Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Inferno Steak

This recipe is a story about how a Chef Bolek Original recipe is created.  In advance of an upcoming steak night, I decided to see if I could find an interesting steak recipe to make.  I start by looking at those chefs and cooks who I admire and trust, like Michael Symon, Bobby Flay and Steven Raichlen.  On this particular occasion, I was looking at Steve Raichlen's recipes when I came across two recipes, one for Hellfire Steaks and another for Steak from Hell.  I am someone who loves spicy food, so these recipes caught my attention.  Both recipes looked great, but, for me, they did not conjure the "fire" that I wanted.

I decided to create my own hellish steak recipe.  I immediately drew inspiration from outside of the culinary world: the first part of the 14th century poem, Divine Comedy.  Also known as Inferno, this part was written by Dante Alighieri to document the descent into hell.  That descent began at the gates of hell, which bore an inscription that ended with the words: "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate", or "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."  That sounded like a fitting beginning for a hellish steak recipe.  After passing through the gates, Dante made his way through nine circles of suffering -- Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and Treachery -- with each circle representing a gradual increase in wickedness.

The nine circles got me to thinking.  Many people think of eating chiles as a kind of suffering ... with the heat and piquancy causing sweating and discomfort.  I decided to use nine different chiles to represent the nine circles of suffering, with each subsequent chile being more "wicked" (or spicier) than the last.   After a lot of thought, I selected the following chiles or peppers:

1.  Limbo: Paprika.  In Dante's Inferno, the first circle was "Limbo," which had been populated by people who, although not sinful, had not accepted God. This got me to thinking, although paprika is made from ground bell peppers or chiles, it is not "hot" or "spicy."  Indeed, paprika -- a ground spice used in many cuisines around the world -- seems to be the best spice to represent limbo.  There are two versions of paprika: hot and sweet.  I decided to use the sweet version of paprika, because this would serve as one of the bases for the rub.

2.  Lust: Hatch Chile.  The second circle was "Lust," populated by those who had been overcome by lust.  Followers of this blog know that I have often been overcome by my love of the Hatch chile. For that reason, it seemed appropriate to select that chile to for the "Lust" circle.  Hatch chiles are grown in New Mexico and are a key component to Southwestern cuisine.  They are also relatively modest when it comes to heat or spice, with only 3,500 to 8,000 Scoville Heat Units.  (Scoville Heat Units measure the capsaicin, which is the chemical compound in chiles and peppers that provides the heat or spiciness.)   In addition to the heat, the Hatch chile also provides a little earthiness to the spice mix.

3.  Gluttony: Chipotle Chile. The third circle was "Gluttony," populated by individuals who overindulged in food and drink.  For me, the one chile that I would often overindulge in is the chipotle pepper.  Derived from the Nahuatl word, chilpoctli, which means smoked chili pepper, the chipotle is a smoke-dried jalapeno chile principally grown in the northern Mexican State of Chihuahua.  The chipotle chile is similar to the Hatch Chile in that it has anywhere from 3,500 to 8,000 Scoville Heat Units.  Also, like the Hatch Chile, the chipotle pepper serves two purposes in the rub:  to provide some heat and some smoke flavor. 

4.  Greed: Aleppo Pepper.  The fourth circle was "Greed," which is where people would find themselves if their greed for material things that deviated from the norm.  When it came to selecting the fourth pepper, I chose the Aleppo pepper.  The reason is simple: whenever I use Aleppo Pepper, in cooking, I always want more. Also known as the Halaby pepper, the Aleppo pepper is primarily cultivated in Turkey.  The pepper adds a little more smokiness, like an ancho or chipotle pepper, to the rub.  The Aleppo pepper also contributes a certain tartness, which adds a little complexity to the rub.  Finally, this pepper represents a slight increase in heat from the prior chiles, with about 10,000 Scoville Heat Units. 

5.  Anger: Sanaam Chile.  The fifth circle is "Anger."  This is where the rationale for choices become a little more pragmatic.  I chose the Sanaam chile, which is cultivated in India and used in Indian cuisine, for "Anger."  The reason is simple: its piquancy represents a four-fold increase in Scoville Heat Units over the Aleppo pepper.  The Sanaam chiles pack a weighty 40,000 Scoville Heat Units, as compared to the 10,000 units of the Aleppo Pepper.  This increase is also felt in the heat of the rub.

