Today’s Gift…It’s Not Just Another Day…

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The Gift of Time

 

Just got this from a friend.  It’s a special message that someone in your life will appreciate today.  It could be anyone and today might be exactly the right day to send this to them.  Share it…and don’t forget to share the gift with yourself!!

Click on this Link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?feature=player_embedded&v=nj2ofrX7jAk

Enjoy.

Blooming Flowers…Blooming Hearts

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Hot! Guys, you are about to be the most popular guy of the day!! 

English: Blooming weeds Strangle weed flowers.

Blooming Flowers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If some of the ladies in your life love flowers, now’s the time to read my blog!  If you follow my extremely simple instructions, I guarantee you will be awarded  substantial WOW! (Winning Over Women) Points–today, right now, not tomorrow, but at this moment!! One of my blog followers sent this to me.  Check this out boys.  Click the below link.

http://player.vimeo.com/video/27920977?title=0&%3bbyline=0&%3bportrait=0href=

Ok, so maybe it’s not your cup of tea, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t a lady on earth that wouldn’t love this little video clip.  Take my word for it–send this clip to them and you are in for a great day of appreciation and attention.

Who should you send this to?  The special lady in your life can be your Mom, wife, girlfriend, ex-girlfriend, executive assistant, secretary, neighbor, friend or new or old flame.  Don’t be afraid–just send it to anyone you want.  It’ll brighten their day and brighten your status in their lives.  Guaranteed.

And if you want to get some at-a-boys, applauds and serious appreciation from your guy friends, tell them to check out this post on http://hotcookingguys.com.  Otherwise, they will be catching up to you for the next week.

It’s pathetically simple guys!  Just do ONE of the following options: Send the ladies in your life:

1.  The link to this post.

2.  The link to this blog with a note to check out the “Blooming Flowers…Blooming Hearts” post

3.  Copy and paste the following link to an email and send it to her.

Hot! Guys, if you really want to make some serious Bonus WOW! Points, send them a personalized note to them when you do one of the above tasks.  Oh! and if you brought home REAL flowers tonight as a surprise, who knows what could happen!!  It might be more than just dinner!  Yesssss!

Have some fun with this guys.  It’ll be a great day.  And I’ll bet the ladies in your life will pass this onto others who will love them for it.

Nymphaea spp. from the San Francisco Conservat...

Nymphaea from the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chef Pierre’s Turn On the Hot! Seat

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Pierre and Ryan–Friends in Food and Life

Yesterday was a special day for Pierre, his family, and for me.  From a earlier post [Chef Ryan on the Hot! Seat, June 30, 2012] you know our son Ryan has attended the Culinary School at Manchester Bidwell for the past year.  Over the past months, he has made a great friend named Pierre, also attending the school. 

In that earlier post, you also know that each student gets to have a day where they are the “Executive Chef” for the day.  In effect, they plan an entire meal, supervising its preparation and service.  When I attended Ryan’s day in the Hot! seat, I had a blast witnessing these young chef’s doing their very best to make their day a Hot! Day.  It was quite impressive. 

I’ve also enjoyed getting to know Pierre during his visits to our home with Ryan, and I was truly honored to be invited to partake of the meal he planned for his Challenge Day at the Institute.

Like the others, Pierre has been planning for this challenge for weeks. Prior to his assigned Challenge Day, he was responsible for selecting and creating the recipes for the multicourse menu he chose. He then collaborated with the professional staff chefs to order, purchase and cost out the ingredients for the menu items. He created a detailed workplan and timeline for the 14 or so student chefs that would be under his guidance for the day as they prepared, cooked, sauced and served the meal to about 20 or so people.  Yesterday, Pierre had to lead and guide the student chefs through the execution phase of the dinner and be ready to serve it at precisely 2:30 pm.

The most daunting element of the Challenge is that the students and professional staff rate the meal and his performance as the head chef for the day. There’s nothing more challenging than having to tell people what to do in a multi-tasking environment, and then have the workers who performed the tasks critique the outcomes.

