Weird Crap I Cook: Coffee Crusted Steak Tips

A couple years ago I got to experience an awesome dinner of beef cooked in chocolate and white wine vinegar at my god parents house.  During the dinner, I got to yapping with their son-in-law Matt who is the co-owner of Black River Roasters, a high quality organic coffee company that gets its name from a river near the town I grew up in.  Matt talks as passionately about coffee as I talk about food, and I feel as strongly about coffee as he feels about food.  We went together like peas and carrots.

Anyhoo, Matt checks in on the blog regularly and I enjoy a cup of Black River Roasters coffee any chance I get.  With a bag of beans in the fridge, seemed like high time these worlds collided.

Clever bag color, no idea what could have possibly inspired that choice

When trying to figure out a good use for coffee in food, I remembered seeing coffee crusted steaks on a couple menus over the past few years.  Apparently the coffee doesn’t add too much flavor, mainly just gives a little crunch and a touch of bitterness.  Works for me, so let’s breakout the $10 coffee grinder that is infuriatingly small and completely unworthy of the quality of beans we put in it.

Grinds enough for only four cups of coffee at a time and smells like an electric train that is about to start a house fire???  Please, tell me more.  A retracting power cord!?!?  SOLD!!!

With the (poorly) ground coffee beans, I planned to make two preparations of steak tips; a marinade and a dry rub.  The marinade was made of 2 tablespoons of coffee, a few tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, 4-5 ounces of white wine, chopped garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, salt, and onion powder.  I also added a good splash of white wine vinegar at the end for a little bite.  The rub was just coffee, salt and black pepper since I wanted to keep one simple to ensure I could taste the coffee flavor clearly.

Sorry to ruin the suspense, but you can probably see that I used too much salt in the rub.  Thank god I love salty beef.  Some day I hope this blog has enough fans that someone compiles every quote that could be clearly linked to obesity, my guess is that one was #129

For the beef, there was no doubt what I was going with; good old trusted sirloin flap meat, or steak tips if you are a New Englander.  The meat is cheap ($6 a pound!), well marbled, and comes from the sirloin so it tastes like beef should.

I love the experience of slowly making my way through a single well seasoned 20-ounce piece of dry aged ribeye for $54, but steak tips are my top choice at home and nearly as enjoyable

As usual with tips I cut each sirloin flap into cubes that will be about 3-4 bites once cooked.  A little over half were thoroughly coated with the rub.

Looked exactly like a pepper crust, and I despise pepper crusts on steak, tuna, pretty much anything really.  However, I thought this looked kind of good for no explainable reason

And the rest of the tips went into the marinade for about an hour.  Didn’t want to risk doing it any longer.

Wish I added brown sugar to this but I was nervous at the time that the combined sweetness of the white wine and sugar would be too much.  I wear glasses or contacts every day and yet I have 20/20 vision when looking back in time.  Took me awhile to identify the yellowish bits but I think it’s garlic and crushed red pepper

With the food all prepped, I fired up the grill and let it get well in to the 600 degree range before throwing the tips onto the grate.  After around five minutes with the lid down, the tips had enough of a char to flip.

Janet has been doing some awesome stuff lately and all, but the milestones achieved by this grill in its first two months of life have really blown Janet’s early accomplishments out of the water

The grilling process would have been the first time I could tell that the crust on the steak was coffee and not pepper.  The smell of coffee was clearly present as these cooked.  Also, I started to get very worried that I had made the marinade too spicy since the smell of the cayenne pepper cooking on the grill made me sneeze and cough every time I opened the grill hood.  Never a good sign.

Rub on the left, marinated version on the right.  Grills look so much cooler in a nice quality photograph

The tips came off the grill and I started to sample a few pieces.  First reaction was how well the crust worked on the dry rub version, but the second reaction was that I put waaaayyy too much salt in the rub.  On the flip side, I was psyched that the marinated version wasn’t chokingly spicy.

I can’t imagine living in a climate where there are no real changes in weather/temperature from season to season, mainly because I wouldn’t have an excuse to eat massive amounts of red meat for three months straight by shrugging and saying “it’s the summer”

The marinated tips picked up the most flavor from the Worcestershire and cumin but you could definitely taste a little bit of coffee in there as well.  The combination reminded me of a molé sauce with the heavily spiced flavors and the bitter contrast, but not quite as strong or overpowering as a molé. I would definitely add brown sugar, less Worcestershire, and a little more white wine vinegar next time.

The dry rubbed tips were very salty.  Like, borderline complete bust salty.  However, we figured out that if they were eaten with a bite of the other tips or the yellow squash they were completely fine.  The crust was almost identical to a black pepper crust but without the punch in the face of black pepper flavor that overwhelms the meat.  The coffee also had a noticeable bitter flavor that was matched by the slight spiciness form the black pepper. The most important thing was that the meat flavor wasn’t lost in the rub, it was just nicely complimented by it.

For the next three days these tips made for a perfect lunchtime salad topping since the saltiness was fine when tossed with lettuce and vegetables.  Watch out for coffee grinds in the teeth if you try this at home, though.

Been planning a mixed meat grill fest for some time, hopefully it shows up next week.

The Cabot Challenge: Strawberry Cheddar Cheese Cake

This round of the Cabot Challenge has me creating a dish to compete with recipes sent in by other bloggers.  Not expecting a fair fight because, you know, I generally use guesswork in the kitchen and hope I don’t seriously injure anyone who tries my creations.

