Chefs everywhere know it: Fire is where the magic happens.
- 1 2-pound bone-in rib-eye steak (1½–2 inches thick)
- 1 bunch carrots, scrubbed, patted dry
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- ¼ cup bay leaves (from one ¼-ounce jar)
- A fireplace, seasoned hardwood logs (such as oak), and 2 bricks
Generously season steak with kosher salt and sprinkle both sides with a little sugar. Place on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet; chill, uncovered, overnight.
Let steak sit 1 hour to come to room temperature before cooking.
Prepare a medium-hot fire, ideally without the grate in the fireplace. Keep at least a few logs burning at all times, replenishing as needed, until there is a large base of glowing red coals under the fire, 1 ½–2 hours.
Meanwhile, toss carrots with oil in a large cast-iron skillet; season with kosher salt. Set skillet on hearth a few inches in front of any coals or burning logs. You want carrots to cook slowly; you will know they are cooking properly if they feel hot to the touch within 10–15 minutes. You may need to angle carrots toward heat by propping handle of skillet on a brick or overturned pan. Roast, tossing occasionally and adjusting skillet as needed to maintain even cooking, until brown and crisp-tender, 45–60 minutes.
Place a wire rack or a couple of stacked bricks about 6" in front of logs. The goal here is strong indirect heat. Cook butter and bay leaves in a small heavy saucepan or skillet (cast iron is ideal) on rack, swirling occasionally, until butter is browned and bay leaves are just browned around edges, 30–45 minutes. Season with salt and keep warm.
Push logs to the back or side of fireplace, exposing an area of glowing red coals about 1' in diameter, or use a fireplace shovel to rake the hottest coals forward if needed to avoid grate. Flatten coals into an even layer. Place steak directly on coals and cook, undisturbed, until underside is well browned, about 5 minutes. Rake fresh coals next to steak, and turn steak onto new coals. Knock off any coals or ash clinging to cooked side of steak. Cook until other side is well browned, about 5 minutes.
Now the steak needs to cook through gently. Transfer to a wire rack; brush off any clinging coals and ash. Prop up rack on 2 bricks or an overturned pan so that it’s elevated above coals. It should be in a spot warm enough to hold your hand 3 seconds but not longer. Place carrots underneath to catch drippings; cook steak to desired doneness, 14–18 minutes for medium-rare (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part should register 120°). Transfer rack with steak to a rimmed baking sheet; let rest 20 minutes before slicing.
Remove bay leaves from butter. Serve steak and carrots drizzled with bay butter and sprinkled with sea salt.
A CAKE FOR GEORGIA GILMORE
This post was originally published on our Journal in January 2014. We reshare it today, on Juneteenth, as an expression of our support for Black Lives Matter and honor to the heroines and heroes that came before those who are fighting for justice and equality today.
Georgia Gilmore (about whom we have written before), is an unsung heroine of the Civil Rights struggle. Georgia was a big lady with a big personality—frankly put, she didn’t take any bull from anybody. She worked as a midwife, as well as a cook at the National Lunch Company, in Montgomery, Alabama during the 1950s. After Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to leave her seat on a bus in Montgomery in December of 1955, a group of black ministers, community leaders, and ordinary citizens formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA)—and, in their meetings around the city, initiated and sustained what would become the 13 month long Montgomery Bus Boycott. As soon as Georgia heard of Rosa Parks’ arrest on the radio, she joined the MIA, determined to aid the effort in any way she could.
Outspoken and feisty, Georgia let her disapproval of the discriminatory bus drivers be known—an action that got her fired from her job at the National Lunch Company. When that happened, the community helped her set up a restaurant in her home kitchen. Well-known around town for her fried chicken, pork chops, and stuffed bell peppers, Georgia often served these and other dishes to Dr. King and fellow supporters of the bus boycott. Her kitchen even hosted secret MIA meetings over those long months.
Georgia’s love (and talent) for cooking as well as her passion for racial equality and change led her to start a club with a few of her friends. The ladies in the club, most of them laboring as maids and cooks, sold homemade pies and cakes (and even Georgia’s chicken dinners) to supporters of the Movement to raise money for the boycott. Calling themselves the “Club from Nowhere,” the women often set up shop in beauty parlors, laundromats, and on street corners in downtown Montgomery to sell their goods. They also arranged for both black and white supporters of the boycott to contribute anonymously. The Club from Nowhere used the money to buy gas and station wagons, used to transport people to and from work during the boycott. When asked, Georgia and the other women always said that the money came “from nowhere.”
Although, like many foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement, her contributions have been largely overlooked, Georgia Gilmore undoubtedly fueled the movement with her commitment, talent, and fundraising efforts. She was a real woman with a strong voice, and she did what she needed to do to make change happen in her community and beyond.
We need that same creativity and commitment today. And so as a tribute and an inspiration, we baked a pound cake for Georgia and all of the other real women who made a difference by doing what they could how they could—one baked good at a time.
3 sticks butter
3 cups sugar
6 eggs, room temperature
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
Butter and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after every addition. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients into the creamed butter and mix until just combined. Pour in the milk and vanilla with the paddle going and mix until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the milk completely. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.
Place the pan in a cold oven and set oven to 225 degrees. Set a timer for 20 minutes and let bake. Increase temperature to 300 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes. Increase oven temperature again to 325 degrees and bake for 20 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cake sit in pan for 10 minutes. Unmold and let cool on a wire rack.
*Baking a pound cake in a cold oven works for a specific reason: Preheating an oven gives cakes the rush of hot air needed to rise, but pound cakes are usually so dense that they don’t rise very much anyway. Therefore, preheating the oven isn’t necessary.
We topped our pound cake with a caramel sauce (recipe below), but this cake would also be delicious topped with powdered sugar or a simple lemon glaze.
Yield 2 cups
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons Maldon sea salt flakes
Combine the water and sugar in a heavy bottom sauce pan and place over high heat. Cook on high, without stirring, until the syrup turns medium amber. Turn the heat down and stir in the salt and the heavy cream the syrup will bubble up a lot, so be careful. Stir to combine. Let cool and drizzle over the cake once the cake has been cooled.