Thursday, May 29, 2014

Three-Ingredient Sauce for Steak and Other Delicious Things

Oh, the end of May! I love it so much. It's like the Thursday night of the whole school year, is how I feel. You're not done yet, but you start to enjoy anticipating being done so profoundly that this moment might be even better than the later doneness itself because the whole summer is still to come, dawning in front of us like a golden orb of promise and lazy mornings and NO SCHOOL LUNCHES TO MAKE and camping and popsicles and oooooh, I can't wait.
The obligatory May cigar-vase photo. Didn't I just post one, like, yesterday? When the children were still small and peachy?
We spent Memorial Day with lots of our closest friends, and I am in such a strange state, such a vibrant wabi-sabi mix of excitement and melancholy (What? Me? I know!), that I spent the whole day accusing passing hordes of children of growing up too fast. Luckily, I was not alone in this project. All my friends feel the same way. "Look at him!" we cry. "Look at her!" about each other's long, lanky, hirsute, broad, pimply, gorgeous, mustachioed, breathtaking, bosomy children, even though it's only been, like, two days since we were all together. I cannot take it. I can't. And we've been to three funerals in three months, and that's only the half of it, and every time the wind blows, the dogwood blossoms snowfall to the ground, even though I have waited all year for that tree to bloom. Even though that tree bloomed just a second ago, and a second before that, and it will bloom again in the wink of an eye, the children all another foot taller. What?

What does this have to do with Three-Ingredient Sauce for Steak? Oh, nothing, I guess. Except that steak feels like such a harbinger of summer. Even though I cooked it in a pan, because it was raining and it breaks my heart too much to watch Michael at the grill with an umbrella. 

These are marvelous, wonderful skirt steaks. Oh, they are so, so good. I heat the pan on nearly high heat for TEN MINUTES before salting the bottom heavily with coarse salt and then adding the steaks. TEN MINUTES. This pan. The love of my life.

Did I mention salt?
But the sauce? I can't describe why it's so good. In the Venn diagram, it would almost entirely overlap with the wasabi-kicked soy sauce you'd dip your sushi in. 
I picked the only easy recipe in the book.
The mustard--and you really do have to use that fancy Colman's in a yellow tin--makes it crazy, nose-clearingly hot. Not spicy. Hot in the sinus way. And then the soy is there, mellow and salty and rich. And then the rice vinegar comes in all bright and floral. It makes steak sing. And the song it's singing is, "I am so fucking delicious, you are going to die!"

We are 3. Yes. 3.
The sauce is also excellent on plain brown rice, on edamame, and on fish, which is what it was invented for. Where I first had it, in fact, was at a restaurant called Roy's that my parents took Michael and me to in Hawaii, oh, 6 or 7 thousand years ago. And what I had it on was, at the time, the single most transformative meal of my entire life: Blackened Ahi with Soy Mustard Sauce and Beurre Blanc. I can hardly write about it still. It made me feel like I'd never actually eaten anything before that tasted good, and like I might never again afterwards. I'm sure it sounds very 1993 now, but wow. I talked about that meal every hour, every day, for years, to the point where my thoughtful brother finally got me the Roy's cookbook, to try to assuage my longing. And guess what I've made from the cookbook? This single 3-ingredient sauce. Not the whole plate of food, with the fancy tuna. Not any of the other recipes, with the slivered papaya or the flying fish roe or whatever. Just this one thing. And it was completely worth it.

What about me? Nobody even mentioned salt!
Three-Ingredient Steak Sauce
aka Roy’s Soy-Mustard Sauce

Okay, there are four ingredients, but are you really going to count water?

1/4 cup mustard powder, preferably Colman’s
2 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons [unseasoned] rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce

Mix the mustard powder and hot water together in a cup [or small bowl] to form a paste. Let sit for a few minutes “to allow the flavor and heat to develop.” [Wah? I do it anyway.] Add the vinegar and soy sauce, mix together, and “pass through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.” [I skip the sieve, but I do use a whisk.] Cover and “refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to develop.” [I tend forget this whole 1-hour part, but oh well.]


  1. Erin K.7:49 PM

    I just keyed in on your 'bosomy' description and smiled - I recently went on a middle school tour with a fellow mom of a soon-to-be fifth grader, and while we were watching a great group of girls in the chorus class, she leaned over to me and whispered "they all have BOOBS" - with a very clear sadness in her voice... :)

  2. Okay, been reading your awesome stuff for so, so many years (a "babycenterer" here...) and let me tell you, that first paragraph is one of my all-time favorites. The ay you describe this magical time of year is just, well, magical.

    Then, of course, after thoroughly savoring it's artistry, I get to the next one, where you describe EXACTLY what I've thinking/feeling about my 13 year old son-man, and my 11.5 year old daughter-woman, and I feel like I wish I had all of your wonderful words (since Bringing Up Birdy, which I devoured!) in paper book form, to pore over again and again, and eventually to hand down to my kids when they make me a grandma someday, so that they, too, can be reassured and comforted by your words that let them know someone gets it.

