I am one of those goofballs that, yes, actually gets a kick out of Valentine's Day. Not in an over-the-top pink hearts and roses kind of a way, but just in that it makes me feel happy. Warm fuzzies toward those I care for and all that.
Most years, my husband and I just stay in and cook a meal together. We've done mac 'n' cheese, homemade sushi, osso buco, and this year for the surprising first time, steak. This steak. This dry-rubbed steak with boozy butter, which I first made on a spontaneous date night a few weeks ago and which immediately earned itself a spot on our Valentine's Day menu.
Steak is not a common occurrence in our house, so both my husband and I get giddy as chipmunks when we find an excuse to put it on the shopping list. My giddiness used to be tempered by my abject terror of messing up such an expensive and luxurious cut of meat, but that changed when Faith posted her method for oven-cooked steaks a few years back. Since adopting this technique, I have never once been disappointed with the results.
In a particular fit of giddiness, I decided to go all out with these steaks. I love sweet and savory flavors combined, so I ground up some cacao beans and mixed those with my favorite chili powder, along with a little brown sugar and smoked paprika. And then — why not? — let's add some boozy butter to melt on top! Mixing the bourbon with a little maple syrup makes it easier to mix into the butter, plus the maple is a perfect foil for all the flavors going on in this dish.
We ate these steaks with crispy Hasselback potatoes, prepared while the steaks were resting. For a bit of green, I riffed on my favorite Chopped Kale Salad by adding some roasted beets and sweet oranges. All in all, a spontaneous date night success — and I have no doubts that our Valentine's Day will follow suit.
Chili-Rubbed Steak with Maple-Bourbon Butter
Serves 2 to 4
For the steaks:
1 tablespoon cacao nibs
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
2 (1-pound) boneless ribeye steaks
For the maple-bourbon butter:
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter, very soft
Grind the cacao nibs into a powder using a spice grinder. Combine with the chili powder, brown sugar, salt, smoked paprika, and a few grinds of black pepper. Use a fork to whisk the spices together.
Remove the steaks from the fridge and pat them dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle both sides generously with the spice mixture, and use your hands to rub the spices into the meat. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes or refrigerate for up to 8 hours. (If refrigerating, remove the steak from the oven 30 minutes before cooking so it warms to room temperature.)
To prepare the butter, whisk the bourbon and maple syrup together with a fork. Combine this with the butter in a small bowl and use the fork to begin mashing the liquid into the butter. As the butter softens further, move from mashing to whisking. At first, it may not seem like the liquid will mix with the butter, but keep going until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Scrape the butter onto a square of wax paper. Roll it up and twist the ends. Refrigerate until you're ready to serve the steaks.
To cook the steak, position a rack about 6 inches below the broiler element in your oven. Place a cast-iron or oven-safe skillet on the rack and turn on the broiler to high. Let the oven and the pan heat for about 5 minutes — until a drop of water splashed on the skillet evaporates immediately.
Turn on a kitchen fan or open a window. Remove the skillet from the oven using thick oven mitts and place over high heat on the stovetop. Add a splash of oil to the pan and swirl to coat the bottom.
Using kitchen tongs, place the steaks in the pan — they should begin sizzling immediately. Cook for 30 seconds, then use the tongs to flip them to the other side. Cook another 30 seconds, then place the pan in the oven under the broiler. Cook for 2 minutes in the oven, then (very carefully!) pull out the skillet and flip the steaks again. Place the skillet back under the broiler and cook for 2 more minutes — a total of 4 minutes oven cooking time. At this point, the steaks are medium-rare. Cook in additional 1-minute intervals for more well-cooked steaks.
Remove the steaks from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Tent with foil and rest for 5 minutes.
To serve, slice the steaks against the grain into thick slices and arrange on a plate. Add a pat of the maple-bourbon butter over top. Eat immediately.
(Image credits: Emma Christensen)