Austin Food and Wine Festival: Tim Love proves he’s the master of the grill

steakIt was a No-F-Word-Saturday for chef Tim Love. Until it wasn’t.

For several years I have heard the popular Fort Worth chef boozing, carousing and cajoling from afar. The sexual innuendo (I guess it’s too blatant to be called innuendo) and hollerin always left me a little nonplussed. Then I took part in his hands-on grilling event and I understood. I also cooked the best steak I’ve ever cooked in my life.

If you’re going to captivate a crowd of 400 for 90 minutes (especially on a hot, humid day) you best bring some charisma and some volume. Love has those two things in spades. He also has an obvious affection for the grill. After a Van Halen musical prelude (“Why Can’t This Be Love?” of course), Love took the stage at told the attendees that “there is no comparison” to cooking on a grill.

You didn’t have to convince my grill mates, Gus and Barbara Colessides. This was the fourth festival for the couple from Salt Lake City that keeps a home in Austin, and they’ve been to the grilling demo every year.

“I love it,” Barbara Colessides told me as we waited to enter the demo. What keeps bringing her back to the demo? Tim Love. And his tips.

Barbara said they gleaned new facts from the Lonesome Dove owner each year, and this year they learned another new thing: For the first time, Love grilled one side of the steak, took it off the grill and let it rest for 10 minutes before finishing it briefly on the uncooked side. The lesson is an important one for the home chef. Instead of sweating over a grill when you have a dinner party, you can sear the steaks on one side and let them rest and release their energy for up to three hours. Then, when it’s time for dinner, finish them for a minute or so on the top rack of your grill. That’s what the top rack is for – not for buns or asparagus, Love said, but for finishing that steak.

love

Before cooking we rubbed the New York strip (Love digs the cut because it has just enough fat and a nice    chew) with peanut oil (good flavor and high smoke point) and seasoned it liberally with salt and pepper. Season from up high to keep from having the salt and pepper clump together, and season twice as much as you think you should.

We then places the one-and-a-half-inch thick steaks on the center of the piping hot grill and covered it, allowing for air to flow through the lid’s vent. After about two-and-a-half minutes we turned the steaks a quarter turn to get cross-hatch marks and covered again for about two minutes. We then took the steaks off, and Love explained the technique (while mixing in more sexual jokes – he likes his grills hot and ready, like he likes his women, he explained).

Since our small grills didn’t have a second rack, we finished the steaks on the cool side of the grill for about a minute. The result: A rosy, medium-rare steak with a well-seasoned char. Sway and La Condesa owner Jesse Herman, a partner in the festival, eyed me during my session and came over to inspect the restaurant critic’s effort. He gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up, which allowed me to breathe easy.

So, the basics:

  1. Brush steak on all sides with peanut oil.
  2. Season with twice the amount of salt and pepper you expect. Sprinkle from high for good distribution.
  3. Place on hottest part of grill, covered, for about 2.5 minutes.
  4. Turn ¼ rotation. Cover for two more minutes.
  5. Remove from heat for up to three hours.
  6. Finish on the non-grilled side either on the top rack or the cool part of the grill.
  7. Drink lots and lots of white wine and tequila shots.

After the steak we also learned how to season and cook salmon. Sprinkle meaty side generously with paprika mix and Love’s secret spice mixture. Salt the skin side liberally, which allows moisture to be pulled from the fish, giving you a crispy skin. Grill meaty side down for a few minutes, covered. Be patient.

salmon

The salmon was also the best piece of fish I’ve ever cooked, and he taught us to work wonders with an ear of corn (cook on the cool part of the grill), but I’ll be thinking about that steak for a long time. I’m usually a sear-it-in-cast-iron, throw-it-in-a-hot-oven kind of guy, but it will be hard to cook my steak on anything other than a hot grill after Saturday.

I’ve also come to better understand the roguish and juvenile charm of grill master Love. Food & Wine publisher Christina Grdovic introduced Love by calling him the “greatest grilling demo chef in the world.” The 400 people at the packed Saturday event likely would not argue with that claim. Grdovic also announced that Love would be opening his Lonesome Dove Western Bistro at 419 Colorado St. in June.

Love followed his afternoon antics with a win at the Rock Your Taco event at Republic Square Park Saturday night.


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