(Adapted from the New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne)
This dish cooks very quickly, in less than 15 minutes and requires constant attention; therefore it makes sense to have all of the ingredients measured out and readily at hand before beginning to cook. DON’T FORGET THE MATCHES – PREFERABLY LONG FIREPLACE MATCHES.Use a heavy, cast iron frying pan for up to three steaks; cooking four will most likely require two pans, making it necessary to divide the other ingredients accordingly. This preparation also produces a lot of smoke so be forewarned.
• 1 boneless shell steak per person, each about 1¼ inch thick, excess fat trimmed
• Freshly ground black pepper
• Kosher salt
• 1 pat of unsalted butter per steak + 1 extra pat for the sauce
• Tabasco Sauce
• Worcestershire Sauce
• 2 Tablespoons of ReaLemon juice per steak
• ¼ cup of cognac (for 1 to 3 shell steaks; increase to 1/3 cup if preparing 4 steaks)
• 1/3 cup of heavy cream (for 1 to 3 shell steaks; increase to 1/2 cup if preparing 4 steaks)
The following instructions are for medium rare steaks. If the steaks are of a different thickness than 1¼ inches, or are to be served other than medium rare, cooking time should be adjusted accordingly.
1. At least 30 minutes prior to cooking, remove the steaks from the refrigerator and pat them dry with paper towels to remove any moisture. Pepper them liberally with freshly ground black pepper. Softly press the pepper into the steaks with a wooden mallet or spoon and let them sit at room temperature until ready to cook.
2. Heat the cast iron frying pan on high for 2 minutes.
3. Lightly cover the bottom of the pan with kosher salt and heat for another full minute.
4. Add the steaks to the pan and sear for 2 minutes on each side.
5. Lower heat to medium, continue cooking the steaks for an additional 6 minutes for medium rare (4 minutes for rare), turning them in approximate one-minute intervals.
6. After the 10 minutes, (or 8 minutes for rare) place one pat of butter on each steak, spread the butter around with a fork in order to melt it into the steaks. After 30 seconds, turn the steaks and cook for another 30 seconds. By this point the steaks will have cooked for about 11 minutes (9 minutes for rare).
7. Sprinkle each steak with 4 shakes each of Tabasco Sauce and Worcestershire Sauce turn the Steaks and repeat the process. Add 2 tablespoons of the ReaLemon juice per steak and continue cooking and turning the steaks for no more than 1 minute.
8. Shut the heat, add the cognac and let sit for about 5 seconds; stand back and ignite the cognac with the fireplace match. (Note: This will produce a high blast of flame, so be sure that no curtains, towels, rags or other combustibles are nearby and if you have the vent fan on, shut it first). When the flame subsides, turn the heat to high again and turn the steaks once or twice to coat them well with the sauce, transfer the steaks to warmed plates and shut the heat. By this point the steaks will have been cooked for 13 minutes (for rare steaks, about 11 minutes).
9. Add the cream to the pan, turn the heat to medium and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula. Add one pat of butter; continue stirring, scraping, and cooking the sauce until it bubbles and turns a medium to dark caramel color.
10. When the sauce thickens to the point of coating the back of a spoon, remove it from the heat and pour equally over each steak.
Serve at once. Great accompaniments include Broccoli Florets or Asparagus sautéed in garlic and oil, a loaf of crusty French bread to sop up the remaining sauce and a bottle of fine Bordeaux, such as a Saint-Emilion.