My 8-year-old has very set notions of what constitutes a great steak. It has to be rare and it has to be sweet.
The rare part he takes to an extreme. He’d prefer if the cow meandered into our kitchen and he could just take a fork to it. The sweet part he is more moderate about. He likes a mild sweetness. Nothing as brash as full-on sweet-and-sour sauce (not even on chicken). And no brown sugar-spiked rubs. That sort of assertiveness interferes with his appreciation of the rare part.
Over time I have experimented to find just the right balance of rare and sweet. An obvious answer has always been carpaccio, an Italian dish of thinly sliced and lightly seasoned raw steak. And while I have made him this at various times — much to his joy — it does pose a dilemma.
When I make dinner, I like to plan to have leftovers. I use those leftovers to pack my son’s lunch the next day. But while I don’t have a problem feeding my son raw steak at the dinner table, packing it in his lunch — where it will sit for hours before being consumed — really does strike me as a poor parenting decision.
So I developed a compromise — a recipe for a steak that preserves the essence of carpaccio, but adds both the texture and taste of a light sear to the exterior. For sweetness, I give the steaks a brief bath in mirin, a sweet Japanese cooking wine (available in the grocer’s Asian aisle). A bit of salt and coarsely cracked pepper, and you’re good.
How to serve this? Keep it simple. Some fresh baguette, a bit of cheese and a fresh salad really are all it takes to turn this into a meal.