Cocoa Rubbed Steak With Bacon-Whiskey Gravy

Sometimes you read a recipe and say "Man this sound so good I have to make this". Well that is exactly what we said when we saw this recipe in the latest version of Food Network Magazine. Steak, Bacon and Whiskey what could possibly go wrong.  Unfortunately some things are too good to be true and in the cooking world sometimes things just do not turn out as well as you thought they would.  This recipe was one of those things that just didn't turn out as well.  You may be asking i"f it didn't turn out good why would we post the recipe?" Part of the reason we started this blog was to help people find recipes worth making and also recipes are not. Who knows you may be able to make some changes that will fix whatever went wrong.


The Steak

  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 1-pound New York strip steaks (about 1 1/2 inches thick)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

The Gravy

  • 4 strips bacon, diced
  • 1 leek (white and light green parts only), finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whiskey
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Make the steak: Mix the cocoa powder, both paprikas, brown sugar, cayenne and 2 teaspoons salt; rub on the steak and bring to room temperature, 30 minutes.
  2. Make the gravy: Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon; set aside. Add the leek to the drippings and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  3. Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the whiskey, then return to medium heat; if the alcohol ignites, let the flames die out. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the mixture is reduced by one-quarter, about 8 minutes. Whisk in the heavy cream and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the gravy coats a spoon, about 7 minutes. Stir in the butter, reserved bacon and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
  4. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat, about 3 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon butter; when it melts, add the steak and sear until a dark crust forms, about 8 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes. Season with salt. Slice and serve with the gravy.

The Spice Rub:

Making the Gravy:


Let us start by saying we did not follow the recipe to the letter.  Instead of using a cast iron skillet, we used the grill. We point this out because it may have lead to the ineffectiveness of the recipe. We did however get some nice grill marks!

Ok so what happened, well the steak just tasted like a steak.  It was not bad, but it didn't taste like anything. We didn't get any cocoa flavor, no smoked paprika or anything else in the dry rub. We are willing to bet a lot of this was due to using the grill instead of the skillet.  A skillet would have helped keep all the spices on the steak while the crust formed.  On the grill, it is likely that once the juices started running off the steak so did the spice rub. As a result say goodbye to all of our flavor. These are the things that happen sometimes, and we would be lying if we didn't think this outcome was because we put it on the grill.  We had our fingers crossed it would work, but we made a mistake.  Had we cooked it properly we are still not sure how good this would have been and we do not plan to find out.

While the steak did not come out right, the gravy on the other hand was very good, after a few fixes.  We had some issues with the gravy.  The flavors and ingredients all worked extremely well in the gravy, the issue came in with the cooking time and method.  After the heavy cream is added into the mixture the recipe says to reduce the heat to a simmer for about 7 minutes until the gravy coats a spoon.  Well after cooking this for over 15 minutes it had reduced but not thickened and the steaks were done.  As you can see above we put it on the steaks and ate, but it was more of a broth than a gravy.

After we ate, we were happy with the gravy.  It had such good flavor we knew we had to fix it and use it for something else.  So we decided to crank up the heat and reduce it as much as we could.  Guess  what? it did reduce to where it should have originally, it just needed to be cooked on higher heat. Now with an actual gravy we were able to fully appreciate it.  We ended up using it on top of toast and a poached egg as a eggs benedict.

Even though the steak came out a loser in the recipe, we did find the gravy making the effort worth it.

The Steak is a Should Not Eat

The Gravy is a Should Eat