Awesome Salad of Spinach, Balsamic and Strawberries

Yesterday, I arrived a little earlier than I had planned, and  had a chance to see Pierre in the last stages of executing his responsibilities.  He did not seem the least bit nervous or rattled. Pierre always seems to have this big ole’ smile that just beams ear-to-ear, and it was there in full bloom yesterday.  He appeared in-control and confident that the team of student chefs had performed admirably and expertly to create his menu exactly as he desired.

Pierre invited me to join his Dad, Mom, Grandfather and younger sister at the family table.  I was again delighted for this honor.  We had a wonderful time admiring Pierre’s performance and chatting while all the great stuff was happening around us.  His Grandfather, also named Pierre, has a smile like Pierre and he didn’t stop beaming the whole time.  He could not have been more proud of his grandson. 

My Favorite-Curried Cauliflower Soup

At one point, I caught Pierre’s Mom shedding a few tears.  That’s OK Mom–we understand the softer side of pride from our Mom’s–it’s what makes us Guys human beings.   Dads show pride in a different ways.  In this case, Pierre’s Dad totally consumed every morsel of food we were served.  There is no bigger compliment than that!  And his sister and I agreed the soup was the star of the meal, although it was all fantastic!!  A little later, Pierre’s girlfriend joined us, and I’m thinking she’s pretty happy to see she is dating a Hot! Guy.  Oh yeah!

Of course, I took pictures, knowing I’d blog this special event in Pierre’s road to graduation.  I even asked them to prepare another plate of salad because I had forgotten to take a picture in my haste to dig in when it got served.

Fish and Pork and Rice and Broccoli–Beautiful Plating

The plating was terrific, the food tasted fresh and healthy, and the menu items worked well together to create a great tasting dinner!! Dessert was even a flaming specialty to make sure we ended Pierre’s meal on a Hot! note.  Compliments were flowing freely among the student chefs and the professional staff chefs, because they were pleased with the outcome knowing they had each contributed much to the dinner.

Ryan and Pierre have come a long way since beginning Culinary School, and we couldn’t be more proud of what they have accomplished, and of the potential they both have as Chef’s in their newly found career.  Pretty cool (or should I say Hot!) to be a young person with a lifetime of mastering recipes, creating menus and learning cooking techniques before them.

Flaming Apples Foster for a Hot! Guy Finish

Helpful to Hot!

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Hey Guys,

One of the bloggers following my blog is pretty cool.  I’ve checked them out, and I came across a great idea to help get you Hot! Guy status this weekend.  They have an incredible idea for us guys to be helpful in an amazing way.

Costume jewelry of Constance of Austria.

Costume jewelry of Constance of Austria–Even she needs a Hot! Guys Help this Weekend!

Guys, under the category entitled, “if you can’t be Hot!, you should at least be handy”, I have never known a lady who has complete control over her mountains of costume jewelry and other clothing accessories.  My Kathy and I were just having this discussion the other day, and she asked me to come up with ideas on possible solutions for the problem.  Well, I’m no genius, but I know how to rely on my friends in the blogging network to give a hand, and sure enough I found some terrific ideas in Tresors De Luxe, Keeping it Organized, Minimizing the [@#$%!#*!], post of July 3, 2012.  Take a look at this hyperlink:  http://tresorsdeluxe.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/keeping-it-organized-minimizing-the/#comment-832.  Check it out!!

I promise you will be in Rock Star status if you bring her to this Tresors post, and enthusiastically (a key work here Guys) ask if she would like your help this weekend to get her favorite idea completed.  Even if she says “No Thanks”, I guarantee you just earned serious WOW! Points for the thoughtfulness and the initiative.  Take my word for it. 

Most of the stuff you’ll need for these projects can be found in Home Depot, Lowes, Michael’s, or any local hardware store.  Go for it and let me know how it goes.  Oh, and if you are the groom for this beautiful bride, you better get started now on ALL of Tresors projects.  You may need a couple each!

English: Aesan Gede is traditional wedding cos...

Aesan Gede is traditional wedding costumes of Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia.   This lady is going to need ALL the Projects in Tresors blog.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What Comes From the Heart, Goes to the Heart”

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Heart-shaped cloud

What Comes From The Heart, Goes To The Heart“.  This is one of my favorite quotes.  It comes from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, an mid-18th century English poet, romantic and literary philosopher.