6.  Heresy: Aji Limo Rojo. The sixth circle is "Heresy."  This is one of the most difficult choices for chiles.  I selected the Aji Limo Rojo for this circle, although there is nothing heretical about the chile at all.  The Aji Limo is a chile grown throughout Central and South America, and it figures into cuisines from Panama to Peru.  These chiles come from the same family as the habanero, although they lack the intense heat of a habanero (or a scotch bonnet pepper).  The Aji Limo pepper can have anywhere from 50,000 to 60,000 Scoville Heat Units.

7.  Violence: Dundicut Pepper.  The seventh circle is "Violence."  Once again, I had some difficulty in selecting the pepper.  Many peppers do "violence" to the stomachs of some people.  I ultimately chose the Dundicut chile, which is grown in Pakistan and widely used in Pakistani dishes.  This chile is very similar to a scotch bonnet pepper, but with a little less heat.  Nevertheless, the Dundicut represents a slight increase in Scoville Heat Units over the Aji Limo Rojo chile.  A Dundicut can have anywhere between 55,000 to 65,000 Scoville Heat Units. However, at least for me, both the look and taste of the Dundicut seem hotter and spicier than the Aji Limo Rojo.

8.   Fraud: Chile Pequin.  The eighth circle is "Fraud," where people who engage in conscious treachery or deception are punished.  The selection of the pepper was a little easier this time.  I chose the Chile Pequin.  This chile is very small, which deceptively suggests that it is not very hot or spicy.  However, the Chile Pequin can be anywhere from thirteen to forty times hotter than a jalapeno, with 70,000 Scoville Heat Units.   At this level, the primary purpose of the Chile Pequin is to provide heat to the spice rub. 

9.  Treachery: Piri-Piri.  The ninth and final circle is "Treachery."  As with the sixth and seventh circles, it was hard to rationalize a choice for this chile.  I ultimately decided to use the chile that was the most potent of all the chiles and peppers in our kitchen ... the Piri-Piri pepper.  Also known as the African bird's eye pepper, the Piri Piri pepper is grown and cultivated in many areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, including Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. The Piri-Piri pepper can have as much as 100,000 Scoville Heat Units, providing the highest amount of heat and spice of any of the peppers in the mix. 

While I am using nine different peppers and chiles, I still wanted to make a rub that is edible for many people.  For that reason, I steered clear of the extremely hot chiles, like Trinity Moruga Scorpion, Naga Viper and Bhut Jolokia peppers.  I also added some other spices to complement the heat of the peppers.  These spices include allspice, clove, coriander, garlic powder, onion powder, turmeric, and kosher salt.  Finally, I added a teaspoon of sugar.  The sweetness of the sugar helps to tamper the spice of the chiles.

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2-4

The Inferno Rub
2 marrow bones
2 bone-in ribeyes, cowboy style
1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon of onion powder
1/2 tablespoon of paprika powder
1/2 teaspoon of Hatch chile powder
1/2 teaspoon of chipotle powder
1/4 teaspoon of Aleppo powder
1 dried Sanaam chile, ground
1 dried Dundicut chile, ground
1 dried Aji Limo Rojo, ground
1 dried Chile Pequin, ground
1/4 teaspoon of Piri Piri powder
1/4 teaspoon of allspice
1/4 teaspoon of cloves
1/4 teaspoon of ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon of turmeric
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 teaspoon of sugar

1.  Roast the marrow bones.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cover one end of the marrow bones with foil and stand them up foil side down.  Roast the marrow bones for forty-five minutes.  Remove the marrow and the oils into a small bowl.

2.  Prepare the steaks.  Combine all of the chile and peppers in a bowl, along with the allspice, cloves, coriander, turmeric, salt and sugar.  Mix well. Using a brush, baste the steaks with the oil and marrow from the bones.  Season the steaks with the rub, applying the rub to all sides of the steaks.  Set aside for a few minutes.

3.  Grill the steaks.  Heat a grill on medium high heat.  Place the steaks on the grill.  Grill for five minutes and rotate ninety degrees.  Grill for five more minutes.  Flip the steaks and grill for five minutes.  Rotate the steak ninety degrees.  Grill for five minutes more and remove the steak.  Let the steak rest for a few minutes.  Slice the steak and serve immediately. 



Steve said...

I don't know if I'll ever collect all of these ingredients, but I unreservedly love the thought behind this recipe. Bravo!

Keith Bolek said...

Thank you very much. I am trying to be a little more creative when it comes to the recipes. This one had been percolating for a while and then I just decided to do it. You can find the chiles are available at either Penzeys or Whole Foods. I hope all is well! Keith

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