My wife took me to Thomas Keller’s new Hudson Yards eatery, TAK Room, for my birthday. This meal was pretty awesome, so let me get right down to business.
This place has a great selection of classics, spins on classics, and new style cocktails. I went with the “Old Hat” old fashioned. I liked it, but both my wife and I liked her order better (Waldorf Vieux Carre)
We both remarked that the cocktail pricing wasn’t too rapey. And it’s worth noting here that the bar and lounge area is seriously impressive. The bar is backed by windows, offering an impressive view. There’s plenty of lounge style seating near the bar, where you can drink, snack and enjoy the live music on the stage.
Table Bread & Crudite
This was a nice touch; the crudite was cold and fresh, and that butter extruder thing is becoming insta-famous. There are two varieties of delicious house made breadsticks as well.
Green Garlic Agnolotti, Razor Clams, Gremolata
Strong opener, and an easy contender for my best pasta dishes of 2019. It almost had an oreganata flavor to it, with a great balance of textures.
This had some freshly shaved horseradish on top of the raw egg yolk, and was really nicely executed.
Prime Rib Cart Service
Take a look at this video of the prime rib service cart:
That’s Snake River Farms domestic wagyu cross, highly marbled and riddled with intense flavor.
This is easily one of the best prime rib orders I’ve ever had. At $110, I would bark about it being too expensive, but it really was worth every forkful. 10/10.
Short Rib Beef Wellington
Check this out:
A beautiful specimen. The short rib was snappy, but super tender.
The puff pastry was perfectly cooked from end to end. Perfect execution.
The only thing I disliked about it was the perigourdine sauce. It had a bitter and almost burnt flavor to it. Luckily that was poured on the side rather than on top of the dish. 9/10.
Champagne Cake, Strawberry Creamsicle Ice Cream
This was a pretty tasty special for dessert (not on the menu), and they generously gave us a couple of glasses of rose champagne to go with it, on the house. Here’s the dessert menu:
Box of Caramel Corn
This comes with your dessert, for the table. Jumbo size pops, very few kernels. Highly addictive.
Views, Decor & Service
Last but not least, one can’t really do a proper review of a joint like TAK Room without speaking about the views, decor and service.
The outer rim of the gorgeous dining room overlooks “The Vessel,” the new scalable art structure in Hudson Yards.
The decor is like a cross between 60’s mod and 20’s art deco. It’s truly beautiful. The service matches the spectacular views and decor, with an impeccably neat, attentive and genuinely nice wait staff. We even saw the likes of Thomas Keller himself, doing one of the prime rib cart services, with Geoffrey Zakarian watching from afar:
One of the managers gave us a quick kitchen tour too, which was really interesting to see. The place is immaculately clean, and they showcase their selection of premium meats in a glass cabinet near the kitchen entrance. Listen carefully for specials, as they were offering cote de boeuf rib eyes at varying sizes.
In summary, this was one of the best meals I’ve had this year, and I look forward to going back to try more beef and even their roast chicken for two. We just need to save up a little bit, because this place is pricey. All in, this meal was $467 with tax and tip. Woof. Here’s a look at some of the pricing:
20 Hudson Yards
New York, NY 10001
Easily the best expression of the dish that I’ve ever had. Somehow the flavor from the crust penetrates all the way into the center of the meat. Sauces aren’t needed, despite there being a little bit of jus on the plate already, but it comes with shaved horseradish on top (if you so desire), and a duo of horseradish cream sauce and dijon mustard on the side. All served table side from a fancy rolling cart with hinged cloche.
If you can manage to get a table here, you must order the prime rib. It is their sole purpose for existence. The real dilemma comes in the form of which version to order: King Cut (bone-in, pictured above), Queen Cut (boneless, and a little smaller), or English Cut (thinly sliced). Gendered royalty and our European cousins aside, you won’t be disappointed with whatever cut you choose.
An absolute classic. It’s big, it’s beautiful, and it’s delicious. This and the mutton chop are the two items that put Keens on the map and set their place in stone among the best steakhouses in the world. If you haven’t been here yet, you’re missing out. Plus I love that they use beef from Strassburger Steaks. Good people and fine quality products.
