Blackened steak salad: $1.61/each

As you’re about to discover in the coming week, there’s a lot of discount steak wearing out its welcome in our chest freezer. When I first started the $35-a-week project I tended to get a little overexcited about cheap beef, not realizing how seldom we actually eat beef, so this dinner is one of a series of beef-based dishes born into existence to mitigate my misplaced enthusiasm.

It also has the added benefit of using up the remains of a jar of Cajun spice rub I made up over the summer for a variety of barbecue projects.

This is enough for a light dinner or lunch for 2. The cooking method ensures a perfect medium rare; if you like your steak medium, add 2 minutes to the time it’s in the oven.

• 2 oz. blue cheese or Gorgonzola crumbles: $1
• 8 oz. round steak, 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick (or your favorite cut, as long as you bought it for under $2.99/lb.): $1.50
• 2 T olive oil: 12 cents
• 2 tsp balsamic vinegar: 15 cents
• 2 T Cajun spice rub* (I used most of the jar and was about to throw the rest away, so I’m not counting it): $0
• 1/2 head of romaine lettuce, torn, plus assorted baby lettuces from the garden: 44 cents
• Salt to taste: 1 cent
TOTAL: $3.22/2 = $1.61

*I didn’t use a recipe at the time I made this. It is similar to this one, I believe, with the addition of celery salt and turbinado sugar.

Rinse and pat dry your steak and bring it up to room temperature. Cut off any huge pieces of fat hanging from the sides (there may be some if it’s not a great cut), and if it’s ridiculously thick, carefully cut it length-wise into two even pieces. It really does cook best at between 1 and 1 1/2 inches.

Brush a little oil on both sides of the steak and season with the spice rub, sprinkling each side first with a little bit of salt if your rub is salt-free.

Preheat your broiler with a 10- to 12-inch cast-iron skillet inside. When it’s preheated, turn a burner on the stove on to high heat. Carefully put the skillet on the hot burner. Then put the steak (or steak halves) in the skillet. Cook for 30 seconds on each side. Return the skillet to the oven and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Immediately remove to a plate and cover tightly with foil.

It should rest for at least 5 minutes, even up to 20 minutes. If you cut it any time before this, it will be undercooked and the juices will all leak out.

Wash, dry, and tear your lettuce leaves, if you haven’t already.

In a small bowl, combine 1 T olive oil with 2 tsp balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt. Whisk until combined. If you like a more emulsified vinaigrette (I don’t, as I like the bite of the vinegar to shine through and complement the cheese and steak), add a little Dijon mustard before whisking. Toss the lettuce with the dressing and divide onto two plates. Sprinkle with the blue cheese or Gorgonzola.

Slice the steak(s) across the grain into 1/4-inch slices and place on top of the salad.

If you want to get really fancy and don’t mind going up to $2/serving, add some warm homemade bread or a baked potato on the side.

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