    Oh, and I for sure will be trying that sauce!

    1. Ugh, hit "publish" too hastily! I meant way, not ay, and its, not it's. As for the run-on sentence masquerading as a paragraph, sorry.

    2. Tracey,
      As an English teacher, I feel compelled to reassure you that your paragraph-sentence is not a run-on. :) It is perfectly punctuated, and beautifully arranged. I wish my students wrote 'run-ons' like that one.

    3. HAHAHA, and then I left in an unnecessary comma when I changed the wording of my sentence. Some English teacher I am, huh? :D

  3. Catherine, the first two paragraphs of this post read like a Whitman poem. Truly--just break out the sentences one by one and you have the lost pages of "Song of Myself." You are such a gifted writer. My children are 7 and 9 and I am unsettled and caught off guard almost daily at how much I want to push "pause" on their childhood. Or even "rewind" for that matter. Watching my children grow up is poignantly, intensely glorious and painful.

    But to capture it in a couple of paragraphs so beautifully and humorously and relatably as you did is Whitman-esque.

    Not to blow off your steak recipe, but my husband can't eat red meat (that sonofabitch) so I will have to sneak this three-ingredient recipe to my mom so that she can innocently serve it at her next Sunday dinner while baking a chicken breast on the side for my better half. It's all good.

  4. NO SCHOOL LUNCHES! They were the bane of my existence.

  5. I completely understand about these kids getting so big. My son is 14 and nearly 6' tall and my daughter is 11 and just asked to shave her legs. I contained my cry and cheerfully showed her. Oh! But summer is here!!! No more schedules, early mornings and homework!!!

  6. I love how you just KNOW what I mean, you KNOW?!? These children...

    *sighs and swallows down the lump of quicksand in throat*

  7. i happened to read this post recently that explains the "wait" directions in the recipe:

    also, you might like colman's + soy sauce + mayonnaise for veggies. we eat it with steamed green beans, steamed broccoli, and grilled eggplant (grilled whole and then sliced). i'm from hawai'i, so maybe this sauce is related to roy's?

  8. Great post...
    So, just to clarify, do you marinate your ss? Or just use the sauce? Can't wait to try. I too have been super nostalgic as of late, ok, since my kids were born. Where is the freeze button?

  9. When I read your words, even though they are Your words, it reminds me of who I am. And I don't understand that but I love it as much as you love May and your pan! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    Also there's this Kurt Vonnegut line that I love so much where in speech at a library he said just yesterday I was being born. And today I am dedicating a library. Something has gone terribly wrong.

  10. Why are you not my neighbor? I mean, granted, I live on the West Coast, but we could totally be neighbors...

    1. Anonymous4:45 PM

      Laura, I'm on the West Coast too. Maybe we are neighbors? And can start a benandbirdy club, where all of us who love Catherine and wish we, you know, actually knew her, could form our own little groups...?

      I live in hope. I feel like running ads in the local papers (if only there were such things anymore) that read: Seeking Catherine Newman Fans. Cuz then I'd find all the friends I need...


  11. You make my heart burst. This is end-of-May perfection.

  12. Anonymous4:50 PM

    Also - in addition to agreeing with everyone else about how perfectly pitched was this prose - I also want to ask you, Catherine, how your originally seasoned your pan. We bought deBuyer pans, 'cause of you, and both my partner and I spent ages trying to figure out how to season them. We ended up trying several different approaches (mostly based on youtube videos) - we got a set of three pans - and honestly, none of them really worked. Everything sticks, and it's very sad. If you have a magic suggestion, we'd take it. Strip them down and start again. Otherwise we'll just keep staring at their uneven, non-naturally-nonstick mineral pan selves with sorrow...

    1. Oh no! I feel terrible! Mine took a while, if that helps. I'd say a year for it to be AWESOME. But oh no, I led you astray. I'm so sorry! (Also: I can't remember what we did initially, but it likely involved youtube videos and the oven. I definitely baby them with heat and oil and after washing. . . )

    2. Anonymous6:25 AM

      The oven, you say..? Hmm. We were doing flaxseed oil on the stove-top, mostly. Perhaps we'll try another approach. And the year-to-awesomeness gives me some hope, though I do wonder if that year included lots of muttered curses at food that stuck and dark comments by the pro-hygiene member of the family about nasty stuck-on food bits..? It would be reassuring to know that it did (:

      It's okay. Even if they never turn out, you've provided enough good stuff to our lives, with words and recipes, that you're forgiven. And it gives my partner ample opportunity to roll his eyes and say things like, "Why don't you write to your best friend CATHerine NEWman and ask HER what SHE did to make these pans perfect, hmmm?" And then he grins, and feels happy, and so there you are. A win-win.

      Thanks for writing back!

  13. It looks delicious! With its basic recipe and easy procedure, this is the perfect meal to present on impromptu dinners or gatherings with friends. Thanks for sharing its recipe with us, and have a wonderful day!

    Mae Tyler @ St. Andrew Poultry