This baby is near perfect and really only suffers from a slight lack of crust on the exterior. I really loved it, and you can smell that potent dry-aged flavor as soon as the steak comes out into the dining room.
Last but certainly not least, Maxwell’s is my wild card choice. They’re new on the scene, but they’re coming out swinging! Their prime rib is available on the regular menu, but my friends and I called ahead to reserve a rack for six. This was downright barbaric! Watch:
I came here with a group of friends to tackle their dry-aged six-bone standing prime rib roast. Watch this:
If their regular steak selections are anything like that monster, I think this could end up being one of the best steak joints in town. Read on.
These guys dry age everything on site, and this roast was aged for two months (61 days). The edges had a great earthy, nutty and mushroomy flavor to them from that aging process.
And as you can see below, the center was cooked perfectly.
Unfortunately, on a second visit, the prime rib wasn’t as good. Still had great flavor, but the texture was a bit off for some reason. 8/10.
I did try their porterhouse as well. This baby was tender all over, and had a nice crust. It was cooked just right at medium rare too. 9/10.
I even tried something very special and unique as well. A 500-day dry aged strip steak.
This was wild. It’s not on the menu, and it was something the chef was doing experimentally. It had a super aged flavor that was almost like meat fuel or butane. I liked trying it, but I’m not sure I would go all in on something like this often. Too aggressive for me.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8
In addition to the four major steakhouse cuts, they also offer that prime rib as a regular menu item, king or queen cut. Everything is graded at prime and dry-aged on site. I also like the fact that they proudly state that the animals are raised on corn, which helps develop all that tasty marbling.
Portion Size & Plating: 9
Portions are all pretty good here from what I can tell. The sides are big enough to share with two people, for sure.
This place is on par with the steak joints in midtown, but the rack of ribs comes in at $80pp and includes sides. That’s a good deal.
This place has a great long marble bar with elegant surroundings. I would definitely hang here. They mix up a nice martini too, and have an interesting signature cocktail list.
Specials and Other Meats: 8
There weren’t any specials read to us (we had pre-ordered this monster in advance), but the prime rib rack is pretty damn special itself. As far as other meats go, you basically only have lamb or chicken. I can respect that though: focus on the beef!
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9
We tried a number of items during this feast. I’ll list them all and discuss.
Bone Marrow: 7/10
This had good flavor but there just wasn’t enough of it. The grilled lemons were a nice touch though, and the bread was delicious.
This is top notch shit from Nueskes. Easily on par with Angus Club or Tuscany Steakhouse, and very close to a top five bacon app.
Mashed Potatoes: 8/10
I’m rarely impressed with mashed potatoes after growing up eating my mom’s, which were butter- and mozzarella- laden trays of pure heaven. But they were smooth and buttery. Very nice.
Mushrooms & Spinach: 9/10
Both simple and delicious. I would get these again for sure.
Chocolate Cake: 9/10
This thing is enormous and can easily feed a table of four for the $25 price tag. In fact, this fed seven people (though we also shared another dessert as well).
Butterscotch Creme Brûlée: 8/10
Wow. Super rich, very sweet, but really fucking tasty. Share this otherwise you might overload on decadence. Below is a shot of the dessert platter that came out on my second visit, to share among 10 people.
Seafood Selection: 8
There’s salmon, three-pound lobsters and big eye tuna on the seafood entree menu. I like how this and the chops menu are streamlined and slim, but that means fewer options for you picky assholes out there.
Impeccable. Everyone is attentive, really friendly and knowledgable. The bread basket here is quite interesting, and contains cheese baked flatbreads, chocolate and strawberry muffins, olive bread and other stuff. Very nice.
This place is gorgeous inside. The floor space isn’t gigantic, but the ceiling height is. That really gives the joint a grand and spectacular feel.
There’s also a private dining room, which is where we ate:
I will definitely be back to try some seafood and their porterhouse.
New York, NY 10001
I built this cool hibachi grill using some clay pots that I picked up at Home Depot.
As you can see, the first thing I cooked on it was some thick cut bacon. That’s lamb bacon, by the way. Really nice.
I lit the coal brick with a blowtorch.
