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Recipes and Stories

24 November 2015: Finding Home by the Recipe II – Meet Boyd Clayton

Boyd's Steak is accompanied by roasted new potatoes with garlic and rosemary, a favorite of his daughter, Clara's, and the dish whose aroma restored Charlie Bedford's atrophied appetite

Chapter Two of Finding Home finds Charlie Bedford back in Maple Grove, the town where he had been born and raised. He’d not been home since his mother died three years before, and his sudden return naturally caused a buzz of excitement. After all, he was the closest thing to a celebrity that the little town had ever known.

But the buzz quickly turned ugly when Charlie walled himself up in his mother’s house and refused to open the door to anyone. Within a week, he’d been pronounced as crazy as a bedbug by everyone—with the lone exception of his childhood best friend, Boyd Clayton.

Everyone should have a friend like Boyd. He never gave up on anybody.

Their friendship had seemed unlikely and even odd in their youth, since they were about as opposite as two boys could possibly be. Where Charlie was slim, bookish, and academic, Boyd was burly, athletic, and plain-spoken. Charlie was the late-in-life only child of a quiet older couple; Boyd grew up in a big and rather loud family.

And yet, they had been all but inseparable—until, that is, they finished high school. Almost as soon as he was handed his diploma, Charlie ran for college and never looked back, while Boyd stayed in Maple Grove, married his high school sweetheart, and took charge of the new computer switching system for the local electric co-op. By the time Charlie came back to town, Boyd was a single dad with an eight-old-daughter named Clara and the town’s professional worry-wort.

Like his father, Boyd seemed to think it was his job to fix any broken person or thing within a hundred mile radius of his front door, so when his old best friend came back to town, broken, alone, undernourished, and deliberately shut off from the world, he was not going to rest until he got through Charlie’s armor, got to the core of what was wrong with him, and got him well again.

Charlie never remembered Boyd having any interest in food beyond eating all that he could lay his hands on. But in taking full responsibility for Clara when her mother abandoned them, he discovered that he actually loved to cook, and, not surprisingly, food became his answer for everything and his way of showing that someone mattered to him.

So, once he’d chipped away enough of that armor to make a chink big enough to force himself through, the first thing he did was feed the man a decent home-cooked dinner. And it worked: Charlie finally began to thaw out and open up. Well, a little. But that’s getting ahead of things.

Following up on the premise that the way someone cooks says a lot about their character, here, in his own words, Boyd explains how to make the steak and roasted new potatoes that were the first decent meal Charlie had eaten in three months.

Pan-Broiled Steak with Roasted New Potatoes – Boyd Clayton

The secret to a good pan-broiled steak is to use a heavy cast iron pan that’s seasoned real good, and to heat it slow and steady on a good medium heat. That way it’ll get hot all over but won’t have no hot spots that’s gonna smoke up or make your steaks cook unevenly. You’ll need two for this meal—one that’ll hold all your potatoes in one loose layer and one that will hold your steaks snug but not too snug. If you don’t have at least two iron pans, why then, you are just plain pitiful. Get yourself over to your local kitchen or hardware store and get some. And since you obviously hadn’t inherited your grandmaw’s, look for the Lodge brand: they’re made in the U S of A and they’re already seasoned.

The other secret is of course ain’t really a secret: if the steak in’t good beef to begin with, it in’t gonna be good when it’s cooked no matter who cooked it. I don’t feed Clara or anybody else that I care about anything but grass-fed pastured beef that we get from J.S., our local cattle rancher. Bill Grover knows how to age, cut, and trim it the way I like. If you don’t live near Maple Grove, find you a market that sells good local pastured meat and I promise you won’t be sorry you went to the extra trouble and expense.

Clara likes roasted potatoes better than French fries, so I make them a lot, and this is how much I usually make for just us. But if one of her friends or Charlie don’t come over, I have to admit we always have some leftover, so it’ll probly feed four in your house. Some folks put the garlic and rosemary on them right away, and that’s how I first learned it, but the trouble with that is, your garlic is gonna burn before your potatoes are done—and to my way of thinking, there’s nothing what spoils a good dinner quicker than burned garlic.

