Esquire's resident chef sings the praises of a much-maligned summer classic - surf and turf. And shows you how to pull it off at home. Oft-derided, surf and turf makes for the ultimate meal in my book. The combination of smoky, just-cooked red meat and sweet, melt-in-the-mouth shellfish really gets my juices going — especially in summer. Back in March, at the first whiff of sun, I escaped down to Julian Temperley and his wife Diana’s place to cook up an al fresco feast of lobster and steak —the climatic realities of the month kept at bay by lashings of the couple’s award-winning cider brandy.
Something I’ve recently realised is that the best way to cook any kind of meat (or fish, for that matter) is in a wood-fired oven. “Wood-fired oven?” I hear you cry. Well yes. In fact, I recently had one installed on the terrace at my place in Dorset. It’s absolutely fantastic. Once you’ve mastered the heat, whatever you stick into it cooks in no time and it’ll even warm up the dinner table (though don’t stick your plates — or hands — inside, as temperatures can reach 450ºC).
I picked up my Dorset oven at the Ludlow Food Festival while I was judging the street food awards — a steal in comparison to the bespoke one I had built in my garden in London, which cost me an arm and a leg. Whatever you usually cook on your grill or barbecue, you can put in a wood-fired oven. It’ll cook much more quickly and — most importantly — the meat will retain its flavour.
A lump of steak cooked over wood or charcoal is as good as anything in a restaurant, mainly because restaurants don’t usually cook over wood or proper. As with all meats, it’s not just about the cooking. You need a high-quality cut, suited to grill cooking. I would use a kilo of porterhouse or T-bone, which will feed three or four hungry people — and you’ll get the best of the sirloin and fillet in one. Alternatively a lump of rib-eye will also work well.
How to cook it
Remove your meat from the fridge an hour or two before cooking to allow the cut to reach optimum cooking temperature, ensuring consistent heat distribution. Pre-heat your wood-fired oven (or barbecue) so that the coals are white but not burning. Lightly oil and season your meat and cook for about 6–8min on each side for rare (depending on the thickness). Allow another 3–4min for medium rare — for well done you can leave it on as long as you like, as the quality and flavour will be gone anyway. Rest for about 5–6min, then remove the fillet and sirloin from either side of the bone with a sharp knife, slicing into thick chunks and laying them back where they were cut on a plate or board.
Serve it with
I’m all for quick, tasty accompaniments when it comes to grilled steak. Béarnaise and hollandaise are two of my favourites, but are a bit of a faff to knock up. You can, however, achieve good results with more convenient ingredients. Try mixing a good-quality mayonnaise with Belazu Smoked Chilli Jelly or harissa — or try serving the jam on its own. Simple mustards
are a tabletop staple, so why not mix some grain and Dijon mustard with some tarragon and mayonnaise? Fresh oil-based sauces, such as salsa verde, work really well with grilled meats, as does a Spanish romesco sauce.
It may sound decadent, but my favourite thing to eat down at my lodge overlooking the sea in Lyme Regis is a simple grilled lobster — even better if I’ve had a successful haul from my pots, set just off the beach. It’s a bit like drinking rosé in the south of France, a bottle of which you’ll also require for a successful afternoon of lobster-gorging.
How to cook it
Pre-heat a barbecue or wood-fired oven so that the coals go white. Lay the lobster on a chopping board, stick the point of a heavy chopping knife through the head and, with the help of the palm of your hand, cut the lobster in half (if you’re feeling kind, stick it in the freezer first). Season the flesh and brush with oil then cook on the barbecue, flesh side down, for about 4-5min on each side. The claws may take a little longer, depending on the grill heat, so you can remove the claws and leave them on for a few minutes extra.
Serve it with
Much like the steak, you can serve lobster with the aforementioned sauces, or as an even simpler alternative go for a good quality mayonnaise mixed with some lemon juice and chopped green herbs.