This baby made my apartment really smokey because the fat drippings were hitting the hot coal. Otherwise, if there was no fat dripping, the hibachi was relatively smokeless. The cooking itself was more like a slow roast. I think, since I only used one brick, that made the process take longer. Next time I’ll try with two or three.
This past weekend I went all in and made a Sunday roast out of some Strassburger Steaks sirloin that I butchered myself at a butchery class. I had it netted/trussed so that it held its shape during the cooking process (that’s why it has lines on it).
First I rubbed it with some delicious Botticelli extra virgin olive oil. I really love that stuff. It’s the best olive oil I’ve had, and it doesn’t take on a bitter taste like some extra virgin oils do.
Then I seasoned with kosher salt, pepper and garlic powder. After that, I sealed it up in a sous vide bag with a few sprigs of rosemary. I left it in the bath overnight for 12 hours, set to 128 degrees.
After I pulled it from the bath, I poured out any meat juices into a cup for using later.
I let the meat cool own to room temperature before searing it in a pan with some butter and the rosemary. I spooned the excess butter over the top as I cooked it, and ensure that I got a good sear on all sides.
Always let your meat rest before slicing. I rested this roast for about 15 minutes. While you do that, you can pour the meat juice into the melted butter that’s left in the pan and reduce it gently into a brown gravy sauce.
I served with a big salad and some roasted potatoes. But man, oh man. That beef was so delicious.
Oh and speaking of Botticelli Foods, they happened to send me and my wife a nice package of stuff to try out here at home.
I just used the EVOO with my roast, but my wife used almost everything here and baked these awesome little farfalle muffins – a take on my spaghetti pie, but with prosciutto cups, bow tie pasta, roasted red peppers, mozz, eggs, parmesan cheese and spinach. Insanely delicious.
Many of you know that I’ve talked about Tabelog in the past, a Japanese food review website that recently launched here in the US. They approached me about helping them to attract new users to the website, so I co-planned and co-hosted a whole beast feast with them at DBGB, where we and a crew of hungry food writers and photographers tore into a delicious suckling pig like a bunch of ravenous carnivores!
This pig, which is sort of like a giant pinwheel or sausage full of various pork cuts, feeds up to 12 guests and comes with salad, grilled flatbread, veggies, pork rinds and Baked Alaska for dessert.
At $575, this is a pretty good value, and you can throw in unlimited select beers and wine for just $30 more per person.
The pig is plated really beautifully when it comes out to the table.
From those shots you can really see the “pinwheel” or sausage thing that I was talking about. It isn’t just a roast pig like you might see at a Flip joint. The meat was really tasty, and consists of all parts of the animal, just packaged and presented in a different way from a standard pig roast. The only downside, for me, was that the skin was not crispy. That’s the best part about roasting pigs!
In any case, I got a bunch of incredible shots of this handsome bastard’s face.
I even managed to convince some of the dinner guests to pose with the pig’s head. Here’s Doug:
My boy Ben (@StuffBenEats) was a bit shy and didn’t pose with the pig. Oh well. Next time. I certainly posed with it! This shot was taken by Jay from The Dishelin Guide:
And here’s a shot of me getting ready to dig into the nasty bits like the brain, the face meat and the nose, taken by Jesse of Scrumphsus:
If you’ve got a big group and you’re into this kind of “Carcass Club” dining like I am, then I think you should add this to your list of potentials. It isn’t the best roast pig that I’ve had, but it certainly was pretty tasty and made for a fun night.
Every food-oriented website out there, whether it’s Eater, Grub Street, Thrillist or what have you, has their own version of “The Ultimate Guide for Cooking a Steak,” or whatever it may be. Many of them do offer good information, but they’re almost all incomplete. They set you up with one method for one cut of meat. This piece will serve as a place where you can get instructions for cooking several different cuts of steak via several methods. Let’s get right to it.
This is probably the method that most people are familiar and comfortable with. Since it is actually my least favorite way to cook one of the four major cuts, I will discuss it first, up front, with the caveat that I do actually prefer grilled skirt steak to any other cut that’s done on the grill. That said, there are some significant pros and cons for grilling. Depending on what you want out of your steak eating experience, you should take these into consideration before deciding if this is the right method for you. What time of year is it? Summer, winter? Are you grilling over charcoal or propane?
