Texas-style steak night

When I say "Texas-style" steak night, I mean your basic pan-seared steak with a Hoffbrau house salad.

Steak is obviously a hugely encompassing term. When I eat steak, I like to make it count with a well-marbled ribeye or New York strip – where there's fat, there's flavor, and no one is saying you need to eat the fat. However, you may feel more comfortable with something leaner, like a petit filet mignon. And a skirt steak is always a great cost-saving move. What I am trying to say – and not well – is that you can't go wrong with your steak choice.

The Texas-style prep comes down to the two simple ingredients on the steak itself: salt and pepper. You don't need a marinade or fancy sauces because the meat should speak for itself. And while I recommend basting with butter and garlic to achieve that essential steak crust, that portion doesn't ever make it to the plate. The recipe below walks you through how to cook and finish a 1-pound ribeye, about 1 1/2 inches thick – I split this with my sister (we love meat), but this could also be a great single portion for a really hungry person.

The vinaigrette recipe will definitely make extra; you'll only want to use a quarter of the vinaigrette to dress half a head of iceberg lettuce. Store the remaining vinaigrette in an airtight container in the fridge. Luckily, it only gets better with time and is delicious with other types of lettuce, like romaine and red leaf, or as a dressing over grilled or roasted vegetables.

What to know

Hoffbrau Steaks in Austin is a good ol' steakhouse, which has decent steaks but a killer salad vinaigrette. It's the type of place where your arms stick to the table; coincidentally, my favorite kind of place. Located just up the road from Hut's Hamburgers, Hoffbrau is one of the last trademarks of Old Austin on West 6th St., where constantly rotating high rises and clubs have since infiltrated. Forgive me if this is inaccurate, but the following is what I've learned through Austin's absurd, rich oral history:

The first thing to know is that the steakhouse didn't open as a steakhouse, but as a bar. Hoffbrau opened during the Great Depression in 1932, the same month that prohibition was lifted. Those who could afford alcohol, like politicians and folks who had business downtown, would head to this spot.

When economic conditions bettered – can we say military-industrial complex? – WWII reserve soldiers at Bergstrom base (now the site of Austin Bergstrom International Airport) would caravan to the spot. It was one of the first places to have a keg in Texas, so the soldiers would purchase a keg to split. The men's heartier appetites  shifted menu offerings from things like cold cuts, jellied meats and anchovy toast to massive slabs of beef.

The salad vinaigrette apparently came from a failed attempt at making German-style cole slaw. The secret to this salad, like many others, is that a wooden serving vessel is key, which is rubbed with raw garlic and chilled before serving the salad. As simple as it sounds, it really makes all the difference.

What you need

Pan-seared rib-eye

1 1-lb ribeye, about 1 1/2-inch thick

Salt, to taste

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Canola or vegetable oil, for cooking steak, about 2 tbsp to cover the base of saute pan

2 large cloves of garlic; remove skin and crush

2 tbsp butter

Hoffbrau house salad

1/2 cup green olives, chopped

1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes, quartered

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup of olive juice (from the jar of green olives)

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tsp salt

A few cracks of freshly cracked black pepper, to taste or about 1/2 tsp

1 large clove garlic

1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, chopped

How it works

Pan-seared rib-eye

Pat steak dry with paper towels, then generously salt and pepper both sides of the ribeye.

In a medium saute pan, heat oil over high heat; the oil is hot enough when you flick water into the pan and it sizzles immediately.

Place steak into the hot pan and, by the handle, give the pan a slight shake to ensure the steak isn't sticking. Lower stove to medium-high heat and allow the steak to sear for 4 minutes before flipping. Sear the other side of the for 4 minutes. (This creates a medium-rare steak. For a medium steak, sear for 5 minutes on each side; medium well, 6 minutes – don't eat steak if you like it well-done.)

Add butter and garlic to the pan and, with a metal spoon, begin basting the steak by tilting the pan towards you so that you can scoop up a spoonful of the butter and distribute over the steak. Turn the steak every 30 seconds or so to ensure that you baste the sides of the steak and other less-browned parts to develop a thorough crust. Baste for about 4-5 minutes.

Remove steak from pan and place on a wire rack or on top of an upside-down colander; you don't want to place a steak on a place because you don't want to undo all the great crust you just created. Allow the steak to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving. 

Hoffbrau house salad

Crush garlic clove and rub the entirety of the inside of a wooden salad bowl with it. Mince that clove of garlic and use in the step below.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive juice. Whisking constantly, drizzle in olive oil until combined. Add minced garlic, from step above.

Place chopped iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and olives into the salad bowl. Add about 1/4 of the vinaigrette to the salad bowl, and toss. Store the rest of the vinaigrette in an airtight container in the fridge for future use.

Cover the tossed salad with a damp paper towel and put in the fridge for at least 10 minutes before serving to create a wilted and marinated salad.

Serve alongside steak. 

The remaining vinaigrette will last up to two weeks in the fridge if kept in an airtight container.