You got to have good potatoes—real young and small and almost sweet. It don’t matter what kind—I use whatever the Edmunds family’s pulling up new. I always stop off at their farm stand on York Highway when I’m out that way; otherwise, I just pick them up from Bill at Grover’s. If you live in a big town, I’d get them from your farmers’ market. But if you’re lucky enough to live anywhere near Maple Grove, well—now you know where to go.

Perfect Pan-Broiled Steaks with Roasted New Potatoes
Serves 2

2 1¼-to-1½-inch-thick trimmed rib steaks
Good olive oil
1½ pounds really good, young new potatoes
A couple of rosemary sprigs—depending on how thick yours is growing and how much you like
A couple of cloves of garlic—depending on how much you like the stuff
Whole pepper in a good peppermill set on a coarse grind—don’t use that nasty stuff in a box
About 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt (don’t use table salt—it ain’t fit to feed pigs)

1. Make sure your steaks are room temperature. Put the rack in the upper part of your oven and cut it on to 400 degrees. Wrap your steaks up good with paper towels and pat them a few times.

2. Get out your two iron skillets in the sizes I already told you about. Rub your pan for the potatoes with some good olive oil. Okay, now scrub your potatoes real good under cold running water and let them drain. Don’t peel them: that’s the best part. Get your sharpest big knife out and cut them potatoes in four wedges: that is, cut them half and then cut each side in half again.

3. Put your potatoes in your pan and dribble some good olive oil over them. Not too much—just enough to coat them and keep them from sticking to the pan. Toss them with your hands until they are coated good. Turn them all skin side down and slide the pan into your hot oven. Roast until they get a good sear on the outside—I reckon that’ll take about 15 or 20 minutes.

4. While they’re roasting, pick the leaves off your rosemary sprigs and chop them up. Then lay the flat side of your knife on top of the garlic cloves and give it a whack with your fist to loosen up the skin (don’t hit it like you mean it, or it’ll smash your garlic flat). The skin will slip right on off. Now chop them up and mix them together with the rosemary.

5. Give your potatoes a toss to get the oil coating them all over again and roast until they’re starting to get some color on the outside—I’d say that’ll take another 5 or 10 minutes. Now take the pan out of the oven, sprinkle your rosemary and garlic over them and then grind some pepper over them. I can’t tell you how much because I don’t know what you like, but Clara and me, we like a lot. Toss real good to mix, then slide your pan back in the oven and roast, tossing every now and again, until the potatoes and garlic is golden brown—it won’t take long—maybe 5 minutes or so longer, so keep an eye on it and don’t let your garlic get too brown or, like I say, it’ll be bitter.

6. While your potatoes are finishing up, put your other cast iron pan over medium heat on top of the stove. Leave it to heat for 5 minutes. Now, unwrap your steaks and put 2 small pats of butter in your pan. They’ll start to sizzle as soon as they touch it; if they don’t, why, your pan in’t hot enough. Lay your steaks over the butter and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook them until they’re good and brown on the bottom. If they seem like they’re sticking to the pan, don’t worry: they’ll come loose. Just let them keep cooking until they do. That’ll be no more than a couple of minutes.

8. The potatoes are probably done by now, so while the first side of your steaks is browning, check on the potatoes and if they’re ready, take them out of the oven and cut your temperature up to 450-500 degrees. Sprinkle the potatoes real good with kosher salt (you can use what you want, but I don’t feed my kid table salt—that’s all I’m saying). Give them one last toss to mix everything up good and set them aside in the pan in a warm place.

3. By then it’ll be time turn your steaks. After you turn them over, season them with salt and pepper and let them brown good on that second side. That’ll take about 2 minutes, then turn them over and season the second side. Turn off the burner and put your pan in the hot oven. Cook until they’re done the way you like them, about 1-to-1½ minutes for rare, 2 minutes for medium-rare, 2½-to-3 for medium. If you like them well-done, why, you’re just pitiful, and you’re on your own. A lot of how long it takes will depend on how thick your steaks are, so if they’re thicker than 1¼-inch, they may need a minute or two longer.

4. Take your steaks from the oven, and move them from the pan to a warm plate. Let them rest 2 or 3 minutes. Then put your steaks potatoes on two warm dinner plates and serve them up. They won’t wait while you dilly-dally around.

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