Johnny’s Preferred Cuts for Grilling: Skirt, Flank, Hanger
Familiar and comfortable to most home cooks
No smells or smoke indoors
Can easily cook many steaks at once
Fat, flavor and juices fall through the grill bars
Can be difficult to control heat levels
Lowered ability to sear evenly
Grilling is perfect for outdoor cooking in the warm months, and especially for large groups of people. You don’t get any lingering smells in your home, and you can enjoy the day like a good American, beer in hand as you cook. Since I like a good even sear across the entire cut of meat, I generally don’t like cooking the four major cuts of beef in this manner. Generally I go for skirt or flank, something that benefits from a good, fast blast of heat; something where I don’t mind if I lose a little fat or juice through the grill bars; and something cheap that can be sliced up and served family style. Charcoal is a tough medium to master. Some people are experts at creating and maintaining even heat levels for a cooking session. Others use propane. This is easier, cleaner, and more convenient, but you lose some of that desired charcoal and smoke flavor unless you’re adding soaked wood chips to the grill as you cook. If grilling is right for you, then read on below.
Get your steak up to room temperature and pat it dry.
Crank up your grill to as high as it will possibly get.
Season the skirt/flank generously with salt and pepper.
Grill the meat with the grill top open. Do not poke, prod, press or move the meat once it is set down on the grill bars. Allow the bars to create nice markings on your meat.
After a few minutes, flip once and repeat the previous step.
Use a meat thermometer or the “hand test” to ensure that your steak is properly cooked to medium rare. Remove it from the grill at 135F.
Let the steak rest for a few minutes on an elevated and porous surface, like a metal baking rack. During this time the meat will continue to cook a bit more while off the flames, and it will retain more juices during the next step.
Slice against the grain of the meat, or “against the bias,” and serve.
This is probably my favorite method for cooking steak. I always try to use a cast iron skillet, as they just work better for creating that crusty sear that we have all come to know as steak lovers. If you can’t get your hands on one, then a standard pan will do.
Smoke smell can permeate the home, set off smoke detectors
Pan cleanup can be annoying
Large pan needed for big or multiple cuts
Cast iron not ideal for glass electric cook tops
Get your steak up to room temperature and pat it dry.
Crank up your burner to as high as it will possibly get, and heat up the pan with a small amount of butter.
Season the steak generously with salt and pepper.
Sear the shit out of your steak, and add a wad of butter to melt in the pan. Throw in some rosemary and garlic too, if you like. Do not poke, prod, press or move the meat once it is set down. Allow the meat to stick to the pan a bit, with as much of the bottom surface touching the pan as possible.
Spoon the melted butter over the top as the meat cooks, basting it in flavor.
After a few minutes, flip the cut with tongs and do the same thing of the other side of the steak.
Once both sides are seared, then you should also sear the edges if you are working with a thick-cut steak. Anything over an inch and a half should get a little side sear if possible.
Use a meat thermometer or the “hand test” to ensure that your steak is properly cooked to medium rare. Remove it from the pan at 135F.
Let the steak rest for a few minutes on an elevated and porous surface, like a metal baking rack. During this time the meat will continue to cook a bit more while out of the pan, and it will retain more juices.
Alternative Instructions From Step 8 Onward
This secondary step is helpful if you have a very thick cut of steak, and a good, hard sear is all you can really get from the pan without overcooking. You want your meat to be pink from top to bottom, with no “grey band” in sight. To achieve this on thick cuts, lots of people will put the steak into the oven at a low temperature, like 250-300F, to allow the internal temperature to come up to medium rare once the pan-searing steps (1-7) are complete. Here, a meat thermometer is key to ensure that your meat is cooked to the proper temperature inside.
This is very similar to searing with an oven finish, like above, only done in the reverse order.
Johnny’s Preferred Cuts for Reverse Searing: Thick Cuts of Filet Mignon, Strip, Porterhouse, Rib Eye
Even sear across entire steak
Juices stay put
Slightly more difficult to execute than a simple sear
Multiple cooking steps and waiting
Here, the first step is to cook your steak in the oven at a low temperature, like 250-300F, to allow the internal temperature to come up to rare or medium rare. Again, use a meat thermometer to ensure accuracy. Once that step is done, the steak gets finished in the hot searing pan with butter. This will form the desired crust on your steak. You just have to be careful not to overcook your steak in the pan as you are trying to get that crust to form. I recommend allowing your steak to cool down to room temperature before searing it off, and/or getting that pan screaming hot before you put the steak in.
