Mark Steuer, chef of the yet-to-open restaurant the Bedford, challenged Stephanie Izard of Girl & the Goat to come up with a recipe using confectioners' sugar for this installment of our weekly feature.
Mark Steuer, himself tasked with an ingredient he couldn't stand (bananas), did some research before picking Stephanie Izard's challenge to ensure he'd make things as difficult as possible for her. "He thought since I hate making desserts he'd give me confectioners' sugar. I showed him—I didn't make desserts," Izard gloated.
She'd been craving red meat, so she picked up "a couple of big-ass steaks" at the butcher across the street and made a rub for them using confectioners' sugar and spices. Also known as powdered sugar, confectioners' sugar is finely ground granulated sugar, usually mixed with a small amount of cornstarch to prevent clumping. It can act differently from regular sugar when heated, as Izard discovered when she tried to make a gastrique for the steak with it. "When you reduce down regular sugar or maple syrup it just caramelizes and makes a syrupy, glisteny sort of gastrique-type thing happening, which didn't seem to happen with the confectioners' sugar—I don't know why. It just kind of melted in there and made it a little bit sweet," she said. She solved the problem by adding veal stock to turn it into a sauce instead.
But the sugar's unique properties turned out to be fortuitous when Izard decided to candy sliced almonds to go on top of the steak. "If you candy nuts with regular sugar, they get really sticky, or they all clump together, or there's bits of burnt sugar on the outside," she said. "But with the confectioners' sugar it just sort of melts right on there and makes an even candy coating." She's started to candy nuts that way regularly since making the discovery.
Along with confectioners' sugar, Izard tossed the almonds with cayenne pepper, tomato powder, rosemary, and malt vinegar powder to make them savory and spicy as well as sweet. "Tomato powder's just cool; it adds that bright tomato flavor," she said. Tomato and rosemary also show up in the sauce, and malt vinegar in both the sauce and the rub—"see, it all comes together full circle. Very exciting."
Dredging the steaks in the salt and sugar rub, she noted, "You want to make sure you season these pretty well. It's just going to caramelize on the outside and make almost like a little crust. It gets nice and brown and crispy." While she'd normally sear steaks over high heat to brown them, Izard found that burned the sugar—but cooking them on medium gave her the results she wanted.
As she plated the steak, Izard said, "We always call our food here rustic and badass—we're not going to do anything foofy with it. We're just going to take it and put some stuff on it. Totally rustic. Totally badass."
That "stuff" included the sauce, candied almonds, gordal olives, and shiitake mushrooms from the sauce. "It's good because there's a lot of acid going on from the reduction in the vinegar, and you get a little sweetness, but I think it's cool that there's confectioners' sugar in three different ways on the plate," Izard said. "Not all of it is sweet at all, but they all had a purpose, like the sugar made the steak all caramelized, it made the sauce more balanced, and it made the nuts nice and crunchy. So . . . yay!"
Randy Zweiban of Province, cooking with tamarind. "I love it," Izard said of the ingredient. "It's tangy, with a sort of unique sweet thing going on with it. But I don't think it's something people use at home much."Video by Michael Gebert/Sky Full of Bacon
Umm . . . Steak!
2 T powdered sugar
¼ cup kosher salt
2 t malt vinegar powder
1 t ground black pepper
2 t cayenne pepper
Mix together, then use to season steaks generously just before cooking.
2 cups dried shiitake mushrooms
2 sprigs rosemary
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup malt vinegar
1 cup powdered sugar
4 Thai chiles
½ t black peppercorns
2 cups veal stock
salt to taste
Place all the ingredients except the veal stock in a nonreactive sauce pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer until reduced by half. Add stock, return to a boil, then simmer until reduced by about a third (should be close to nappe, or able to coat the back of a spoon). Strain sauce, reserving mushrooms. Cut off mushroom stems and slice finely.
¾ cup raw sliced almonds
2 T powdered sugar
1 T salt
1/8 t cayenne pepper
½ t tomato powder
½ t kosher salt
¼ t malt vinegar powder
1 t chopped fresh rosemary
Bring four cups of water and one tablespoon salt to a boil. Combine the cayenne, tomato powder, kosher salt, malt vinegar powder, and rosemary, set aside. Add almonds to water and boil for one to two minutes. Drain and toss with powdered sugar. Place in clean mesh basket and fry at 350 degrees for two to three minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool slightly, then toss with spices to coat.
2 20-oz rib-eye steaks
1.2 cups sliced gordal or manzanilla olives
Heat about three tablespoons of canola oil in a large saute pan over medium high. Generously season steaks with the rub and place in pan, turning heat down to medium (the sugar will burn if heat is too high). Cook to desired temperature and let rest for a few minutes before serving. Top each steak with sauce, candied nuts, shiitakes, and olives.