Cooking

Secret Weapon: A Better, More Versatile Steak Sauce

How Josiah Citrin's zesty topper puts A.1. to shame
How to Make a Better, More Versatile Steak Sauce
Photo: Tasting Table

Josiah Citrin is a self-proclaimed "sauce junky." 

As a teenager in Santa Monica, Citrin would surf with his buddies, and then recharge with a breakfast of steak and eggs—the eggs oozing with runny yolks—and drown everything with a heavy helping of A.1. Steak Sauce, sopping up every sweet-and-spicy bite with toasted sourdough.

After decades of working in Michelin-starred restaurants, and then helming his own—including Mélisse in Santa Monica and Charcoal Venice—Citrin decided to bring that childhood memory back to life, explaining, "Sometimes you just do things, and you don’t think about it. And thus, J1 Steak Sauce was born (get the recipe).

Citrin understands that the ingredient list may look daunting at first, but he promises each element of the recipe plays a vital role. Acid from the apple cider and balsamic vinegars brings a good dose of tart. Two kinds of mustard bring dry heat. Ketchup, raisins and brown sugar add sweetness. Mushrooms ensure the texture stays bound and smooth. Anchovies, garlic and shallots add bite. And the medley of tarragon, celery seeds, cloves, cinnamon and cayenne give the final product layers of spice that balance everything out. All are easy to find, too.

Once you whip up your own batch, use it like mad all over your kitchen. Whether you’ve just come from surfing a wave or surfing a really rough workday, here are some ways to play with Citrin’s J1 Steak Sauce.

The J1 Breakfast Special

"Some people like salsa on their eggs. I like J1," Citrin says. Go ahead and dollop the sauce over your fried eggs or feel free to take things further. For a meaty scramble, sauté ground beef with mushrooms and chiles, then use J1 Steak Sauce to coat. Fold in soft scrambled eggs, and you’ve got a dish with "subtle flavor, not just a punch of sauce," he promises. For a vegetarian Benedict bright with vegetables but full of meaty flavor, stir a touch of J1 into your hollandaise, a tablespoon at a time, until the richness you want comes through but doesn’t thin the consistency.

A Better Salad Dressing

Citrin says J1 can take on even more flavors. In a salad, hearty greens like escarole, Little Gem, romaine or kale keep their unique profiles and complement the earthy, sweet and tart elements in the sauce. Parmesan, feta and funky aged cheddars and Goudas will find a willing partner in it, too. Radishes, sweet root vegetables and pickled items hold up. Chervil, parsley and chives top things out without the J1 falling behind. "For any dressing you’d normally use mustard, swap equally with J1," Citrin advises as an easy introduction. Or, if starting a vinaigrette from scratch, he adds an equal part of J1 to his ratio of lemon juice.

Chicken Salad with a Kick

"All the ingredients in the steak sauce are very zesty," Citrin explains. With its all-in-one hit of sweet balsamic vinegar, tart apple cider vinegar, peppery Dijon and yellow mustards, and then all the garlic and fresh herbs, plain cold chicken gets a full salad makeover when mixed with crunchy and creamy counterparts. Mix J1 sauce with plain mayonnaise so that it’s got a touch stronger flavor than what might be desired on its own. Then add crunch with celery, sweet onions, parsley and a little avocado at the end.

A Spirited Hangover Cure

With familiar Bloody Mary ingredients already in it (Worcestershire sauce, celery seeds, cayenne), a little J1 in a cold cocktail brings the entire drink up a notch. "The J1 adds a lot of depth and complexity," Citrin explains. "Against tomato juice, the clove in the J1 comes out a lot, but it’s still not overpowering. It adds a little, What is this? It’s different." Per cocktail, add about one tablespoon of J1 per the tomato juice mixture and combine well.  

A Meaty Marinade

“By itself, it’s amazing for steak,” Citrin says. His favorites include skirt and hanger steak—cuts that are meatier and more fibrous—so they can handle all the acidic layers in the sauce without drying out. After four to eight hours coated in J1, they’re ready for a good char on the grill. When used on pork or dark cuts of chicken, he prefers to bake them off to keep the fat and juice within the meat.

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