In nine simple words it conveys how our best relationships will be touched by a circular connection that is at once intangibly romantic and simultaneously grounded by a positive attitude about how the relationship should be respected, understood, and governed.   It signals there is something special and compassionate between and among the people in a relationship, because it explicitly implies those in the relationship have agreed they are better off together and in the relationship, than they would be apart from it. 

It’s amazing how such a short phrase can so clearly message how we should behave and act towards each other to protect, nurture and grow a relationship.

Here’s a personal story that exemplifies “what comes from the heart, goes to the heart”. 

Garlicky Stuffed Bluefish Drenched In White Wine.

When my daughter was about 7 and my son about 5, we lived in Westport, CT where bluefish was inexpensive and available all year-long.  My kids have never been fussy eaters and they loved bluefish, even though it’s a dark, oily, ‘fishy’ tasting fish.  While Kathy normally prepared it, I volunteered to do it this one night because she had been busy with the kids that day.

Westport

At the time, I was still a rookie cook learning the boundaries of reasonable variation from a recipe.   I   remember thinking that if 2 cloves of garlic were good in the recipe, 6 cloves would be even better.  I love garlic.  I also substituted white wine for the fish stock to moisten the stuffing.  I assumed this  variation would ‘cut’ the oil in the fish, making it sweeter and less fishy tasting.  Funny how at the time those sounded like such great ideas, yet today I would think they were about the dumbest ideas ever. 

When the fish came out of the oven, I opened the packet.  I remember thinking it smelled a little more garlicky than I had expected, but it looked great and the fish was cooked perfectly.  I placed a portion of the fish and vegetables on four plates, called everyone to the table and proudly served our favorite family dinner.  I remember wondering if anyone would notice the strong aroma of garlic in the kitchen.

Kathy came into the kitchen and immediately turned the exhaust fan on.  That was the first sign of a problem. 

We all sat down and began to eat.  When I took my first taste, I was immediately disappointed because it was nowhere near as good as Kathy’s.  The stuffing was soggy, reeked of raw garlic, and the wine had overpowered the entire dish.  All I could taste was the acidity in the wine and a double kick of rawness from the garlic.  Of course, I was too proud to admit we had a disaster on the table [remember, I’m Italian], and assumed the peanut gallery would start chirping at any moment.  Bewildering as it was, Kathy and the kids were quietly eating what had to be the worst thing ever served in our home.  But I caught Kathy nodding her head a couple of times to the kids, as if saying:  “Don’t say anything!  Not a word.”

Kathy knew how sensitive I was about my evolving cooking skills, and I’m pretty sure she didn’t want this total failure to discourage me.  She also knew I had prepared the fish “from the heart” because I was trying to give her a break that day.  So she was simultaneously suffering through the meal, and silently managing the kids reaction to this awful meal, mainly to protect me from embarrassment and heckling from the kids. 

I knew something was ‘fishy’ (pun intended) when Kathy and my daughter began having a discussion about school, which was not in session at the time.  I was just about to admit failure and suggest it wasn’t too late to call in Chinese, when all of a sudden, my innocent and totally honest 5-year-old son blurted out, “Mom, I think Daddy’s fish is not feeling good.  Should we take it to the hospital?” 

Well, that unleashed the dog from the chain, and all of us began laughing uncontrollably.  And the comments began fly.  “Dad, this is the worst fish we’ve ever had!  This stuffing is awful.  What did you do?” came from my daughter.  My son was sticking to his assessment that the fish was sick and needed a doctor, which made us laugh all the more!  Apparently, Kathy’s silent management of my son hadn’t worked so well, and his ‘from the heart’ innocence had called me out as only a 5-year-old can.  And of course he was right, the fish needed emergency transport to the garbage disposal. 

Anyway, we ended up having breakfast for dinner that night—cereal, fruit and milk.  And we laughed and joked about Daddy’s cooking disaster and my son’s hospital comment at every meal that week.   To this day, when one of my cooking efforts goes sideways, the family always tells me nothing will ever be as bad as that Garlicky Stuffed Bluefish Drenched in White Wine back in Westport, CT.   And my son asks if we should call the hospital.  Some quotes never go away in a family.

