As you may have gathered from my recaps, I tend to go overboard when cooking for a party or a large group. I’m the first to admit that this has always affected the timing of the meal—when running behind schedule (which, let’s face it, is almost always), I’ve roped more guests into chopping, sautéing, and grilling duties than I’d like to admit; I’ve had friends leave hungry because they had other commitments and couldn’t wait until 10:00 for dinner; and I’ve served dessert first because nothing else was ready. This approach may have made the experience a bit more frantic than would be ideal, but it never had much impact on the quality of my food until recently. Let’s go behind the scenes of my current bout of kitchen malaise, shall we?
After severely charring batches of ribs on two separate occasions (one of which would have had borderline-edible results anyway, thanks to a marinade that was too spicy for most of my guests) and making a cabbage salad so salty it required the addition of copious amounts of lime juice to choke it down, I came to the realization that my cooking mojo was seriously compromised. I finally took the hint and decided on an alternative game plan: Simplicity.
Revolutionary, I know.
Last summer, I read this short piece (accompanied by a mouthwatering photo that doesn’t seem to be in the online version) in GQ about grilling the perfect summer steak; the idea stuck with me, as these things often do, until a Friday-evening get-together presented the chance to put my newfound determination to scale back to the test.
We were celebrating the marriage of two of our friends, and though the official party would be the following night, the occasion still called for a quality showing. Thanks to a hectic day at work, I didn’t start cooking until 8:00 p.m., but the entire operation was so stress-free, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. I made the same proven crowd-pleasers I’d taken to the tailgate a few days earlier: carrot slaw, pasta salad, and, as there was plenty of chipotle-scallion butter left over, corn all made a reappearance. One friend brought the pelau, another covered the dessert angle—a homemade wedding cake, deliciously executed—so all that remained was the main course.
Money is (unfortunately) an object, so I used sirloin instead of the GQ-sanctioned ribeye, but otherwise followed the article to the letter. The steak took minutes to prepare, literally: a few on the grill, a few to rest, and a few to slice. The whole thing was then dropped, juices and all, onto a bed of olive-oil-dressed arugula for a plate of highly satisfying food that couldn’t have required less effort. I even had time for a glass or two of wine—almost unheard-of luxury.
I’m sure I’ll backslide occasionally—those complicated menus can be tough to resist—but I’m officially converted. It’s easy entertaining from now on.
1 steak, prime-aged ribeye if you can afford it, your preferred cut if not
Salt and pepper, to taste
Olive oil, to taste
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved
Lemon wedges, to serve
Prepare grill for cooking over high heat. Sprinkle steak with salt and pepper (I used a little bit of olive oil as well) and grill, 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest for five minutes, then thinly slice against the grain. While steak is resting, dress arugula with a glug or two of olive oil. Add sliced meat and any pooled juices to the arugula, and serve with cheese and lemon wedges.