Beef and vodka are not often considered complementary, but pan-searing them together seems to extract, augment and marry the best qualities of both products. Prepping beef before cooking is essential to developing great flavor. There are several techniques you can use to prep the beef, but marinating -- in this instance, with vodka -- is perhaps the most versatile. The vodka contributes acid, a standard marinade component that imparts flavor and also tenderizes. Marinating also allows you to introduce the vodka-soaked beef into any other recipe.
To make the marinade, mix all the aromatic ingredients, oil, and vodka, and pour them into a sealable plastic bag.
Massage salt and pepper into the beef. Place the beef in the freezer bag and seal, sloshing around the marinade to cover the whole cut of beef. Allow the beef to marinate in the fridge for a minimum of two hours and up to three days. Flip the bag over occasionally to coat the beef evenly.
Remove the beef from the fridge two hours before you intend to cook it, and let it come up to room temperature. Sear it in a skillet on medium-high heat. When you first place the beef into the pan, don't move it around constantly. Don't check the underside or try to flip it prematurely. Allow it to remain still and develop some color. The exact amount of time required varies between cuts of beef and from pan to pan. It's not an exact science, and it requires being attuned to certain auditory and olfactory clues. You're looking to swiftly acquire deep, dark brown caramelization on each side, usually accompanied by a steady sizzle and the slight smell of charring.
Turn the heat down low and cover the pan. Allow the beef to cook for an additional 3 1/2 minutes. Turn off the fire, and use a food thermometer to determine if the internal temperature of the beef is 145 degrees Fahrenheit or greater. Transfer the beef to a plate and cover with foil. Let the meat rest under the foil covering for 10 minutes before serving. This will allow the protein to relax and will prevent the juices from running out of the meat when you make your first cut.
- Experiment with different cuts of meat (flank, top eye, sirloin, ground chuck, etc.) and vodka (chili pepper vodka, cucumber vodka, etc.).
- Don't walk away from your frying pan while you're searing the beef.
- If using garlic in your marinade, brush all the garlic bits from the beef before searing. This will ensure the bitter taste of burned garlic won't end up in your beef.
- Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images