This dish is my hero. Packed with potent flavours. Delivery like a punch in the mouth. A veteran of the Sun and 13 Cantons pop-up, the strong performance of this steak dish saved us from ruin by being a lion for our sales targets.
Anyone who doesn’t think veg can be macho hasn’t met purple sprouting broccoli. A vegetable so tough its outdoor season starts in January. My outdoor season doesn’t start til late March, and that’s with a coat on. Broccoli goes so well with beef because it shares in bloody steak’s bitter-iron taste.
My steak cut of choice is onglet. It’s from a muscle involved in breathing, so it works hard all day, building character with every breath the cow takes. It can be tough, but it also has a tender side waiting to be brought out. Cooked medium rare or less and sliced against the grain it will melt in your mouth. Best of all, as a lesser known cut, it’s half the price of sirloin.
My true blue love is creamy Gorgonzola, but I’m cheating on it here for crumbly Stilton, the romantic hero of this piece. It melts in the arms of the broccoli, but stays full bodied and bold throughout the dish.
In fact, this dish isn’t just one hero – it’s a team of heroic ingredients, and combined they are more powerful than they ever were alone.
Onglet with PSB, Stilton, walnuts and onion marmalade
- 40g stilton
- 25g shelled walnuts
- 1 onglet steak, at room temperature
- About 12 stems purple sprouting broccoli
- 2 tbsp onion marmalade (see below)
- 150g (150ml) Chicken stock or red wine
Set a large pan of well salted water to boil.
Dice or crumble the Stilton into pieces about 0.5-1cm. Crumble the walnuts into similar sized pieces with your hands, put both in a bowl and leave to one side.
Prepare the broccoli. If stems are thicker than a pencil or seem particularly woody, slice down the length of the stem, stopping just before the floret. Very thick stems should also be peeled a little at the base using a potato peeler.
Blanch the broccoli in boiling water until the stems are cooked al dente – so there is still some resistance in the centre. Remove with a slotted spoon or a spider and drop straight into iced water. Do not discard the blanching water, but reduce its heat to low and cover with a lid.
Season the steak on both sides. Heat a large, heavy based frying pan or skillet until almost smoking hot. Add oil and continue to heat for another minute. Sear the steak, flipping every 15 seconds or so until well browned all over (about 3 minutes). Remove from the pan, cover with foil and allow to rest in a warm place.
Deglaze the pan with the wine/chicken stock. Add the onion marmalade. Reduce over a low/medium heat to thicken to a gravy-like consistency and then take off the heat.
Bring the blanching water back to a rolling boil. Drop the broccoli back in for 30 seconds, drain it and put straight into the pan with the gravy. Add the Stilton and walnuts and toss gently to coat the broccoli with the gravy.
Slice the steak, add the resting juices to the broccoli and serve.
- 3 large onions, roughly chopped
- Sunflower oil
- About 75g (75ml) Balsamic vinegar
- About 75g (75ml) chicken stock
- 2 tbsp demerera sugar
In a deep, wide saucepan or casserole dish, sauté the onions in a generous amount of oil over a low heat for approximately 1 hour, tossing every so often, until onions are soft and tender and are only just starting to colour.
Dress liberally with balsamic vinegar and continue to cook for another 20 minutes, tossing every five minutes.
Once onions are soft and brown/black and sticky all over, sprinkle a little sugar, toss again and continue to cook for another 20 minutes. By this point, the liquid should be almost entirely evaporated/absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Store extra onion marmalade in the fridge in an airtight container.
Tips For Geeks
Outside of purple sprouting season, use tenderstem or just regular broccoli (calabrese). Calabrese is a bit harder to make pretty-looking, but that’s the only real drawback.
Onglet is not the most widely known cut. If you get blank stares, try asking for it as hanger steak. Good butchers carry it – avoid the ones who don’t. If they’ve run out, skirt steak (also known as bavette) is quite similar. If you like your steaks cooked more than medium rare, get something else though as onglet turns tough if overcooked.
I pick Stilton for this dish because it doesn’t melt to the point of dissolving as creamier blues like Roquefort or Gorgonzola would. It means that, rather than a uniform blue cheese sauce over everything, the dish has occasional, irregular pops of intense blue cheese flavour.