When I got up from the table that evening, I remember apologizing to Kathy and the kids for the spoiled fish dinner, and promised to make it up to them the next weekend.  I’ll never forget what Kathy said: “Honey, I loved your fish tonight because it came from your heart, and anything coming from your heart tastes good to me.”  Nevertheless, I was crestfallen by the colossal failure of my attempt to cook our family’s favorite dinner. 

Later that night, I made my rounds to say good night to the kids.  They had obviously talked with their mother before going to their rooms.  When I reached down to kiss them, they both wrapped their little arms around my neck and told me my cooking wasn’t perfect yet, but I was already a perfect Dad.  And they made me promise to be careful with the garlic and wine in the future!! 

As I’ve grown older, I’ve thought about that night many times. Life is full of imperfectly executed recipes because people are not perfect.  I’ve messed up several dinners over the years, and as a human being, I have several flaws just like everyone else. But what I’ve learned over the years is that learning to accept each other’s faults – and choosing to celebrate our differences and flaws—is one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting relationship.

In the context of this blog, you may assume I am trying to set a good example for you.  Therefore, I will urge you to say and do only things that are intended to  cause a positive and compassionate reaction from the people around you.   I will try to not suggest acts that could be interpreted as emanating from self -interest or hurtful sentiments.  I will also assume you will be all about creating the confidence that you will consistently behave that way as often as possible.  I will not be perfect in any of this, but I will try hard to achieve improvement on the journey.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

What comes from the heart, goes to the heart”.   What this quote says most to me is that no matter what you do or say, the special lady in your life will gracefully forgive your mistakes and miscues as long as they come from your heart, with an intention to please and from a caring attitude.  If you can remember this quote and live it, I guarantee you will have a long-lasting, loving, caring and respectful relationship with a soul mate that thinks you are her ONLY Hot! Guy.

Perfect Steak–The WOW! Way

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Butcher Shop

My Kathy’s Favorite Store: A Butcher’s Shop

Not long ago, I learned a valuable lesson in my relationship with Kathy.  Turns out, I can dazzle her (and win significant WOW! Points) when I prepare and cook her favorite food items.  You ask: How did you not know that sooner than recently?  Well, it’s because SHE always prepared and cooked her favorite food items because she liked them HER Way.  I sort of thought that since they were her favorites, and because she knew how she liked them prepared and cooked, it was better to leave those items to her skills.  Seemed logical rational to me.  Until recently.She has been busy of late, and hasn’t had much of a chance to cook.  But one day recently, she had selected a nice, thick steak (her #1 favorite dinner) while she was at the store, and intended to grill it for dinner that night.  Some days don’t go as planned, and on that particular day she called home to let me know she was running very late.  So I volunteered to take on the task of preparing the steak, with the proviso that I could prepare it ‘my way’.

Keep in mind Kathy thinks steak is at its best when grilled to a black char on the outside, and to a perfect rare to medium-rare on the inside.  She calls it ‘black and blue’.  I have no idea what that description means other than it’s a Pittsburgh thing, and her father called steak prepared this way ‘black and blue’.   She also knows I don’t like to grill, and ‘my way’ would not be ‘her way’.  But at that point, it was me or her preparing dinner at 10 pm—she chose me.  Wise choice.

There was a lot at stake–pun intended!  I knew I was setting myself up for Kathy’s “it’s good, but not as good as mine” evaluation by doing the steak My Way, but I had not done it for her in quite some time and I had honed my skills and know-how over the past several months.  I was ready and up to the challenge of demonstrating my prowess at the altar of the Best Steak Competition with Kathy.   I was already getting some serious WOW! Points for getting dinner ready while she was on the way home.  But if I got a WOW! out of her for the steak preparation, I’d also get a bunch of Bonus WOW! Points.  And to tell the truth, I’d made a few large POW! Point withdrawals recently, and needed a big WOW! Point deposit to replenish the account!   

So I went to work.  She loves a Simple Salad with my Balsamic Vinaigrette [see June 8,2012 Post] to go with her steaks.  So I got one done and got the steak ready for cooking.  When she walked in the door, there was a glass of Bordeaux to go with her while she changed (Bonus WOW! Points awarded).  And then I got the steak cooking.  In the time it took us to catch up on our day, about twenty-five minutes later, we were at the table with ready to eat.

