Birdie’s in Austin makes a great steak, and here’s how you can too.
Birdie’s is one of the best restaurants in Austin. While the menu changes constantly, reflecting the Texas seasons as well as Chef Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel’s spontaneity in the kitchen, the food remains relatively simple, straightforward, and always delicious.
Whether it's the panisse with crushed black pepper and pecorino stacked atop one another like Jenga blocks, the rotating homemade pasta, always perfectly al dente, or their mouthwatering, plate-filling chocolate chip cookie, each bite is full of flavor and crafted with care. And with Arjav, her husband, running the wine program, it’s not just a great place to eat, but also to grab a drink and hang out.
One of our favorite dishes is the steak. Amidst all the change, it’s consistently one of the best things on the menu, no matter the season and exemplifies Birdie’s commitment to food that lets its high-quality ingredients shine. Below, Chef Malechek-Ezekiel shares some of her tips on how to improve your steak at home.
“I dry it off so I get a nice sear,” Chef Malecheck-Ezekiel says, adding “this ensures that not too much moisture will hit the pan when you add your steak.” Moisture is, in many ways, the enemy of creating crisp and color. This step may seem finicky, but ensuring the steak is dry is one of the most important things you can do if you want to achieve restaurant-quality steak.
Chef Malecheck-Ezekiel prefers to “season from above.” Many people will get really close to the steak when seasoning and this actually makes it harder to get an even seasoning. Some spots will be saltier than others, so Chef Malechek-Ezekiel instead holds her hand far above her steak for even coverage. While Chef Malechek-Ezekiel uses salt and pepper, you can use other herbs and spices if you like, but make sure you lay down that base flavor first.
The debate will rage on as to what the best pan for steak is, but for Chef Malechek-Ezekiel, it’s Stainless Clad. Not only does it have great heat retention, but it also gives her excellent control. While some lower quality pans run the risk of burning off fat and scorching ingredients, she insists that with Stainless Clad she can crank up the heat to get a good sear, and then lower the temperature quickly to make a pan sauce in the left over fond.
One of the most difficult parts about cooking a steak is knowing when it’s done. While practice makes perfect, there is a little trick you can use to see if your steak is medium-rare. “If you make an OK sign and touch the inside of your thumb, that’s what the steak should feel like when it’s perfectly cooked,” Chef Malechek-Ezekiel says.
In her recipe for Minute Steak, Chef Malechek-Ezekiel puts her method to the test. The end result is a steak that is perfectly cooked, covered in a delicious green peppercorn pan sauce with a side of rosemary potatoes. Plus, at under an hour from start to finish, it’s easy enough to cook on a weeknight.