Onion marmalade is a great one to keep on hand in the fridge. It takes a while to make a batch, but not much longer to make a large batch than a small one. It lasts for weeks (at least) and its sweet and sour flavour is fantastic with cheese, nuts, bread and butter, red meat, green vegetables, sultanas, apples – most things I’ve tried it with, to be honest. I’ve added a bit of chicken stock to the recipe because when I only used balsamic vinegar, it was too astringent.
A deep pan with onions piled high will cook more slowly, but the water released from the onions above means that they’re less likely to catch on the bottom of the pan and turn brown. Spreading the onions out more in a wider pan will cook them faster but they’re more likely to burn.
The reason for the meticulous slicing of the stems of the broccoli is surface area. Thick stems take much longer to cook than the delicate florets. Blanching thick PSB until the the stems are cooked through renders the florets completely mush before the stems are anywhere near done. Slicing the stems lengthways increases the surface area, allowing them to be cooked in a fraction of the time.
If you have the option when buying them, thin stems of PSB require much less preparation. That said, I rather like the way that sliced stems curl back up on themselves a bit like an octopus’ tentacles.
For further advice on blanching green vegetables, see last week’s post.
Searing a steak does not, as the conventional wisdom holds, “seal in the juices”. If you weigh a steak before and after searing; it will weigh less afterwards because water in the meat has been driven off, and will lose more weight the longer you cook it. The sizzle when your steak touches the pan is the sound of water boiling. Moisture is lost proportional to temperature and time.
What searing does do it create Malliard reactions, more commonly known as browning. For detailed explanations of these reactions, you can read Harold McGee On Food and Cooking. My oversimplification: searing is good because colour equals flavour.
Other than a properly tended charcoal BBQ, the unparalleled option for searing is a cast iron skillet. If you know only a little about science, you might do what I did and start thinking in terms of specific heat capacity, but you’d miss the most important point: cast iron is heavy. A cast iron skillet weighs twice as much as an aluminium pan of similar size, which means that once its preheated it will have an enormous reservoir of heat energy to draw from to replenish the heat transferred to your steak.
Proper use and care for a cast iron skillet is discussed in this Salt and Fat post.
The outside of the steak is only half the battle. Done-ness of beef corresponds to its internal temperature. If you have an instant read thermometer, 55C is about medium rare. But that means you want to take the steak off at about 45C, because the temperature in the middle will continue to rise while resting (essentially, the hotter outside parts of the steak keep on cooking the cooler middle parts). If you don’t have an instant read thermometer, you can push the tip of a paring knife into the centre of a steak, wait about 8 seconds, then whip it out and quickly touch it to your lip. 45C is a shade above body temperature, so it should feel warm. If it feels cold, continue searing it a little longer or pop it into a warm oven for a few minutes. If it feels hot, as in, piping hot, the steak will probably be overdone.
Flipping the steak every 15 seconds during cooking means that the middle of the meat cooks more evenly. It gives less of a range of colour internally and allows the steak to be medium rare from edge to edge.
Most cooking advice I’ve read suggests allowing meat to come to room temperature before searing it. I think that this really only holds if you have no difficulty getting a good sear on your steak. On some domestic hobs, especially some electric ones, or in thin frying pans, it may take a long time to get a decent sear on the outside, during which time the internal temperature of the steak may get too high. If this is your experience, cook steaks from fridge cold.
Slicing a steak and finding it overdone is a tragedy. Slicing a steak and finding it underdone is barely even a problem – put the plated steak dish into the oven for a couple of minutes. Much better to cook under than over.
Deglazing is an important technique for preserving flavour. Quite often when you sauté or roast, little bits get stuck to the bottom of the pan. These bits are full of the Malliard reaction flavours I discussed above. Add a flavourful liquid (wine, stock, sherry, vinegar) and dissolve them into it by scraping or whisking. Reduce over a low heat and the sauce thickens into a gravy that’s full of the flavours created in the frying.
Gravy for me is emblematic of a broad principle that underlines my cooking: flavour is precious, and shouldn’t be wasted. This is why, when I make bacon for breakfast, rather than washing up the pan straight away I leave the bacon grease for cooking onions for dinner. Then I deglaze the pan with the water from the carrots and add the end of the bottle of wine and the steak trimmings from last night or the chicken bones from the night before. Reduce that down and you end up with a sauce with a deep, rich, complex flavour, from stuff that was otherwise just going to get thrown away.