The outcome?  She enthusiastically declared that Perfect Steak—My Way was at least as good as Her Way.  YES!!  Bonus WOW! Points in the bank.  And better yet, even though she will still do steak her way when she cooks it, she stated she would let me do Perfect Steak—My Way more often.

So Hot! Guys here’s the Rule to take from this post:  Nothing demonstrates how much you care for the lady in your life more than identifying and memorizing her favorite foods and preparations.  It shows you are paying attention to the ‘little things’ in your relationship with her.  Then spend the time and effort to learn about them, because that shows you are enthusiastic about investing in your relationship with her.  Finally, amaze her by preparing them as well, if not better, than the way she does it.  This shows you want to please her.  This is one of the few Hot! Guy Rules that gives you a triple  shot at becoming Hot!  Take it and enjoy the windfall of WOW! Point rewards.

It might be chicken, fish or something else, but my guess is that many of you Hot! Guys are with women who love a great steak.  This really is a fantastic way to prepare a perfect steak every time.  If it’s not already one her favorite food items before you prepare Perfect Steak–My Way, it may become one.  Good luck and have fun!

I know this recipe has a long list of directions, but don’t panic.  Most of it is really good advice on how to choose the right cut of meat.  Then I guide you on how to take 4 other  ingredients and turn them into a steak masterpiece of artful taste, texture and tenderness.  Read through the directions and go to work. 

Perfect Steak–My Way

Prep Time: 10 mins | Cook Time: 15 mins | Servings: 2 servings | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 12 to 16 ounce New York Strip, Filet Mignon or other high-quality (Choice Cut) steak

    The signature New York Strip Steak

    Perfect Steak–My Way

  • 2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Sea or kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 Small pats unsalted butter

Directions:

1. BUYING: First off, we already know the best ingredients yield superb results. Therefore, you need to buy a great steak. And here’s my thinking on the subject. I don’t eat red meat very often, but when I do, I want to indulge myself with the very best. Therefore, I buy a nice 1-1/2 to 2 inch thick New York Strip, one of the best sirloin cuts, and by far my favorite. Many people love Filet Mignon because it is the most tender part of the tenderloin and the taste is milder. I also like a T-Bone Steak because it has two cuts of meat on-the-bone: one side of the bone is from the top loin, and the other is a strip of tenderloin. Keep in mind that cuts of meat are called different names in different parts of the country, so do your homework.

The key is to look for cuts of steak that are well-marbled with medium to large size pockets or long narrow strips of fat, evenly distributed throughout the meat. This fat is the key to the caramelizing I want to achieve and to the superior taste of these cuts of meat.

Prime grade beef makes up only 2% of all the beef produced in the United States and is usually sold to the very best restaurants. (That’s why high-end restaurants have the best tasting, most tender and most expensive steaks.) What you will normally find on the shelves at the store or in butcher shops is Choice and Select cuts of meat. Since I’m indulging, I always buy Choice cuts, and so should you. You will notice a difference. The price is higher, but the tenderness and marbling of the meat will be far superior to Select cuts of meat.

Here’s the best advice I can offer in the buying department. Find a good butcher and take his or her advice on both the quality and cut of the meat and the portion sizes for your steak purchases. My butcher is at the Whole Foods Store down the street from me, so don’t think you need to go far to find one.

2. SEASONING: If a high-quality cut of meat is cooked correctly, you really don’t need much more than salt and pepper. Which makes you think that seasoning a steak should be easy. Well my Kathy and I have hot debates on this topic all the time, and we don’t usually agree on the “salt early” or “salt late” philosophy.

Advocates of the Salt Early Approach argue that salting meat many hours or even days before cooking breaks down the protein in meat and makes it more tender. Initially, the salt draws out moisture, but over time the meat re-absorbs the juices, which is now flavored with salt and thus adds more succulent flavor to the meat.

The Salt Late Advocates admonish that salt dries meat out. No more argument needed. Don’t add it until immediately before cooking.

