth of beef

The fact the meat market offered them at a sale price didn’t diminish the rare-occasion prospect of having steaks for dinner, grilled over the coals outside.

With family visiting for a few days, they’d picked up an embarrassment of riches in several center-cut filets, most of them 8 or more ounces. We planned a fine dinner, as we’re rarely all together anymore.

There were several sides and a warm loaf of homemade bread. We brought out half the glassware in the house and overcrowded the table with it.

I gave the beef a simple olive oil and salt and pepper prep, then made up a small batch of butter with fresh tarragon and garlic to melt over the steaks after they were finished cooking.

People were coming out to the kitchen to visit those steaks. That’s how special they were.

“Those are huge!”

(Yes, they really are, haven’t seen a filet that big in ages.)

“I don’t know if I can eat all that.”

(Don’t worry, my dear. You’ll have plenty of help.)

The grill was lit, and we waited for the fire to get good and hot to get the proper sear. I was entrusted with the grilling.

Now it has been some time since I’ve grilled a filet outdoors. We’ve come to appreciate the flavor and control of doing them in cast iron. Grilling them was altogether different. And these steaks were enormous. They were clearly going to need some time to avoid the blood run on the plate I knew everyone would object to.

But not to worry. There are several ways to determine the degree of doneness of a steak, as any smarmy, overconfident cook knows.

If you tuck your thumb up tight against your curled fingers as though you were about to blow on a wide blade of grass to get a loud sound, the fleshy part at the base of your thumb is what a medium rare steak feels like. Or press your chin (that’s rare), your nose (medium rare) or your forehead (well done).

“Medium rare,” I heard on my way out the door.

I seared the steaks off on the hot part, pressing them and testing every minute or so. Moving them off to the side, I kept up the pressing. They kept on feeling soft.

“These are so thick,” I thought. “They’ll take awhile.”

I kept pressing. They kept on feeling soft. I called my wife out to check them. They felt soft.

Finally I decided I would just take them in. I’d eat the bloody one if need be.

Coming triumphantly into the house with a plate crowded with charred treasure, I put them on the table to rest while the sides were brought out.

Moments later the gaiety and small talk came to abrupt silence. I looked up to see everyone looking resolutely into their plates as if afraid to look up.

Cutting into mine, it was faintly pinkish, just shy of well done. And the rest were far into the well-done zone.

A pile of expensive beef destroyed at my hands.

My wife looked at my cut-open steak, showing a hint of pink. “Trade me,” she said, grinning. “You get to eat your mistake.”

“I made them into shoes,” I said sheepishly.

“Poor Scott,” she said, adding “poor steer.”

People went to the fridge for steak sauce. The dog got an unexpected feast.

Later, running an errand with my belly full of chewy shoes, I figured it was good to be humbled now and then. “My children’s grandchildren will hear this story,” I thought.

My wife saved the day with a perfect late-night vanilla almond creme brulee.

I bought a meat thermometer next day.

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