The challenge was to create a dessert using cheddar cheese.  I was immediately reminded of a Married with Children episode where Al Bundy gets a cheddar cheesecake from some store that is going out of business.  As usual for poor old Al, everyone mocks the cheesecake mercilessly the entire episode, he keeps getting interrupted while trying to take a bite, and eventually Peg throws it out or something.  Pretty sure Cabot didn’t expect me to lead off this post with a reference to a 20 year old controversial sitcom, but it’s honestly why I decided to make what I did.

Anyway, since I had only previously seen cream cheese based cheese cakes, I did my usual online research and got started.  Here are the key ingredients (if you just want the recipe skip to the end, we like to be wordy on the ADB blog):

Brought the Greek yogurt home from a Vermont trip last week

First order of business was chopping up 12 of the strawberries and mixing them with a couple tablespoons of sugar to start them macerating.  I am hoping to make it through a second straight post of using the term “macerating” while exercising restraint and not making jokes about similar sounding words.

This was taken just before Kristi walked in on me macerating. I couldn't even make it past the second photo caption

While those rested, I crushed a package of cinnamon graham crackers to use as the crust for the cheesecake.


...after. I narrowly avoided exploding graham cracker crumbs all over my kitchen due to overzealous smashing

The crumbs were tossed with a couple tablespoons of melted butter and a little water then molded into the bottom of a 9″ loaf pan.

Love graham cracker crusts, they rarely disappoint

With that set, I beat together a softened stick of butter and a half cup of sugar.  Once thoroughly mixed, I added two eggs to form the base for the cheesecake batter.

Although the Kitchenaid mixer has proven invaluable for bread making, I prefer the hand mixer for stuff like this

In order to have the cheddar mixed in evenly throughout the cake, I cut about a third of the block of cheddar into slices and then very small cubes.

Went with the smooth sharp, thought the extra sharp variety could be a little too strong

The half cup of cheese went into the batter.

The cubes stuck together a bit. Also, a return of the awful shadows from my Philly apartment, not sure how they found me in Boston

After beating that heavily for a few minutes to break up the stuck together cubes, I added vanilla extract, about half of the macerated strawberries and juice, baking powder, flour, and milk.

This was looking and smelling pretty good. Was hoping to have a bit more pink color but that probably isn't possible with just fresh strawberries. Would need some of the frozen ones in syrup for that

Just before pouring into the loaf pan I stirred in some lemon juice.  It was kind of an afterthought; I should have used a little lemon zest instead but as usual was just doing whatever seemed easy.

At this point I really had no idea if this would work at all, but it looked edible in raw form

The loaf pan went into a preheated 350 degree oven.  I wasn’t sure how long it would take to cook through, but after the 45 minute mark I tested it every 10-15 minutes by sticking a knife in the center.

While that cooked, I put together a sauce for the cake using the remaining macerated strawberries, Cabot Greek yogurt, and honey.

I could have eaten this on its own

Stirred together then into the fridge to set for an hour.

I seriously might make this again for breakfast tomorrow

After 75 minutes, far longer than I expected, this fully cooked product came out of the oven.

Looked more like a loaf of bread, but I still had hope

After resting for a half hour and cooling down, it looked a lot more like regular cheesecake.

Totally random note: it reminded me of the Dannon yogurt loaves that were a summer lunch staple in the early nineties. No idea what happened to those or if they even existed outside of Bernardsville New Jersey, but the orange one was amazing

Once cut, the slices popped out easily and intact.

Looked a lot closer to cheese cake than cheesecake, hence the title. Wish there were more visible strawberry chunks

Served with a dollop of the yogurt sauce.

That's a nice lookin' dessert!

If you’ve read any other posts from me you will know I don’t always like what I make, but this was delicious.  The long cooking time gave the outside a doughnut-like crispness and the inside was moist, springy and not nearly as dense as regular cheesecake.  The cheddar cheese added dairy tartness and a flavor similar to a sour cream doughnut.  I’m feeling like a freaking idiot that the two best analogies I could come up with for texture and flavor are both doughnut related.  The yogurt sauce complimented it with a nice tart flavor.

Here’s my attempt at recipe writing:

Strawberry Cheddar Cheese Cake
1 stick butter (+2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup white sugar (+ 2 tablespoons)
2 eggs
1/2 cup cubed Cabot Smooth Sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup Cabot Plain Greek Yogurt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 package of 8 cinnamon graham crackers
1 1/2 cup chopped fresh strawberries (about 12 medium sized
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon juice


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. lightly grease a 9” loaf pan.

Crush graham crackers and mix well with two tablespoons of melted butter and a tablespoon of water.  Pour into the bottom of the loaf pan and press down to form an even layer.

Stir together the chopped strawberries and two tablespoons of sugar and allow to sit for 15-30 minutes.

Beat together the softened butter and sugar in a large bowl until fully mixed. Beat in the eggs, then the Cheddar cheese until the batter appears smooth.  Beat in half of the macerated strawberries, the juice from the strawberry bowl, and the teaspoon of vanilla.  Finally, mix in combined baking powder & flour, and milk separately alternating between the two bit by bit. Stir in one tablespoon of lemon juice just before pouring into the loaf pan.

Stir together remaining strawberries, one cup of the Greek yogurt and two tablespoons of honey.  Once well mixed, place in the refrigerator to set.

Bake for 75 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool, and serve in slices with a dollop of the yogurt sauce.