Photo: Oxmoor House 
Hands-on Time
15 Mins
Total Time
20 Mins
Yield
Serves 4 (serving size: 3 ounces steak)

Cocoa powder is barely sweet, mostly bitter, and intensely earthy. For pan cooking, it's functionally appealing as well, because it has some fat, is velvety, coats things fully, and absorbs moisture like flour. When cooked in a pan with a bit of cocoa, your steak will mimic the legendary American steakhouse crust. Buy good beef. Amaze your guests. Consider serving with Pan-Roasted Radishes and some fresh watercress spritzed with lemon and sprinkled with coarse salt.

How to Make It

Step 1

COAT THE STEAK

Step 2

In a small bowl, combine the cocoa, salt, and red pepper.

Step 3

Transfer the mixture onto a plate in an even layer, ready for the steak.

Step 4

Dredge the steak in the mixture. Lift up an edge and look to see if it's evenly coated. If not, do some massage work.

Step 5

Flip and similarly dredge the other side. The steak should take on nearly everything on the plate. If there's some remaining cocoa mixture, roll the edges of the steak in it.

Step 6

CREATE A TASTY CRUST

Step 7

Preheat a cast-iron skillet or heavy-bottomed sauté pan. Medium-high heat.

Step 8

Spray the surface evenly with cooking spray.

Step 9

Let the pan begin to smoke.

Step 10

Gently lay the steak into the pan--roll it away from you chivalrously, as if to gesture to let someone pass through a doorway.

Step 11

Let it smoke and sputter and scream. You're building a crust, and that takes fire.

Step 12

Using a firm but not aggressive touch, press the steak surface with four fingertips to make sure that all the surface area of the steak is in contact with the pan. Otherwise, you'll get gray pockets, and that's not pro. Cook for about 3 minutes. More for rare-o-phobes.

Step 13

Using tongs, flip the steak. Repeat the same cooking process with the other side. Test for doneness.

Step 14

FINISH COOKING THE STEAK

Step 15

Turn off the heat. Remove the steak to a plate. Let the steak rest for 3 minutes or so at room temperature.

Step 16

Now, assuming the steak is still very rare (it is), bring it back to the same pan, now warm, and raise the heat to medium. Cover the pan. Yep, cover it. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes to get it to medium-rare. Now, remove the pan lid (away from you to avoid a steam burn).

Step 17

Flip the steak. Cook 1 1/2 minutes on the other side. Take those juices that drained off onto the plate and pour them over the steak in the pan. Now, it's likely medium-rare to medium (depending on the thickness of the steak). Place the steak on the plate again.

Step 18

Okay, one last time: let it rest for 2 minutes or so.

Step 19

Now, on the bias or straight-cut steakhouse style, slice the steak against the grain so that you get 12 to 16 slices. Tilt it and fan it while you carve. Just because.

Step 20

Step by Step: Straight Cut and Bias Cut

Step 21

1) The choice behind the cut is all about what you're serving the steak with. With sides that have some heft and thickness, like hearty oven-roasted potatoes and thick asparagus, go straight cut.

Step 22

2) With more delicately textured foods like wilted spinach, soft polenta, and pan jus, go with the bias cut so the textures play off each other nicely.

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