Harpers Ferry is a magical place in summer. The leaves color everything in a verdant green curtain while the grass carpets the landscape in an even more lush tone. The aromas of back yard cook outs waft down the street like a fog that turn your belly into a grumbling zombie.
in honor of summer, I am releasing my “secret recipe” for summer. Presented here for the first time is my almost alchemical concoction for the magic that is a backyard barbecue.
Now it should be said that this recipe calls for a modicum of showmanship, and is guaranteed to command the attention of your dinner guests. For maximum effect you could have them scrub up and pitch in with the preparation.
But first, a word about your barbecue companions…IF they are the type who stew over the sodium content of their diet sprite, or someone who cringes at the fat content of a Caesar salad, who fret and worry about the sulfites in their wine, who wouldn’t dream of using real butter on their organic baked potato, or who use tofu when making a batch of chili…if this aptly describes your peer group, the first order of business is to go out and cultivate a more lively group of friends.
No when you have gathered a group of people who savours a good single malt before dinner, accompanied by a generous portion of varied cheeses, followed by a sumptuous repast dripping with rich sauces and a variety of wines, topped off with a good cigar and a snifter of cognac, then and only then will you be ready to pull out the salt steak.
(Contrary to popular belief these new friends may have a greater life expectancy because they spend less time worrying about nonsense)
Now…what you need for the show.
- 1 large sirloin steak 1 1/2 – 2 inches thick (porterhouse is also nice) The larger the slab of beef the better as it reduces the salt outside to tasty inside ratio.
- 6 sheets of newspaper, no color print ( I prefer using the whatever right-wing garbage is currently making my blood pressure rise)
- 1 large, LARGE bowl of rock salt (that’s right, rock salt)
- 1 jar of whole peppercorns
- 2 jars lemon pepper
- 1 bottle of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 jar grey poupon mustard
- 1 roll of masking tape
- 1 5 gallon bucket of clean water
Now, start by laying your fire. As anyone who loves o barbecue will know the biggest risk is not using enough charcoal. Your charcoal bed should be at least 6 inches thick. Leave the lid off after lighting the fire.
After you’ve got the fire started and you’ve replenished your favorite beverage (make mine an ice-cold Pepsi please and thank you) mix the spices ( rock salt, peppercorns, and lemon pepper) together in a big bowl. Lay the six sheets of newspaper down with a dramatic fashion, commenting on whatever is on the top page, and plunk that hunk of beef in the middle. Open the jar of mustard and slather one side of the meat with a 1/4 thick layer of it. (Your friends’ eyebrows should be rising perceptibly at this point)
Next, grab several handfuls of the spice mixture and plaster it into the mustard, you should have enough spice mixture on there so you don’t get any mustard on your hands. Then dump enough Worcestershire sauce on there to color the whole thing a sickly brown. Carefully turn the steak over and repeat on the other side. (at this point in the preparation several of your friends should be questioning your culinary skills)
When you’re finished making a horrible mess of this beautiful piece of meat, wrap it up in the paper and secure it with the masking tape. try to cover as little area as possible with the tape. (Think of the ribbons on a christmas present) When everything is secured…immerse the whole thing in your bucket of water. (Several of your friends should be howling by now “What ARE you doing you madman?“)
Replenish your drink and tell 3 or 4 of your best political jokes. Decorum prohibits me from listing any of my best ones. let the bundle soak for roughly 5 minutes.
When the fire has reached its zenith, the All-father has granted a blessing and your weber is about to melt, pull the soggy package from the bucket and squeeze out all the excess water. then toss it directly onto the coals ( pray the fire doesn’t go out.)
Depending on the size-of-fire to size-of-bundle ratio (practice and experience will be the only way you will know) allow about 10 minutes on each side. The paper should dry out and just be ready to catch fire.
When the bundle is looking good and charred, rescue it from the fire, and (using your now empty bucket) remove the paper and scrape all the mustard and spices off of the steak. The steak at this point has been partially steam cooked and will have a sickly white appearance.
Put the grill back on your weber and brown the steak for 3-5 minutes on each side. When it looks like and edible piece of beef again, slice it into 1/4 inch thick strips and serve. If you’ve done it right, the steam from the newspaper has traveled through the spice layer and impregnated the meat with flavor while retaining the juices. ( A marvelous example of back-yard applied physics)
A word of warning, friends, be very careful not to overcook it. Don’t let the moment escape you. There’s a fine line between a perfectly seasoned steak and a salt-lick. you may want to get a few steaks if your going to try this…you will destroy a few.
I feel it would be remiss of me to not offer a few jokes to tell while preparing the politically Incorrect Salt Steak. I’m sure everyone has their repertoire of jokes, but here are a few of my favorites.
A young country couple was checking into their hotel on the evening of their honeymoon. The front desk manager could tell right away that they were newlyweds. “Bridal Suite?” he inquired with a knowing smile of the young lady. “Gosh, no thanks Mister,” she giggled, “I’ll just hold his ears.”
A tour bus was making its way through the norther Nevada desert when the driver announce “We are now passing the World famous Mustang ranch, the largest legal cat house in the nation.” A guy from the back of the bus called out “Why?!”
There was a guy sitting next to a woman on a plane. She was apparently suffering from some kind of mutant, killer flu. After every sneeze, her eyes would close, her body trembled and a low moan escaped from her tightly clenched jaw. She caught his worried look. “I’m sorry, but don’t worry, I’m not contagious…actually it’s a bit embarrassing.” she confided in a low voice, “but you see ive developed this crazy condition where every time I sneeze I have an orgasm.” The guys eyes went wide, “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. are you taking anything for it?” She nodded and replied “Oh sure, right now black pepper and snuff.”