Generally speaking, broiling means that the heat source is coming from above the meat and close to the meat. Contrast with baking, which means that the heat source is below and more diffused or distant from the meat. Broiling a steak gives you more direct exposure to the heat source than baking, whether it’s an open flame (gas oven) or the heating element (electric). While not as direct as, say, touching a hot pan, broiling is better for cooking traditional cuts of steaks than baking, because you can get a charred outer crust easier and still get the inside of the meat to the desired temperature. Baking is better suited for roasting meats, since the heat source is often diffused a bit by the oven bottom when baking.
Johnny’s Preferred Cuts for Broiling: Thick Cut Bone-In Porterhouse, Thick Cut Bone-In Rib Eye, Bone-In Tenderloin, Bone-In Strip, Large T-Bone
Why the bones, you ask? When cooking with “surrounding” heat, like roasting or broiling in an enclosed oven, bones are very effective at radiating heat into the center of the meat tissue. This method, therefore, also makes large/thick cuts easier to work with.
Cleaner, less smoke and permeating odors
Relatively easy to execute
Easier to get an evenly cooked center of your meat
Easy to overcook if not careful
Requires meat thermometer (puncturing meat is never good)
Harder to get the desired crust than other methods
Get your steak up to room temperature and pat it dry.
Set your oven to broil.
Season the steak generously with salt and pepper.
Bring your oven rack close to the heat source (near the top) and place steak in the oven in a shallow roasting pan that can catch any drippings.
Once the top crisps up a bit, flip the meat in the roasting pan to get the crust on the other side as well.
Use a meat thermometer to ensure that your steak is properly cooked to medium rare. Remove it from the oven at 135F.
Let the steak rest for a few minutes in the roasting pan. During this time the meat will continue to cook a bit more, and it will retain more juices.
Slice the major muscles off the bone, slice the muscle against the bias, and arrange the meat on a platter for serving.
Roasting is synonymous with low and slow diffused heat from a bottom source, or all around the meat, from all sides. This method is best suited for large hunks of meat that take a long time to cook down to the center, generally for serving many people.
Johnny’s Preferred Cuts for Roasting: Standing Rib Rack Roast, Chateaubriand, Large Brisket
Great for large format dining
Easy to execute
Result is very juicy, tender and delicious
Takes a long time to finish
May require extensive carving
Generally lacks outer crust like a standard cut of steak
Many people like to brine their meats before roasting. While this is generally more common with pork roasts or fowl, some steps can be taken with beef to increase flavors. You can crush up some garlic and stuff it into your roast (flavor injectors), or rub it on the outside of the meat; you can rub it with rosemary or roast it on a bed of herbs; and you should season it generously with a multitude of spices. You want all those flavors to permeate deep into the meat, so massaging, rubbing and pushing into the meat is all recommended. If you use a flavor injector, I suggest getting a lot into one or a few injections, that way you don’t pierce the meat too many times.
Set your oven to a low bake temperature, like 350F.
Place your meat on a roasting pan to catch any drippings, and set it in the center/middle rack of your oven.
Place your meat thermometer into the center of the roast.
As the meat cooks, use a turkey baster to suck up liquids from the bottom of the roasting pan, and squirt it over the top of the roast occasionally. This will add some flavor to the outside and help to create a flavorful edge to the roast.
Remove it from the oven at 135F. Let the meat rest for a few minutes in the roasting pan. During this time the meat will continue to cook a bit more, but the resting phase will help the meat retain more juices for the next step.
Slice and carve for serving. Sliced roast beef pairs perfectly with both hot gravy and cold horseradish sauces (either cream-based or tomato-based).
Sous Vide means “under vacuum” in French. In this method of cooking, you are cooking your steaks in vacuum sealed bags by submerging them in a hot water bath to precisely the desired temperature, and then finishing them in a pan as a secondary step. This may sound like high tech restaurant science only kind of stuff, but there are items available in the consumer market to do this with great results at home.
