Caveman Porterhouse With Pepper Hash
Yield: Serves 2 and can be multiplied as desired
Method: Caveman grilling (directly in the embers)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Grilling Time: 6 to 12 minutes
Grill/Gear: Sorry, gas grillers: You’ll need a charcoal grill for this one. (But see an interesting plancha variation at the end of the recipe.) You’ll want to use natural lump charcoal, not briquettes. You also need a grill hoe or garden hoe; newspaper for fanning the coals; long-handled tongs; heavy-duty grill gloves; and a 10-inch cast-iron skillet.
Shop: Porterhouse is another of the “noble” steaks (i.e., strip, rib-eye, and filet mignon). It comprises both a piece of filet mignon and a strip steak, separated by a T-shaped bone.
Insider Tip: Grilling steak directly on the embers isn’t new, and it certainly isn’t limited to steak. But there’s something about laying a slab of beef on a red-hot bed of embers that astonishes, horrifies, and ultimately thrills in a way that no other grilling method can rival.
And there’s more to the practice than mere theatrics: The strong but uneven heat, the micro-charring of the meat’s surface, and even the tiny bits of cinder add a texture and taste to a steak you simply can’t achieve by conventional grilling.
In 1953, an American general-turned-politician became the 34th president of the United States. We remember Dwight D. Eisenhower here, not for his great leadership or military genius, but for a singular method of grilling he brought to the White House. “He rubs the steak (a 4-inch-thick sirloin) with oil and garlic,” wrote a reporter from the Miami Daily News, one Mr. Byres, “then, as the horrified guests look on, casually flings the steak into the midst of the red and glowing coals.”
Thus was born what I like to call “caveman” steak. (Steaks were no doubt grilled this way in prehistoric times, and likely have been ever since.) Ember-roasting gives you an exemplary crust and pronounced smoky flavor. To round out the taste, you’ll top the beef with a pan-fry of poblano and bell peppers—also cooked on the embers.
For the Steak
- 1 porterhouse steak (20 to 24 ounces), cut 2 inches thick
- Coarse salt (sea or kosher) and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (optional)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
For the Pepper Hash
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 poblano chile or green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into matchstick strips
- 1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into matchstick strips
- 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into matchstick strips
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced crosswise
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1. Build a charcoal fire following the instructions on page 27 and, using a grill hoe, rake the coals into an even layer. (Leave the front third of your grill coal-free.) When the coals glow orange, fan them with a newspaper to disperse any loose ash.
2. Make the steak: Generously—and I mean generously—season the porterhouse on both sides with salt and pepper. If you want to go the Eisenhower route, sprinkle the steak with garlic (pat it into the meat) and drizzle with oil.
3. Lay the steak directly on the embers. Grill until cooked to taste, 3 to 5 minutes per side or as needed for rare (120 F to 125 F); 4 to 6 minutes per side or as needed for medium-rare (130 F to 135 F), turning with tongs. (Wear heavy-duty gloves to protect your hands.) Tip: Keep the steak moving every minute or so to make the cooking process more even.
4. Using tongs, lift the steak out of the fire, shaking it to dislodge any clinging embers. Using a stiff-bristled basting brush, knock off any loose ash and arrange the steak on a wire rack set over a sheet pan. Let rest, loosely tented with aluminum foil, for a minute or so, then transfer to a cutting board. Carve the filet mignon and strip steak sections off the bone, then cut each into 1/4-inch-thick slices, running your knife slightly on the diagonal from top to bottom. Arrange the sliced porterhouse on a platter with the bone in the center.
5. Now, make the pepper hash: Pour the oil in a cast-iron skillet (it helps to use a long-handled skillet) and heat it directly on the embers. Add a strip of either pepper. When bubbles dance around it, the oil is ready. Add the poblano, bell peppers, garlic, and parsley. Cook until the peppers begin to brown, 2 minutes. Pour the sizzling peppers and oil over the sliced porterhouse and dig in!
Variation: Plancha Method
You can’t caveman a steak on a gas grill, but you can sear it on a fire-heated plancha or cast-iron skillet. You’ll achieve a savory crust quite unlike what you’d get with conventional grilling. It’s not the same as a caveman crust, but it’s remarkable nonetheless.
Set up your grill for plancha grilling following the instructions on page 28. Heat the plancha well (a few drops of water splashed on it will evaporate in 2 seconds). Oil and season the steak well and grill it on the plancha following the cooking times in Step 3, page 129.
Recipe reprinted with permission from “Project Fire: Cutting-Edge Techniques and Sizzling Recipes from the Caveman Porterhouse to Salt Slab Brownie S’Mores” by Steven Raichlen. Copyright 2018. Photographs by Matthew Benson. Published by Workman Publishing.