Food & Drink

Cooking Off the Cuff: The Best Dressing for a Salad Is Steak Juices

Even if you hate salad, you'll love it after this trick.
05/29/2013 08:27pm ET | Updated July 29, 2013

Jackie and I don't eat an awful lot of salad. In fact, to all but the most intimate friends we feign violent dislike of raw greens, while secretly appreciating their gastronomic virtues. But whatever our true views, when delicious salad greens are available we can be tempted into buying and eating some. Most typically, I dress them with good olive oil, crunchy salt and a very few drops of lemon juice, though occasionally I'll make a more complicated vinaigrette.

Among the best green salads are those served, in the French family-style way, just before dessert and placed on the plate that had held the main course. Whether you've had roast meat or some sort of stew -- or even a big dish of peas cooked with pearl onions and maybe bacon -- the sauce or the juice or the gravy lends savor to a pile of greens that a salad dressing can rarely equal. And if the plates and juices are still warm, causing the leaves to wilt a little, so much the better.

When a recent visit to the farmers' market yielded both a stack of young peppery-tasting "wild" arugula ("rocket" to UK readers) and a grass-fed Black Angus flank steak, that was the first thing I thought of: meat juices enhancing an already flavorful salad. Since Jackie and I were on our own that evening, a sequence of courses was not on the agenda - a single dish (plus dessert an hour later) is just fine for dining tête-à-tête - so the arugula was to be served simultaneously with the meat. How would I best take advantage of the beefy juices?

The answer came to mind quickly: any steak or roast needs to rest before serving. During its rest, it oozes a certain amount of juice -- and if it is to be sliced it oozes some more when knife cuts through muscle. So, I would set the pan-fried steak on top of the washed and dried room-temperature arugula -- no salt (beyond what was on the meat), no oil, no vinegar, no nothing -- and let it rest there rather than on a naked plate. Then, after 10 minutes or so, I'd transfer it to a cutting board, slice it and put it back on top of the greens along with the juices from the board.

That's what I did -- and that's all I did. The greens wilted a little, especially those directly under the warm steak; when turned with a fork and spoon, they became coated with beef juices, and they needed no further seasoning at all. A piece of meat juicier than my totally grass-fed flank steak would have yielded an even better salad, but the arugula was perfectly dressed, and the clear beef flavor could hardly have been improved. Try this approach with whatever sort of steak - or lamb or pork -- you like, cooked however you prefer: grilled, broiled, pan-fried or oven-finished. Just make sure the greens have lots of character and are able to compete with a well-seared steak.

Even if we actually hated salad the way we sometimes pretend to, this we would have loved.

The Best Dressing For Arugula Is Steak Juices
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