The Dinner Diva's Pan Seared Steak

My pan-seared steak

What do you do when you’re cooking and don’t have an ingredient on hand? My daughter Elyse (who is currently in college) was recently making dinner and called with a question: “What can I use instead of sherry vinegar in this pan seared steak recipe I’m making?” Of course this got me curious, so I started asking questions:

  • The Dinner Diva: “What are you making?”
  • Elyse: “Boneless ribeye steak with a pan gravy made from shallots, Worcestershire sauce, beef broth and sherry vinegar. But I don’t have the right vinegar! Is it that important?”
  • The Dinner Diva: “No problem. Do you have red wine vinegar?”
  • Elyse: “Yes.”
  • The Dinner Diva: “Do you have dry sherry?”
  • Elyse: “Yes.”
  • The Dinner Diva: “No need to panic. The recipe only asks for 2 Tablespoons of vinegar but, in my opinion, it is critical to the taste of the sauce. The sherry vinegar is what will give the recipe a Spanish flair, so use 1 Tablespoon of red wine vinegar and 1 Tablespoon of dry sherry (not cream sherry) in place of the 2 Tablespoons of sherry vinegar.

It turns out she called her dad as well, and he suggested using balsamic vinegar. If that’s all you have on hand it might work, but keep in mind that balsamic vinegar will have only half of the acidity of a red or white wine vinegar, so you may need to add more than 1 Tablespoon to the recipe to achieve the same balance of taste.

As it had been a busy day of cooking for clients and I hadn’t had time to think about what to make for myself, I thought the recipe for pan seared steak that Elyse found sounded delicious and easy to prepare, so I ended up making it that same night. Who made it better? Decide for yourself – I’ve included pictures of both (mine above and Elyse’s below).

Spanish Pan Seared Steak Recipe

Elyse's Pan Seared Steak

Elyse’s Pan Seared Steak

Here are the original directions for Spanish Pan Seared Steak from the Food Network:


  • 2 bone-in ribeye steaks (about 1 inch thick, 1 pound each), at room temperature
  • Canola oil
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium beef broth
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup sliced Spanish olives (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh chives


Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over high heat until very hot, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, thoroughly pat the ribeye steak dry with paper towels. Lightly coat each side of the steaks with canola oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Add 1 to 2 Tablespoons canola oil to the skillet (this will help create a great crust on the steaks) and add the steaks. Do not crowd them; if you cannot leave room between the steaks, use 2 skillets. Without moving them, cook the steaks 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip them and cook 1 more minute for rare, 2 more minutes for medium rare or 4 more minutes for medium. Transfer the now pan seared steak to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Let rest at least 5 minutes before cutting into them.

Pour out the used oil from the skillet and add a glug of new oil. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the shallots and garlic to the skillet and cook until they just begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce and sherry vinegar and bring the sauce to a boil. Cook until reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter until it has melted and the sauce has thickened. Stir in the olives, if using.

Put each steak on a plate; spoon the sauce over the top and sprinkle with chives.

Chef Notes

  1. Ribeye steak is my absolute favorite. Of all the cuts of beef, I think it has the best flavor (although I know some prefer tri-tip instead). Although ribeye can be pricey, in Silicon Valley it’s not any more expensive than buying fresh, wild salmon or halibut. My rule of thumb is to purchase one steak for two portions (unless you’re originally from Texas where everything is BIG, including portion sizes). Typically, one ribeye steak will weigh anywhere from 1 lb to 1-3/4 lbs, depending on if you purchase it boneless or bone-in; I almost always buy bone-in and then cut away the bone when serving.
  2. Surprisingly, this is one time where I made no substitutions! I followed the recipe and added Spanish olives at the end; my daughter substituted sautéed mushrooms instead.
  3. Using a cast iron is the key to this recipe; the steak had a really nice char, or crust. I think I liked this method even better than using the grill! Try it out for yourself, even if there’s no special occasion.
  4. To ensure you cook the perfect steak, don’t forget to let it rest before serving! Here’s a meat-temperature guide from the Food Network:

Download and print the recipe here.

What changes have you made to recipes when you don’t have a specific ingredient on hand? How did the dish turn out? Tell me about it on Facebook, Twitter, Google + or any of my other social media accounts!

Mary Hathaway, Owner of Dinner Diva, has been a personal chef since 2002. She cooks regularly for clients who have special dietary needs, value healthy cooking by using organic products where possible and those who want healthy family meals but have no time to cook. Whether it’s a dinner for 4, a holiday party for 20, or a set of meals for the week, all of the recipes are customized to her client’s needs or lifestyle. Go to: for more info.