Johnny’s Preferred Cuts for Sous Vide: Thick Cuts of Filet Mignon, Boneless Strip, Boneless Rib Eye, Bavette, Denver Cut/Blade Steak
Perfect internal temperature every time
No monitoring necessary
Easy to achieve success
Requires a special unit or item, a vacuum sealer and bags
Wait time can be lengthy
Still need to use a pan (or torch) to sear the outside
Lucky for you all, I’ve got a nice discussion of the sous vide cooking method here, with pretty pics and everything. In any case, here is the gist of it:
Season the steak however the you want. I use salt, pepper, garlic powder, garlic oil and crushed red pepper.
Place steak into vacuum seal bag and seal it up with some butter and herbs inside (rosemary is always nice).
If you’re a poor bastard and can’t afford a vacuum sealer, you can use ziplock bags. Place your meat into the bag and begin to submerge the bag into the water bath. Once you are all the way close to the zipper, zip it shut. The water surrounding the outside of the bag will push out all the air from inside. This is the poor man’s vacuum sealer. If you do this, you may want to put a smooth, clean rock in there too, just for good measure, to keep the meat from floating.
Set your temperature to however you like your steak cooked. I put mine at 135F for a nice medium rare. I’m dealing with grocery store meat here, people. Don’t give me any shit about that being too well done.
Wait about an hour or two. Don’t panic! You can’t overcook your steak in a sous vide bath. That’s the whole point of it!
Remove your steak from the water bath and let it cool back down to room temperature.
Re-season it a bit, if so desired.
Sear it. I use a Searzall, because why not? But you can easily just toss this baby into a real hot cast iron pan with some more butter and herbs to get that brown and crispy coating.
DIRECT FROM FROZEN
Some food scientist people were messing around and cooking strip steaks in a test kitchen; some cuts were thawed in a fridge overnight, and others were still frozen. The results stunned them. The steaks were cooked more evenly, with less “grey band” when cooked direct from frozen, and those steaks retained more juices (they lost less moisture during the cooking process). While they took longer to cook, they still browned at nearly the same rate as a thawed steak.
I think a major issue that home cooks with have here is that it may be difficult to prevent ice crystals to form on the outside of the meat during the freezing process. When cooking, these ice crystals will melt into water or sublimate into water vapor. At that point you are either boiling or steaming the bottom of your steak in the pan, which is bad. When doing that, you won’t ever achieve the crust that we carnivores all desire.
The scientists attempt to solve this problem by freezing the steaks in a special way at first, uncovered and flat. Once they’re frozen, they are then wrapped and bagged for storage. If you’re going to attempt this you will want to be very careful to replicate the freezing technique that the scientists utilized, to avoid excessive ice crystals from forming on the outside of the meat.
This method involves cooking in a pan that contains a good amount of oil. This is done to ensure that the nooks and crannies of the steak surfaces all get cooked the same amount, and it helps to displace any water that may melt out of ice crystals. Second, it also retains more heat, so you can bring the steak surface up to browning point faster, without overcooking any of the interview (which should still remain pretty cold since it is frozen). The result is less grey banding, and a more end-to-end pink steak interior.
You will still need to finish the steak in the oven, however, since the interior will likely be too rare or still frozen if you only use the pan.
In any event, here is my analysis:
Scientists’ Preferred Cuts for Frozen Steak Cooking: Strip
No waiting for steak to thaw or come to room temperature
Less meal planning needed ahead of time
Nice, even cook temp throughout
Difficult to avoid ice crystals
Complicated freezing technique
Still requires second step in the oven
Refer to this link and the embedded video below for proper steak preparation and cooking instructions.
DIRECT ON COALS
I haven’t tested this method out myself yet, so you’ll have to take this with a grain of salt, as above, with the “Direct from Frozen” method. My first exposure to this method was when I saw Alton Brown discuss it on his blog. I was intrigued enough to include it here, but since I no longer have the ability to cook often with real wood, I have never tested this out.
Alton’s Preferred Cut for Coal Cooking: Skirt
Covering in foil step essentially steams the meat
Potential for soot contamination
I think the best bet here is to just follow the directions from Master Alton, since he’s a culinary wizard, and I’m a mere apprentice. One thing I’m apprehensive about, which I noted in the “cons” section, is the part where Alton wraps the hot steak in foil. This means the meat will cook in steam. He then tosses it back into the juices. All of this makes me think “wet steak,” and that turns me off.
For more specific recipes, as opposed to these more general methods of cooking, check out my recipe page.
UMAi Dry contacted me a few weeks back about their dry aging bags. I was intrigued by some of their promotional materials and video demos, so I told them to send me some samples to try out at home. I already had the sealer for use with my DIY sous vide machine, with which I made some kickass steaks.
Usually when I think about the aging process for steaks, I get overwhelmed and think I could never do it. This is something I should leave to the professionals. I worry about mold, bacteria, rancid meat, wasting money on failed attempts, etc. But with UMAi Dry this otherwise daunting task is boiled down to a super simple procedure. Essentially you just pop a hunk of beef in their special vacuum seal bags, put it in your fridge, and wait 35 days.
So I received my sample bags and ran out to the store to buy a nice rib roast, which I would later parse out into rib eye steaks after the aging is completed. NYC grocery stores don’t really have massive slabs of rib roasts sitting in the fridge section, so I had to ask the butcher what he had. He went to work for me, giving me a section of rib eyes with about four or five bones intact.
I was a bit freaked when I saw the price tag on this fucker. The butcher told me that the beef was prime, but that he only charged me for choice.
I guess that’s a good deal (several dollars per pound cheaper). But still… at $225 it could turn out to be a really fucking expensive mistake if I fuck anything up.
On the other hand, if this nearly 11lb hunk of prime rib eye ages nicely for 35 days, I could end up with several high quality rib eyes that would save me money on steakhouse dinners in the long run.
I took the gamble. I probably should have waited for a sale or something, but I was too excited to get started. About 30 minutes later I was starting the process of bagging and sealing.
I put some wax paper across the bones so that any sharp bits wouldn’t puncture or slice open the bag.
Once sealed properly, it just goes into the fridge on a cookie rack or drying rack, so that air flow goes all around the bag.
Then we just wait 35 days, with an occasional flip here and there. Here’s a pair of shots after 5 days with a flip. As you can see, the meat is already starting to darken and dry where the bag is in contact with the flesh.
Even darker after another week. It’s forming a “bark”-like layer of beneficial mold that helps to tenderize the meat as it develops.
And another week or so. I notice it’s also shrinking. Dry-aging processes tend to cause the meat to desiccate to the point where you can lose almost a third of the original weight.
After 35 days, here is the unwrapping!
The outside bark, which has the texture of really hard beef jerky, needs to be sliced off of the underlying softened meat, and the tough skin membrane over the ribs needs to be peeled and picked off.
It’s an arduous task, but the end product is totally worth the effort. Here are some shots that my wife snapped of the slicing, trimming and portioning process.
The inside is so gorgeous. This shot looks like angel wings:
A great looking fat cap was still intact. I was worried that I would have to carve off too much of that, but we did pretty good.
I’ve saved all the bark slices to use in making another beef stock or broth at a later date.
I ended up with two thinner boneless cuts, so I seasoned them up right away and seared them off in a cast iron skillet with some butter, garlic and onions (I cut one to fit them in the pan better).
The result was awesome. Perfectly cooked, super flavorful and really well worth the wait! The fat was entirely edible. Very soft and buttery, like beef jelly.
Those were just a couple of small boneless cuts. This cowboy chop was pretty incredible:
Now I’m wondering if I should try this again and just leave the shit in the fridge for several months. The flavor was great on this stuff. It had a nice earthy smell; a well-endowed scent of mushroom or truffle, with a slight hint of blue cheese. Like heaven.
If you’re adventurous with home meal prep, I highly recommend this easy-to-use product. I think I still have a few extra bags, so the next time I have a little extra fat in my bank, I might go in for another dry-aging experiment: maybe strip loin next time.
