; Supermarket Serenade: Grilled Steak and Plum Pizzettes (and How I Lost The National Beef Cook Off)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Grilled Steak and Plum Pizzettes (and How I Lost The National Beef Cook Off)

A few days have passed since the 2009 National Beef Cook Off in Sonoma, California. I was very fortunate enough to have been selected to participate. A few days have gone by...and I think I may be finally finished with beating myself up over my dish. Well, almost.

The theme this year was "Sonoma Style" - meaning healthful beef dishes paired with fresh ingredients typical of Sonoma, CA. The categories were Living Well with Grilled Beef, Lean Beef in Nutrient Rich One Dish Meals, and Teens Cooking With Beef. You can see all the finalists here.

My dish was Grilled Steak and Plum Pizzettes. It is a grilled pizza with a whole grain crust topped with grilled, sliced N.Y. Strip Steak, grilled plums, Point Reyes Blue Cheese, a drizzle of honey and topped with coarsely chopped pistachio nuts. I have eaten this pizza more times than I care to share (my family has eaten this pizza more times than they care to remember) and truthfully every time I made the pizza it came out just right; the plums had beautiful grill marks, the steak was a fabulous shade of pink, the crust tender-crisp. So why when it counted did I crumble like a dried out shortcake biscuit??

It was all going very well. I was confident. It was my third time at the National Beef Cook off. I knew the drill. I was even cooking on the very same grill I have at home. There was no excuse. My crust grilled better than I had anticipated given that it was not the same brand I had been practicing with. The plums? Not a problem, grilled up fine. I put my steak on the grill and watched the grill smoke up while arranging the plums and honey on the crust. I flipped the steaks, closed the grill and watched it smoke up and heard the grill flare. I panicked. It was too smoky. My meat would be overcooked. "These people have good palates..." I thought to myself, "they don't want to be eating overcooked meat." Then I made the fatal mistake. I took the steaks off the grill to rest knowing full well my carefully set timer had not gone off. I had practiced. I knew exactly how long those steaks had to grill. But I panicked.

The steaks were rested for about 5 minutes (they continue cooking, right??) I carved. They sliced well, smooth, probably more an indication of a good cut as opposed to good cooking. The cook off timer announced I had 5 minutes remaining. I looked at the meat as I nervously continued to cut. I knew it was undercooked, but I had to slice it and arrange it on the pizza then grill again to melt the cheese-surely it would brown up then. I fanned the steak, crumbled the cheese and added the nuts. I slid the pizzas back onto the grill. The cook off timer announced that I had 1 minute remaining. I peeked in...still raw. I had no more time. I transferred the (mooing) pizzas to my elegant white serving platter.

The emcee for the afternoon, chef Richard Chamberlain of Addison Steakhouse, one of Dallas' top restaurants, came over to see my entry. Our eyes met. I saw his horror. I hope he saw mine-I hope he knew that I knew my steak wasn't cooked. He kindly commented on the beauty of the rustic crust, the delicious smell of the plums. But guess what? It was not a dough or plum cook off. As I watched with horrified regret and visions of judges spitting pizza into their napkins, my entry went to the judges. My husband and my assigned cattlewoman hostess, Lisa, tried to reassure me. But I knew. I only hope for the judges' sakes my dish was quietly disqualified so they did not have to eat my raw entry. I am so sorry judges.

I hope you will try making my recipe-it actually is tasty when properly cooked.

I really don't mind losing. The other entries looked delicious and I could very well have not won with a perfectly cooked entry. But it would be so much easier to lose if I felt that I sent to the judges the best possible Grilled Steak and Plum Pizzettes that I could have.

(My compliments to the professional food stylists at the Cook Off-you made it almost look edible)

Grilled Steak and Plum Pizzettes

1 pound whole wheat pizza dough
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus additional to brush the grill
2 boneless beef loin strip steaks (about 1 1/4 pounds)
2 red plums, each cut into 12 slices
2 tablespoons Wildflower Honey
1 cup crumbled Pt. Reyes blue cheese
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped pistachio nuts
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon pepper

1. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and flatten each into a 6-8 inch disc; brush both sides of each disc lightly with the olive oil and grill on a medium-hot grill just until grill marks appear, about 2 minutes per side and then set aside. Grill steaks 9-11 minutes over medium-hot grill (turning occasionally), remove to cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.

2. Lightly (and carefully) grill plums on both sides on a well oiled grill then fan 6 slices over each grilled crust; drizzle the plums with the honey. Carve the steaks into 1/4 inch thick slices and fan over and/or between the plums, season with the salt and the pepper, evenly dividing.

3. Crumble the blue cheese over the sliced steak and sprinkle with the pistachio nuts, evenly dividing. Return pizzettes to the grill, close the cover and cook until the cheese is melted about 2 minutes.


The Japanese Redneck said...

I'm so sorry that your pizzettes didn't turn out like they were suppose to. I know how disappointing that is to have gotten so far and then for it not to be the way you wanted it to be.

But congratulations on making it to the cook off and next year will be better!


Barbara Bakes said...

How fun to be in the cook off! Sorry you beef wasn't cooked enough. I'm sure that was disappointing when you you'd done it perfect so many times!

Mary said...

Veronica, huge congratulations on making it to the cook off. I know how disappointed you must be, but under the circumstances you did everything you could. They'll be a next time. Perhaps not here but somewhere. You're very talented and cream rises my dear:-). Have a good day.

Veronica said...

Thanks Ladies!! I'm feeling better.

The Blonde Duck said...

I'm sorry you lost. The pizza looks great though!

RecipeGirl said...

Oh my gosh, I want to cry for you!!! You poor, poor thing. I'm sure you don't want to hear how exciting it is that you made it to the cook-off... but it is rather exciting. I guess you live, you learn, huh? Yours was probably the best recipe ;) Next time...

Lorie said...

Gosh. I feel your pain because I have had those times at cook-offs, too, when something goes wrong and I panic. I am sure it was not as undercooked as you think.

Never made it to Beef but congrats to you for getting to go three times. That is no easy feat, even though you make it look easy. Your recipe looks delish and very creative. I can see why they chose it.