Since this is Steak My Way, and since I spent a fair amount of money for a Choice Cut of meat that is already tender, I find salting the meat about a half-hour before cooking is ideal, but doing it right before cooking works just fine, too. I will admit that if you choose to buy the less expensive Select Cuts of meat, salting early is a good way to go, but you need to do it at least 3 to 4 hours before cooking to get the benefits of this approach.

3. PREPPING: Before seasoning, always make sure to pat the steak dry with paper towels. This simple step is critical. I also brush the steak with vegetable oil (avoid olive oil, which can become bitter at high heats) or a combination of melted butter and oil before seasoning to help the outside of the steak brown. Season both sides of the steak, using a teaspoon or less of either kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Remember, you can always add more seasoning after the steak cooks, but you can’t unseason the meat.

4. After seasoning, let the meat sit quietly so it comes up to room temperature, about 20 minutes for a 2 inch steak.

5. COOKING: You already know I’m not much of a griller. And I actually love browning my steak stove top and then finishing it in the oven. When I do it this way, I get a crisp, caramelized coating on the outside of the steak without over-cooking the inside. In my view, this is harder to achieve on a grill. Using a combination of the stove top and the oven is a tried and true method for perfect steak, and often used by high-end restaurants to prepare their most flavorful steaks.

But of course, Kathy and I debate this issue too. Kathy thinks the ONLY way to cook a steak is on a hot, uncontrollable grill, over flames jumping up trying to set fire to my precious meat after sucking the all the life-giving fat out of my carefully selected, beautifully marbled steak. Kathy claims cooking steak on a grill is an Art-form that takes years of practice and experience before perfecting. My view is this is how our ancestors living in caves cooked their meat. Some of us have now evolved beyond caveman cooking techniques, and should use them to our advantage.

Here’s the thing about grilling. Before gas grills, I think the slight taste charcoal or wood-fired cooking gave to the meat was a nice layer of flavor, worth the extra effort and investing in the know-how. But now that more than 90% of us use gas grills that impart virtually none of this wood-based taste, it’s not worth the effort.

My Way is the more evolved, sophisticated approach, requires much less guesswork, and yields perfect steaks EVERY TIME. As mentioned, I first sear the steak on the stove, then finish it in a hot oven. This is my preferred method, and the one I use most often. It involves:

A. Pre-heating the oven to 450° to 500° Fahrenheit.

B. When the oven is ready, drizzle a little oil in an oven-proof pan (cast iron works great) and then heat the pan on the stove over high heat for several minutes until it just barely starts to smoke.

C. Put the steak in the pan and let it sit without touching it for 3 minutes.

D. Turn on the exhaust fan or open some windows–there’s going to be smoke.

E. If the steak is stuck to the pan, it’s not done browning yet and needs a little more time. When it comes up relatively easily, usually after 3 minutes, flip the steak.

F. Put the pan, with the steak in it, in the oven.

G. Let it bake for several minutes, then check it with a thermometer or ‘feel’ the texture for doneness. (see discussion below).

6. TESTING FOR DONENESS: A thermometer is the most accurate way to gauge if steak is done to your liking. If using an instant read thermometer, slide it about an inch or so into the side of the steak for,the best reading.

Although your thermometer will probably tell you that 145 degrees is rare for beef, most chefs will tell you differently. Rare in a chef’s mind, meaning very pink, is closer to 125° ; medium-rare is 125-130°; medium, 130-135°; medium-well, 135 to 140°; and well, 140° and above.

You can also give the steak a poke with your finger. Rare is squishy, medium-rare is spongy, and medium-well is taut. The steak will continue to cook at least five degrees when it’s out of the pan, so err on the side of taking it away from heat earlier rather than later.

7. SERVING: The last steps are critical and include cutting a small pat of butter and placing it atop the steak. Then, before cutting it, I let the meat rest under a loose cover of aluminum foil. As the meat cools down the proteins begin to firm up and hold moisture, so when you cut into the steak all the juicy goodness won’t run out. Furthermore, while the proteins are firming, they will also absorb the butter to add some flavor and richness to the meat. About 8-10 minutes should do it. Coincidentally, that’s about the time it takes for me to break open a French Bordeaux or rich California Cabernet Sauvignon and grab a couple of wine glasses for the table!

Source: My Hot! Guys Collection
Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager