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Good to the last sizzle

Coffee wakes up flavors of the grill, both in spice rubs and barbecue sauce.

Rub New York strip steak with ground coffee and spices before grilling.

Photograph by Jim Scherer/Styling by Catrine Kelty

Rub New York strip steak with ground coffee and spices before grilling.

COFFEE-RUBBED GRILLED STEAK

Serves 6

Shopping for steak can be confusing. You may see New York strip steaks labeled just strip steak, or top loin steak, shell steak, loin shell steak, or sirloin strip steak. Rib-eye steaks, which are a little fatter — watch for flare-ups on the grill — might also go by the name Delmonico steak.

4 boneless New York strip or rib-eye steaks (about 3 pounds total), preferably 1¼ inches thick, patted dry

1 recipe Simple, Chili, or Aromatics Spice Rub (see below)

Vegetable oil, for the grill

Prepare a two-level fire, with one side very hot, on a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high for 15 minutes. (If using a gas grill, leave one burner on high and adjust the others to medium heat, and keep the cover shut while grilling.) Meanwhile, rest steaks at room temperature for about 15 minutes; rub them all over with the coffee spice rub to cover completely.

Continue reading below

Using tongs and a wad of paper towel, oil the grill grates generously. Grill steaks on the hot side of the grill (cover if using a gas grill), without moving (except in the case of flare-ups, then move steaks to cooler side of the grill until fire dies down), until deep brown and crusty, 4 to 5 minutes over charcoal or 7 to 9 minutes over gas, turning the steak over halfway through grilling time. Move the steaks to the cooler side of the grill and continue grilling, covered if using a gas grill, until meat reaches 120 degrees for rare, 125 degrees for medium-rare, or about 130 degrees for medium, 3 to 7 minutes longer, turning the steaks as necessary.

Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and rest for about 10 minutes (internal temperature will increase while the meat rests). Cut crosswise into ½-inch-thick slices and serve.

Jim Scherer

TIP: Use fingers to break up brown sugar clumps before adding the coffee and spices to your rub.

SIMPLE COFFEE SPICE RUB

Makes about ½ cup

I like medium- or dark-roast coffee, ground fresh and fine (as for espresso), for these rubs. Avoid especially dark-roasted coffee such as Italian or French, which can make the rubs too aggressively bitter. The rubs are great on grilled beef, from burgers to flank steak, as well as on grilled chicken or pork.

Kosher salt and pepper

1 tablespoon brown sugar

3 tablespoons very finely ground medium- or dark-roast coffee

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon dried oregano

In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon each salt and pepper and brown sugar, rubbing the mixture with your fingertips to break up any small lumps of sugar. Add the coffee, cumin, and coriander, and stir to mix. Add oregano, rubbing it with your fingertips to crush it, and stir to mix. Use at once or store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Variations

COFFEE-CHILI SPICE RUB

Follow the recipe for Simple Coffee Spice Rub, making the following changes:

1) Reduce the quantities of salt to 2 teaspoons and coffee to 2 tablespoons.

2) Substitute 1½ tablespoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper for the cumin, coriander, and oregano.

AROMATICS-COFFEE SPICE RUB

Follow the recipe for Simple Coffee Spice Rub, substituting ¾ teaspoon each ground ginger and ground cardamom for the cumin, coriander, and oregano.

COFFEE BARBECUE SAUCE

Makes about 2½ cups

The sauce has subtle and earthy undercurrent rather than an overt coffee flavor. It’s especially good with pulled pork.

1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1 cup brewed espresso

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

1½ cups ketchup

2 tablespoons molasses

¼ cup, packed, light brown sugar

1½ teaspoons smoked paprika

½ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and black pepper

In a food processor, process the onion, garlic, and ¾ cup water until liquid. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large measuring cup and strain the onion mixture, stirring and pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible (you should have a scant 1 cup); discard the solids.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the espresso to a boil; boil to reduce to ¾ cup, about 2½ minutes. Off heat, add the onion liquid, vinegar, ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, smoked paprika, allspice, cumin, cayenne, ¾ teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper, and whisk to combine; return pan to medium-high heat and bring to a strong simmer. Adjust the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 25 minutes (you should have about 2½ cups). Set aside off heat to cool and thicken. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, and serve (can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week).

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