Final note: if your fridge is generally full, but you still want to age beef at home, I suggest getting a mini fridge, or a smaller dedicated separate fridge, just for beef. Put your temperature setting to about 35 degrees, and get a fan in there somehow to circulate the air. Always keep the beef elevated off the surface on a baking rack or something, too. No special aging bags necessary.
The Hyatt in Kaanapali puts on a great show via Tihati Productions. This was a double whammy for my two big hobbies, other than writing: photography and eating.
Dinner at the luau consisted of the following menu:
As you can see, if you look closely, it says “Huli Huli Chicken!” I was really fucking excited for this, almost as much as the imu pit pork… but my boo-hooing started again when the sign at the buffet actually said teriyaki chicken. They must have went with teriyaki instead of Huli Huli that night. Oh well. I guess I’ll just have to make it myself.
We started with a shitload of all-you-can-drink items. Blue Hawaiians, Mai Tais, Beer, Pina Coladas, etc.
Anyway, the performers had a nice little ceremony where they unearthed the pig from the imu pit. This is called kalua pork. The pig is roasted whole in a shallow pit in the ground. The pig is wrapped in banana leaves to keep in the moisture (steamed), and flavored with Hawaiian salts and spices. Since it is cooked directly on hot lava rock and charcoal, there is a really nice smoke flavor to the pig when it’s all done.
I don’t think, however, that the pulled pork we had from the buffet line was from the same pig that was unearthed in the ceremony. First, it was ready too quickly (most of the buffet was already set up and covered prior to our arrival as well). Second, there was no skin or hot drippy fat to be seen. Most of the meat was on the dry side, though it did have a lot of flavor.
Here’s the buffet line:
Here’s my plate, locked and loaded:
The ahi poke was much better here than in Hana, by the way.
Dessert was pretty nice here too. There was macadamia nut fudge brownies, macadamia nut chocolate mousse, coconut custard, bread pudding, and pineapple upside down cake. All of it was really nicely done.
The luau show itself was really fun and entertaining. Check out some of the pics below. There was even some crazy fire knife dancing!
My wife picked up a Living Social deal for an eight course Peking duck dinner at Golden Unicorn, which is otherwise famous for its dim sum service. I was pretty impressed overall. But let me babble about a few other things first…
First off, I absolutely love this part of town. East Broadway and the surrounding side streets encircling the Manhattan Bridge still feel like old NYC. Not much has changed, save for a few new buildings poking up here and there. Walking around, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time, possibly even into another country.
This area is the real deal Chinatown, unlike the tourist-laden, knock-off selling, shitty DVD purveying hustle on Canal street. Take a closer look in these parts, or allow a lingering eye to glance into some storefronts, and you’ll spy people working at a ground floor dumpling factory. You’ll see produce, dry goods and health products that most white people have no idea about, and you can’t even read the signs to get more info, because they’re all in Chinese. It has a busy, bustling vibe and I love it.
Okay on to the fucking food. First up was egg drop soup with chicken. This was pretty good, though I did have to add a little bit of hot sauce to punch it up slightly.
Next were two types of dumplings: crystal shrimp and siu mai. Both were excellent. If you swing by this joint for dim sum, these are some of the delights you can enjoy from the carts. Both were packed with ingredients and nicely steamed.
Then the spring rolls came out. They didn’t look like much, but they had great flavor. I was actually surprised, although they were a little bit too greasy on the shell.
Our waitress then brought out the Peking duck. YES!
She cut off a good deal of the crispy skin and more generous portions of meat, and, with that, assembled six steamed buns for us, accompanied by hoisin sauce, scallion and cucumber. They were awesome. Crispy, fatty, juicy… all around excellent.
The rest of the duck was chopped up for us and served on a plate:
The meal kept on trucking along with this ginger beef and broccoli dish. The ginger was fresh and sliced thin. The beef was tender and flavorful. I think it was a mix of flank and rib eye. And the broccoli was steamed in the sauce, so it tasted awesome.
There was also some fried rice with shrimp, roast pork, ham, peas, onion and egg. We were really too full to dig into this too far.
At the end of the meal, some honeydew and orange arrived at the table. A nice, refreshing, smiley-face looking end to the meal.
Excellent deal. Jump on it if you see another Living Social or Groupon offering for this place. And definitely check out their dim sum on the weekend for lunch.