While it may be National Hispanic Month, German Heritage Month, National Preparedness Month, all important and worth observing, September all over the South is the beginning of a very serious season – college football.
While some old diehards of the ACC still think football season is just a warm-up for basketball, I beg to differ. We may not be the SEC yet in football, but the ACC is certainly headed that way. With national champions and Heisman Trophy winners, the ACC is a force to be reckoned with.
Football Saturdays in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Greenville are filled with hard team spirit and undying allegiances. I love it.
There is another competition, not filled with contact, that goes on in the stadiums, but no less important for the folks who are playing: tailgating, the ultimate spectator sport. Every university in the area is running tailgating competitions, and I know you want to be part of the fray. I can’t help you with the tablescapes or what to wear (although you should know what colors to choose), but I can offer you a crazy good elevation from the barbecue, fried chicken and burgers. A bourbon-glazed, bone-in rib-eye steak is a thing of beauty to look at and telegraphs an American standard with a bit of the South on the tongue. I defy you to grill a better steak.
Being a Southern boy, bourbon has passed my lips more than once and I find it to be a delightful seasoning ingredient with a good piece of beef. The sweet honey vanilla of bourbon picks up on that flavor and intensifies it during the cooking process. Sweetening the glaze with molasses adds another Southern touch as well as greater depth of flavor.
The steak in the photo is called a “cowboy” or long bone rib-eye. If you’re competing it’s worth the effort to find a butcher who will cut one for you. The one in the photo came from Rose’s Meat Market and Sweet Shoppe in Durham, but Whole Foods can help you out here, as can any good butcher shop. You can make the steak sauce several days in advance, and I highly recommend doing it. You can use a standard bone-in rib-eye and it will taste just as good, but that long bone should impress the heck out of any judges that might happen by.
Granted this is not something you would do at every game, and the steak is just too good to be a tailgate food only. The sauce also works beautifully with thick-cut pork chops and even bone-in chicken and will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. Gently warm it or at least let it come to room temperature before using.
You will definitely win with this dish, maybe not the tailgating competitions, but at least with your friends and family. It’s a damn fine steak.